Watches are cool. There we said it.
But sometimes a watch can play a small part in a movie, symbolising something more than the counting of seconds and minutes. So here are three moments from movie history when watches said something extra – and there isn’t one bomb-about-to-explode movie clip in the list! Too obvious.
EASY RIDER – FORGET ABOUT TIME
The Easy Rider film is about counter culture, rejecting corporate America completely, dropping out, turning on like Tim Leary and discovering yourself. It seems quite dated now in many ways but this was a big breakthrough film for Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda at the time. It captured that entire Woodstock vibe and grafted it on top of a motorcycle hellraiser/Hells Angels exploitation flick.
The moment when Fonda checks the time on his watch, looks longingly at it and mentally says goodbye to the 9-5 routine, then hurls the perfectly good mechanical watch into the desert dust, sets the tone for the film that follows. It says to the audience; `these two rebels just don’t give a damn about normal life. They’re done with it.’
PULP FICTION – UNCOMFORTABLE HUNK OF METAL
The tale of Butch’s Dad’s wartime watch is hellish to hear and absorb.
Chris Walken describes in brutally honest detail to the young Butch exactly what his Father – and his Father too – went through to keep the gold watch safe in various global theatres of combat.
It’s about retaining your identity as a soldier, and as a POW, bearing the most horrible torture, starvation and seeing all the horrors of war, yet keeping a memory of home inside you. Plus never giving in to the enemy, counting down the hours until you see your loved ones again, fighting to survive against all the odds. Which is what Butch does later in the film of course, defies the odds.
Never has a trench watch from WW1 made such an impact in any film.
CLOCKWISE – BEING ON TIME ISN’T EVERYTHING
Clockwise is a largely forgotten 80s British comedy film starring John Cleese as Basil Fawlty. Well, technically his character is a headteacher called Mr Stimson, but in essence, this is Basil suffering a gradual nervous breakdown as he tries to attend a conference in Norwich.
Throughout his epic journey of car failures, Police chases, traffic jams, missed trains etc Stimson checks his watch furiously. Incidentally, you never get a really good look at the tonneau cased watch, but I’m guessing it’s an Accurist. Cleese advertised the brand back in the day and he famously doesn’t get why some watches are collector’s items that fetch over 200K.
The watch and various clocks all feature heavily in the film, which reminds all of us that being late for something isn’t the end of the world, unless your world is a litany of pedantic slavery to appointments, lessons, stupefying routine and boring meetings. In a way, it’s Easy Rider for middle-aged teachers.