March 8, 2009
by Ariel Adams
If I wasn’t a prior fan of the Watchmen graphic novel, I might have thought that this was the perfect “watch” superhero movie. Come on “watch men.” It would have been too good to be true with heroes like “The Human Main Spring,” “Clockimedes,” and the “Chronographer.” Villains might be the “Tickler,” “Quartz Madness,” and the “Asian Counterfeiter” (I did just humor myself there). They call Watchmen the most “celebrated graphic novel” of all time. That may be true in some circles, but I prefer to think of Watchmen as graphic novel that celebrates the comic genre. Writer Alan Moore and artist David Gibbons said it was “unfilmable -” but it wasn’t, and they did, and they did it well. If you haven’t seen Watchmen
This article isn’t just me recommending a movie with “watch” in the name, but I wanted to point out that Watchmen is another movie you can throw in the pile of films with nods to watch appreciation. There is of course the doomsday clock, that slowly moves closer to midnight. There is the fact that it was his watch that got Jon Osterman his unfortunate opportunity to turn into Dr. Manhattan because he forgot the watch in the experiment chamber and went to get it. There is also the fact that Jon’s (Dr. Manhattan) father was a watchmaker – with the accompanying childhood flashback scene where the young Jon is asked by his father to take apart and put back together a mechanical watch. And of course there is the product placement of the (older) mechanical Timex watch near the end of the movie. This is an impressive list of watch related content. Of course, all of it is from the graphic novel (not the Timex though), but I applaud the screen adapters’ choice to include as much as they did in the film.
The watch that Jonathan Osterman wears before his transformation is unlabeled and really could be many things – even a Timex. The Timex that gets some nice screen time is a 1980s model from when your standard Timex watch had a bit more style. Actually, Timex has made a comeback in the recent years with some interesting models, but still is the proprietor of some fugly low-end watches in my book. I am going to give fugly a new definition here: functional ugly = fugly. For this article I don’t have images of the watches, but I am going to attach an image of another vintage Timex watch that has a similar tapered date window as the one in the movie. I’ll attached images if and when I am able to discover some.
There is of course the large crystalline structure on Mars that Dr. Manhattan creates. See small image above. I see this also as a nod to watch making. While it doesn’t do anything, it is like a large mechanical movement toy. Futuristic gears and shapes moving together like only something a master watch maker can create. Dr. Manhattan being the master of matter can do anything, with anything. Able to take things apart and put them back together with no limitation and an impeccable understanding of their function. I took this structure to be his mechanical Martian toy. Even in the graphic novel it is not really explained at all. So it is all up to interpretation. So go see Watchmen, you will enjoy it – but read the graphic novel first if you can. It is a quick but memorable read. Also, the soundtrack is well chosen with affect filled songs equally emblematic of the time periods this era jumping film needs to keep the reader grounded.