Hamilton at the Movies

By Rhonda Riche

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No watch brand has a stronger cinematic presence than Hamilton. In 1932, the brand made its onscreen debut in a movie called Shanghai Express. Since then, Hamilton timepieces have appeared in over 500 films, including two of this summer’s most anticipated movies, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Oppenheimer.


Hamilton watches resonate with moviemakers for many reasons. First of all, the brand’s deep horological history helps tell a story. For example, in Dial Of Destiny, the theme of time propels the plot. We follow our protagonist, archaeologist Indiana Jones, from the 1940s to 1969 and (spoiler alert) back to 213 BC. His wristwatch is based on the manufacture’s timeless tank watch, the Boulton. Originally introduced in 1941, the movie’s prop master Ben Wilkinson personally picked this example of Art Deco excellence for its authentic feel.

Timepiece on its side. It has a rectangular face with a brown leather strap and is on top of a rock with more rocks in the background out of focus.
Hamilton watch booth outdoors. There are a bunch of displays and watch jewelery cases with some props to promote Indiana Jones.
Hamilton Indiana Jones pop-up at Toronto's Distillery District. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton)

The movie version has a few modern tweaks, most notably a quartz movement, but the distinct case silhouette reads as a watch that stylishly slides between historic eras. Indy’s old friend, boat captain friend Renaldo, played by Antonio Banderas, also sports a Hammy—a custom Khaki Navy Scuba.


It’s worth noting that Hamilton also enjoys a healthy relationship with audiences as well as auteurs. The Hamilton x Indiana Jones collaboration is also available to the general public, and to celebrate the launch last July, the brand, in partnership with the Disney Corporation and the Italian Cinema Film Festival, held a pop-up experience in Toronto’s Distillery district where enthusiasts could get up close and personal with the modern Boulton.

A Hamilton watch with a black leather strap and silver case sits in a box with multicoloured linear lines.
Hamilton x Interstellar. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton)
Hamilton timepiece face with silver dial. Rays of light are emitting off of it.
Photo courtesy of Hamilton

Wardrobe and props are important in filmmaking because they provide a visual shorthand for filmmakers who need to create whole worlds in just a few hours. This is another reason why Hamilton is a Hollywood favourite. The brand is famous for its instantly recognizable watches. Think of the asymmetrical Ventura which was featured prominently in the Men In Black franchise. Or the ahead-of-its time Pulsar in the James Bond classic, Live And Let Die.


Sometimes the timepieces themselves become integral to the story. In Interstellar, director Christopher Nolan used two Hamiltons—a Khaki Pilot Day-Date Automatic worn by ex-airman Cooper (Matthew McConaughey)  and a prop watch worn by his scientist daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain). The prop watch was rigged to help communicate between the father and daughter but did not exist in the Hamilton archives—that is until five years later when, due to fan demand, the brand created the popular Hamilton Khaki Field Murph.

The slipperiness of time is a central theme of Nolan’s oeuvre. In Tenet, a BeLOWZERO was custom fit with a backwards running timer to help the audience understand the plot’s time-inversion technology. (Hamilton also made two limited editions of this prop watch which was delivered in special packaging designed by the movie’s production designer Nathan Crowley.)


For Oppenheimer, Nolan famously eschewed the use of CGI for special effects. He wanted the impact of Oppenheimer’s actions to have a visceral punch. For extra authenticity, he also filmed the entire movie in IMAX format and employed a mixed use of colour and black and white film stock without using a single frame of CGI.

Hamilton watch with a black strap and silver dial against a piece of lined paper and the corner of a leather notebook.
Oppenheimer x Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of Hamilton)

And, unlike the timepieces in Interstellar or Tenet, Cillian Murphy wore vintage editions culled from Hamilton’s archives to show the passage of time from the 1920s to 1960s. Collectors will recognize these models as the Cushion B with its ornate handset and Deco numerals, the black and white Endicott, and the Lexington with its elegant applied numerals.


Hamilton’s star power is timeless. There are enough examples of its relationship with cinema to fill a lengthy credit roll at the end of an action movie. What endures beyond a theatrical release in any given year is the brand’s ongoing partnership with today’s greatest filmmakers, wardrobe, and production designers to continue telling its story beyond the silver screen.