10 November 2014: Product placement has gone beyond the point of annoying us. Those who value their sanity or wish to maintain acceptable blood pressure simply shrug when an in-your-face display of commercialism rears its head, e.g. the now-infamous exchange between Vesper and James in Casino Royale, when she asks “Rolex?” and he replies “Omega.” Gagging noises optional, but it worked.
Hamilton has been at this game longer than most, if you discount the accidental sightings of watches prior to Hamilton’s appearance in The Frogmen (1951). Before that prescient prop presence, accidental or merely fortuitous situations set up the, er, set-up. Valentino insisting on wearing his Cartier Tank in Son of the Sheik is the most oft-cited example of free publicity for a watch brand, along with Steve McQueen’s choice of the Heuer Monaco in Le Mans, and less directly, Paul Newman’s choice of Rolex in Winning.
Now it is huge business, but watch enthusiasts are permitted to be upset with inappropriate choices. I always marvelled at the presence of a watch from famous Swiss retailer Gübelin on the wrist of a con in Escape From Alcatraz, and neither Chopard nor – indeed – Hamilton should be forgiven for supplying wholly unacceptable, anachronistic timepieces in, respectively, Hollywoodland and Pearl Harbor. Talk about destroying any “suspension of disbelief” …
Not so with Hamilton’s role as part of the plot in Interstellar. This film has befuddled critics and fans alike, as would any involving an understanding of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but I loved it despite my ignorance. If you’ve not seen it yet, I will be careful not to spoil the plot nor the key twists. Suffice it to say, Hamilton’s Khakis feature prominently.
In the film, Matthew McConaughey as Cooper wears a Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date. Given that he is a retired astronaut and a macho kind of guy, the choice is completely feasible. As a farmer (you need to see the film), he is unlikely to wear anything in 18k gold, ultra-thin, a tourbillon, etc etc, so full marks to the Swatch Group for not insinuating a Breguet into the mix.
(Yes, I know that an Omega Speedmaster Professional would have been ideal, but let’s be generous here: it’s Hamilton’s gig.)
Where collectors will drool – and I admit to purchasing a half-dozen various Khakis over the years – is over the “unique piece” made for Murph, Cooper’s daughter. She gets to wear an exclusive watch developed by Hamilton specifically for her character. As the company states, “This watch is a unique and customized piece, composed of different elements of signature Hamilton watches perfectly suited to her character.”
Apparently, the request came from the Interstellar production team, for Hamilton to outfit the characters. The watch is the key to the entire three-hour-plus extravaganza, so care was taken to create somehting suitable. What they gave Murph is a familiar-looking Khaki, but with hands from one model, case/dial from another, different areas of polishing and matte, and other detail changes.
I’m surprised that Hamilton hasn’t issued this as a limited edition, as it’s handsome enough to be covetable, but what do I know. I’m just a cineaste/Hamilton-collecting punter who’d love a “Murph” to go alongside my Venturas and the myriad Khakis. Sigh….
This film has been compared both favourably and unfavourably with 2001. As I thought 2001 was an impenetrable, hippie-era, drug-addled mess that doesn’t work without an audience blitzed on mescaline at the very least, I prefer Interstellar by a mile. McConaughey is, again, a revelation, with another performance to add to his recent Oscar-winning turn, True Detective and, uh, Sahara.
2001 comparisons being inevitable, and to show that there is continuity in our lives, the futuristic watch created especially for 2001 came from … Hamilton. Perhaps the team behind Interstellar does have a Kubrick fetish, at least when it comes to watches. Bravo, say I.