Time Travel, Physics Simulations, and the Greatest Director of the Decade
“I’ll see you in the beginning, friend.” - Neil, played by Robert Pattinson, Tenet (2020)
It is nearly impossible to discuss watches, time, and movies without bringing up arguably the greatest director of the decade. Christopher Nolan has created some of the most intriguing (confusing?) movies of all time. If you don’t know his name, you absolutely know his movies: Inception, Interstellar, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Memento, and Dunkirk just to name a few. Rolling the dice and picking one of his movies at random, there is a high likelihood that time will be a major factor in the plot. And when time plays a prominent role, confusion will follow. Some of these movies need to be watched several times to really grasp how brilliant and complex they are. Fortunately for you, we will not be twisting and turning through time today. Today, we take a look at the watches that played major roles in two of Nolan’s most recent films, Interstellar and Tenet. Oh, and be prepared: SPOILER WARNING.
Looking to the Stars
The 2010’s were some of the best years for the science fiction film genre. With titles such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Inception (2010), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and many more releasing every year, it seemed that every director wanted to jump in and carve out their own little space. By this time, Christopher Nolan had not only cemented his spot in Hollywood fame, but in the sci-fi scene as well. Inception was a critically acclaimed film that still has people talking about it today (Is he in a dream? Will the top stop spinning?). After Inception, Nolan shifted gears to write/direct the second installment of what could be considered the greatest comic book trilogy in the Dark Knight trilogy. After the success of that film, with an Oscar winning performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, Nolan started work on Interstellar, a sci-fi and technical masterpiece.
Interstellar follows a group of pilots and researchers as they attempt to find a new planet for the future of the human race. That one sentence synopsis really does not do the film justice, but it gives a general idea for what the stakes are. The team is sent on this mission by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), and consists of several members, the most notable being Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Brand (Anne Hathaway). Cooper comes from a background of being a NASA pilot who just so happens to stumble upon the location of NASA’s secret project because of a gravity anomaly in his house (more on that later…). Once there, he learns about Professor Brand’s plan to save the human race by sending them through a wormhole to investigate a series of planets that could support life. Each planet has its own challenges such as one planet being so close to a blackhole that one hour on the planet is equivalent to seven years on Earth. The main portion of the story starts here, with Cooper leaving his family at home to “Boldly go where no man has gone before” (it just fits too well to not use). Before he leaves, he gives his daughter Murph a watch to remember him by telling her that he will be back for her. The team starts their journey to and through the wormhole, then deciding which of the possible future homes for Earth they should explore.
Everyone needs a good pair of Khakis
With the success of Interstellar, it's only natural for people to ask, “Where can I get that watch?” I know I ask myself this question whenever I see a cool watch in the movies. At the time of Interstellar’s release, Hamilton only had Cooper’s watch in their catalog; The Khaki Aviation Pilot Day Date Auto (quite a mouthful isn’t it?) Murph’s watch was a prop that was made solely for the movie. It had a small motor in it that created the ticking whenever the timepiece was on screen. We would not see a regular production model of the timepiece for almost another 5 years.
In February of 2019, Hamilton announced the Khaki Field Murph Auto, a nearly identical recreation of the timepiece from the film except for one added detail. Hamilton decided to etch Murph’s accomplishment into the watch forever by printing “Eureka” on the second hand of the timepiece. It is not a detail you would notice if you were not looking for it. The subtle addition makes it an incredible watch for fans of the movie, but also a great piece for anyone that just wants a clean and simple timepiece. Hamilton even decided to take the watch a step further and create a special edition box to go with the piece. This box was created to look like the tesseract that Cooper was stuck in at the end of the film; The place he communicated with Murph on how to save the human race. This watch is arguably what put Hamilton on the map for creating amazing pieces for and from the movies. It would also not be the last time that they would be working with Nolan. The two would pair up again for Nolan’s most recent film Tenet, creating another set of memorable and plot perfect pieces.
Can You Rewind Real Quick?
2020 was a rocky year for nearly every industry. In the entertainment industry, films that were set to release earlier in the year had to be pushed to the fall, with some of them never making an appearance in theaters, instead going straight to streaming services. Tenet was originally slated to be in theaters on July 17th but was delayed several times, finally hitting theaters on September 3rd here in the US. Over half a year later, the film was viewable on the HBO Max streaming service, allowing more people to get headaches from trying to make some sense of the film. Don’t get me wrong, the film is fantastic, but it absolutely takes more than one viewing to start to put the pieces together. I’ll do my best to summarize without creating a shortage of Excedrin.
Tenet follows our Protagonist (Yes that is actually his name in the credits) played by John David Washington as he tries to save the world after being told only one word. His journey leads him through time and space, filled with spying and secrets. The film opens with Washington’s character performing a raid on a concert, where he notices some strange markings that almost appear like bullet holes. A few moments later, he interacts with someone/something that appears to be going backwards through time, first introducing this idea that objects and people can move in either flow of time (this is explained as reverse entropy by a scientist a short time later in the film). After his experience, the Protagonist is hired by an organization called Tenet to stop a Russian oligarch by the name of Sator, played by Kenneth Branagh, from starting World War III. Sator appears to have some sort of precognitive ability which allows him to be one step ahead of the Protagonist, and to get dangerously close to executing his plan, creating a device called The Algorithm that will allow the future to destroy the past. To get close and attempt to stop Sator, the Protagonist learns that he needs to get close to his wife Kat, played by Elizabeth Debicki. In doing so, he learns that she is under complete control of Sator since she gave him a forged painting. In an attempt to gain her trust, he is paired up with Neil, played by Robert Pattinson, a mysterious individual who knows more than he is letting on about the situation.
Through the remainder of the film, both we and the Protagonist slowly learn that objects, secrets, and even people, can be sent back through time. Eventually, Neil and our Protagonist learn about the secret base where Sator is going to bury The Algorithm so that people in the future will be able to find and use it. In a desperate final attempt to stop him, Neil and our Protagonist work with soldiers hired by the Tenet organization to raid the compound, some of them raiding it going forwards through time, while others are going backwards. This is a common theme in the film, with red and blue signifying each of the travel methods. It is during this final confrontation that we see our watches. Each team has the same watch and uses the built in countdown LCD display to time how long they have before The Algorithm is lost forever. Now, while I did say there would be spoilers at the start of this article, I am not going to go any farther with this summary because I highly recommend you watch this film, and while you are at it Interstellar, and then maybe watch it one or two more times to really start to understand it. So let’s move on to the real reason why you’re watching this film (okay maybe not the real reason), the timepieces.
One Watch, Two Watch, Red Watch, Blue Watch
When our watches appear in the film, military preparations are underway. Naturally they would be using some form of durable, utilitarian style timepiece. Hamilton used one of their watches, the Khaki Navy BeLOWZERO as inspiration for these film pieces. A perfect combination of utilitarian, because it is easily legible and can take a beating due to it being a professional dive watch, with a military feel. Unfortunately, only the prop versions of the watches had the LCD display with the blue and red numbers. However, Hamilton did keep the blue and red colors on their limited editions inspired by the film’s prop pieces. Both of the pieces are identical, except for the color at the very tip of the second hand, one red and one blue (pictured left).
The pieces are brilliantly executed because they are completely blacked out otherwise. This choice really allows the color to pop and be extremely noticeable, even in lower level lighting. Hamilton even went so far as to have the film’s production designer Nathan Crowley create the packaging for the watches. Each box will have the same color scheme as the second hand on each watch and is also designed with a futuristic look and feel that Hamilton says, “contains clues to the film’s narrative.” Compared to the pieces Hamilton made for Interstellar, these Tenet pieces are on the complete opposite side of our style spectrum. Plus, they are significantly harder to get. Hamilton only made 888 of each piece and has since discontinued the model so finding one, let alone the pair, could almost feel like a job. If you are a fan of Nolan, the movie, or Mars (hint hint at a future article), it would be tough to find another watch that can bring all three of these aspects together as well as this pair of watches can.
To Infinity and Beyond
It is safe to say that Nolan and Hamilton both have a passion for their crafts. Each has spent years developing and perfecting their own individual styles. With some of the Hollywood projects Hamilton has done in the past, it’s no wonder that they have gone and worked with Nolan, one of the most prolific directors of our time. And when the two come together, they have created wonderful and extremely memorable pieces that can stand the test of time and space. With Nolan having announced a few new projects, perhaps we will see the two collaborate once again and make some more incredible pieces. Until then, we can travel through time, look to the stars, and be our own heroes while wearing a few amazing timepieces.
Interstellar is available to stream on Hulu and Paramount Plus. Tenet is available to stream on HBO Max or Hulu. If you are interested in purchasing any of the pieces from this story, please see the Hamilton section of our website, https://brentmiller.com/collections/hamilton