Winning Watches: 5 Timepieces to Spot in This Year’s Crop of Oscar-Nominated Films

11:24 AM 2/6/2018

by Laurie Brookins

Molly's Game Still Jessica Chastain - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of MPA/STX

If you’re a watch nerd, chances are that when you go to the movies, the flash of metal on an actor’s wrist will set off an inner alarm: What brand is he or she wearing? Which model is it? Is it new or vintage? What statement is it making about the character? (Sure, watch nerds should turn off that alarm and just enjoy the movie, but where’s the fun in that?)

With the latest Academy Award nominations determining the films to contend for gold statues on March 4, we decided to take a look at five watches sharing this high-wattage moment, and the backstories that brought them to the big screen. 

  • 'Darkest Hour': Breguet

    Sir Winston Churchill famously sported a Breguet pocket watch, and no detail was spared in creating a reproduction for Gary Oldman to wear in the Joe Wright-directed best picture nominee.

    The watch firm founded by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1775 originally sold Churchill’s watch to his grandfather, John Spencer Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, in 1890; Winston Churchill later inherited the piece. Known as the Reference 765, the pocket watch features a minute repeater, chronograph function, and a white enamel dial, as well as a distinctive watch chain seen in many portraits of the British prime minister. Its size and shape, as well as its constant presence on Churchill’s waistcoat, led to an affectionate nickname: “the Turnip.”

    For the film, Breguet produced a replica – in aesthetics only; it’s not the same movement – of the Reference 765; the original currently resides within the Churchill War Rooms of London’s Imperial Museum. But if you’d like a look at “the Turnip” without a trek to London, Breguet is taking the watch on a brief U.S. tour leading up to the Academy Awards. The piece can be viewed in the brand’s Fifth Avenue boutique in New York now through Feb 8; from there it will head to Las Vegas and the Breguet boutique at The Bellagio for viewing Feb. 10-18, then at Bellusso at The Venetian Feb. 19 and 20. On Feb. 24, the watch rounds out its tour at the brand’s Rodeo Drive location in Beverly Hills, where it can be viewed through March 7.

  • 'The Post': Cartier

    A yellow-gold Cartier watch is prominently seen on the wrist of Katharine “Kay” Graham, played by best actress nominee Meryl Streep, throughout Steven Spielberg’s The Post. Yet while the timepiece, which looks like a Panthère de Cartier, appears to fit the film’s 1971 setting, it actually may be somewhat anachronistic.

    “It’s a little mismatched for the era,” notes Paul Boutros, senior vice president and head of watches for the Americas for Phillips, the auction house that handled the sale of Paul Newman’s legendary Rolex Daytona in 2017. Boutros points out that the Panthère de Cartier watch collection didn’t debut until 1983, and though the watch could be a Santos, a model that launched in 1904 and also features a square dial, he says the bracelet is a dead giveaway. “That’s a Panthère bracelet. A Santos would have come with a leather strap. Of course, Cartier also is known to do custom work, so it’s not unheard of that a stylish woman like Katharine Graham might have requested a Santos on a gold bracelet.” Cartier declined to comment on the watch’s appearance in the film.

    Ultimately it’s a detail that only eagle-eyed watch aficionados might catch. Cartier, which had discontinued its Panthère watch collection in 2000, relaunched the style in 2017 (Streep’s watch seems to match the medium Panthère de Cartier model in 18-karat yellow gold, which retails for $22,800 and is seen here), but accuracy’s loss may have been the actress’s gain. Spielberg presented the timepiece to his star as a wrap gift, with “Oh, Kay!” engraved on the case back. “I’ve never had such a wonderful watch,” Streep told THR in December.

  • 'Dunkirk': Omega

    Blink and you might miss the Omega CK2129 seen on Tom Hardy’s wrist in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk – and that’s a shame, because it’s a significant watch. A pilot’s need to view time quickly and effortlessly was integral in the transition from pocket watches to wristwatches in the early decades of the 20th century, with functions such as a rotating bezel adding to the ability to easily read both the time and intervals between bombing raids.

    Omega delivered more than 2,000 pieces of its CK2129 model to Great Britain’s Ministry of Defense during the late 1930s; a vintage piece is seen on the wrist of Hardy, who plays an RAF pilot in the best picture nominee. Throughout the war effort, the Swiss watch brand would continue to deliver updated models to the MoD, as it was dubbed: The UK/CK2292, for example, was resistant to magnetism, important when pilots were positioned directly behind the magnetic-heavy engine of a Spitfire plane, while Omega’s CK2444 offered a water resistance favored as World War II moved over the Pacific Ocean. But it’s the CK2129 that was worn by RAF pilots during the pivotal 1940 battle and rescue mission depicted in Dunkirk – though years later Omega would enjoy another historic moment, when its Speedmaster would be the watch of choice when the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. 

  • 'Molly's Game': Piaget

    Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award nominee Jessica Chastain has been a Piaget ambassador since 2015. It’s not a surprise, then, that this was the brand chosen to contribute both watches and jewelry to Aaron Sorkin’s film (an Oscar nominee for best adapted screenplay) about Molly Bloom, the former Olympic skier who organized exclusive high-stakes poker games in L.A. and New York for more than a decade.

    As Molly’s success increases, her look becomes more sophisticated, an idea that extends to her jewelry and her watch; both choices become more refined later in the film. In one scene Molly wears Piaget’s Traditional watch in 18-karat rose gold: Part of the house’s Traditional collection, which debuted in 1962, the 26mm watch retails for $45,200 and is set with 42 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel and features a silver dial featuring 12 brilliant-cut diamonds on the hour markers. Chastain’s Traditional also scores points among watch fans for featuring a mechanical movement, rather than quartz, still uncommon for a women’s watch in that size. 

  • 'Call Me By Your Name': Rolex

    Timothée Chalamet is the best actor nominee for Call Me By Your Name, but it’s Michael Stuhlbarg, as Chalamet’s father, who got to wear the cool watch in the film. While Chalamet, who plays a teenager summering in Italy in the early 1980s, sports an inexpensive digital watch on a black rubber strap, Stuhlbarg’s archaeology professor wears a stainless-steel Rolex – and that’s likely no accident, Boutros says.

    Wristwatch collecting was just beginning during the period and location depicted in Call Me By Your Name, Boutros explains, “and at the epicenter were collectors in Italy, who truly helped shape and define this field of collecting,” he says, noting that the choice of a Rolex also would have suited Stuhlbarg’s character. “Outdoors in Italy, especially in the summer months, one could imagine the high heat experienced while out on archaeological digs. A watch strong enough to withstand heavy use in the field, able to resist moisture from heavy perspiration and humidity would have been a must.” Add in Rolex’s robust Oyster case design and the durable stainless-steel bracelet, and Boutros calls it “a compelling choice for a man in his position … low-key enough for the classroom while being tough enough for the field.”

    The current Rolex closest to the piece worn by Stuhlbarg is the 36mm Datejust in stainless steel, an ultra-classic model with a white dial, domed Oyster case and Oyster bracelet. You can still purchase it new, though it’s also a popular watch on the vintage market (and you thought Armie Hammer’s dance moves were the hottest thing about the best picture nominee).