The long love affair of watches and the movies

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The association between hit films and watch brands has been long and evolving. Daniel Malins takes a look at the benefits of brands operating both behind and in front of the camera.

Hollywood and the world of movie making has been inextricably linked with watch brands for as long as any of us can remember.

With the BAFTAs coming up this weekend, it seems appropriate to delve a bit deeper into the watch world’s historical affiliation with the big screen and question what it is about movies and timepieces that make them such a perfect match.

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Where better to start than with the world’s most famous secret agent? With Spectre being the seventh consecutive film that Bond will have worn an Omega Seamaster, having first done so in 1995’s Goldeneye, Omega obviously thinks that the Bond brand’s quality, sophistication and style tie in perfectly with how they market its products.

Of course, Bond’s tastes have fluctuated since we first saw Sean Connery in Dr No in 1962. Back then, Connery had his Rolex Submariner, and in the intervening period since 007 has also flirted with Pulsar and Seiko watches before settling on his trusty Omega. By analysing the James Bond series as a microcosm of the whole film industry, it’s easy to see why watches are so prevalent in movies, and how so much effort and money is put in by the brands to have an official association with a given film and its stars.

You don’t have to look far to find other examples of famous movies that watch brands have partnered with in one form or another. Back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, saw all the astronaut characters wearing Hamilton watches. And the Hamilton watch in 2014’s Interstellar played a genuinely key role in the plot, securing Hamilton phenomenal exposure as the camera regularly zoomed in on it.

In fact, Hamilton is arguably the most prominent watch brand in Hollywood blockbusters, having featured in Ocean’s 11, Pearl Harbor and A Beautiful Mind, to name just three. Where the James Bond franchise stands out amongst films for its historical relationship with watch brands, so Hamilton stands out amongst watches as a brand that affiliates itself with movies.

2011’s neo-noir crime drama, Drive, saw a leading role for a Patek Philippe Chronometer, worn by Ryan Gosling throughout. Custom-made especially for the film, this Patek Philippe, with white luminous hour and minute hands, was given a brown leather band and featured prominently in integral moments of the film, including multiple close-ups. Patek Philippe would have been acutely aware of the young demographic likely to watch such a film.

The relationship between watch brands and the flicks is not limited to leading actors/actresses simply wearing a particular model on screen. Jaeger-LeCoultre regularly launches new timepieces to celebrate its ongoing association with the Venice International Film Festival, having sponsored events at the event since 2005.

So what is it about movies and Hollywood that appeals to watch brands of all shapes and sizes? It could be that their obsession is based purely on a cold brand exposure algorithm (i.e. X million people will watch this film, therefore the brand exposure is worth Y dollars based on number of minutes on the screen etc.). This would be particularly applicable when it’s the film-makers who approach the watch brand and not the other way round, as was the case when the producers of The Amazing Spiderman a few years ago asked Edox for a collection of their watches to use in the movie. For Edox, the value and exposure was huge, despite committing next to no time or money into the venture.

The ultimate benefit could even come from the fact that a film’s characters are simply wearing watches, regardless of brand. In the age of smartphones, watch companies are constantly facing a battle to prove their worth and relevance to the next generation of consumers, and so when the leading stars of a given film are wearing timepieces, this increases the sense of necessity and acceptability in wearing a watch for the viewing public. In this case, the benefits of a watch brand’s association with a movie would actually be to the watch industry as a whole, rather than specifically the brand that features in the film.

However, like with any sponsorship or commercial partnership, the direct results and benefits are hugely intangible, so one senses that it’s far more about aligning a brand with the general lifestyle and characteristics of an actor and the person he/she portrays in their film. As mentioned above, James Bond is known as being sophisticated and stylish, so any watch that he’s seen to be wearing will come across as chic and suave to the audience too (whether subliminally or consciously).

The evidence certainly seems to be that all of these watch/film collaborations do have an effect on watch enthusiasts and everyday consumers. Whether it’s because people are genuinely influenced by seeing their on-screen heroes wearing a particular brand, or whether it’s because of the hype surrounding the partnership (how many of us would actually know which watch James Bond was wearing if the press and the brand itself hadn’t been shouting about it?), it would appear that people do sit up and take notice.

There is definitely something about iconic watches in blockbuster films with celebrity actors that gets people’s juices flowing. It is this short term spike in interest on the part of film-goers, combined with the enduring long-term legacy and goodwill that comes with a brand’s association with a movie, that goes a long way to justifying the time and expense for watch companies. It is what ensures that the historic union of the watch and film industries is here to stay.

 

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