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This is WATCH THE WATCH, a new series uncovering the most iconic watches seen on screen. From cult classics to new releases, we uncover the cinematic presence behind the cameras. In this week’s edition, we uncover the vintage models in Steven Spielberg’s infamous opening film to the franchise, Back to the Future (1985).

Everyone loves a good reunion. And we’ve not been deprived of them this year either. The eternally anticipated regrouping of the Friends cast set the internet alight with a blend of sentimentality and disappointment; while the Bennifer reunion provided the perfect opportunity to delve back into the archives, to the halcyon days of the 1990s. But the one that really captivated the hearts of all was the union of Doc Brown and Marty McFly, also known as Michael J.Fox and Christopher Lloyd from the seminal sci-fi classic, Back to the Future. Joining forces at a comic-con event in Washington D.C, the pair took part in a panel session to celebrate the 35th anniversary since the release of the first film, teased by Fox on his Instagram which got the world excited.

Ever wondered where the British band McFly got their name from? Look no further than California where teenage Marty McFly finds himself thrown back in time into the 50’s when an experiment gone wrong by his outlandish friend and scientist, Doc Brown sends McFly travelling through time in an American-made DeLorean car. Following Marty as he meets the younger version of his parents and uncomfortably catches the eye of his Mother, Marty must ensure his parents get together and maintain the true course of history, all the while managing to get back to the future of 1985.

It’s not often you hear a bad word said about Robert Zemeckis’ masterpiece that brought together the past, present and future in such a novel way that has been enamored since its release in 1985. So much so that there’s even ‘Happy Back to the Future Day,’ that began on 21 October, 2015, which as BTF stans will know is the date Marty McFly and Doc travel to the future in the DeLorean car in the second film. But if you’re one of the uninitiated, and you’re yet to see the captivating opening scene with Marty McFly and the most clocks you’ve ever seen in one room, it’s high time. 

Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Universal Studios

A cinematic montage dedicated to the mastery of time and its power over our existence, Spielberg grips viewers from the start with a 10-minute scene crafted in real-time, each second documented by the array of devices and stopwatches. Hailed for its witticism, and adept foreshadowing, one of the clocks features a man hanging from its hands, a jibe towards the silent comedy star Harold Lloyd’s iconic scene from the 1923 film Safety Last, portending to the scene where Doc hangs from the Hill Valley clock tower in the same way later in the film. Zemeckis payed a sentimental tribute to the clock of his childhood alo, with a 1950’s Felix clocks on display too. This sonic opening also lends itself as a homage to the 1960 classic The Time Machine, which also opened with a montage of shots of different types of clock ticking.

Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Universal Studios

They say time is the wisest counselor of all, and Doc’s hubristic obsession with it comes to a head when Marty is trapped in the past. But what does an enigmatic pundit and temporality addict wear on his wrists? Two watches, of course. On the one hand, a Seiko A826 Training Timer, a rare watch that befittingly to the plotline was ahead of its time, released in 1983 as a digital stopwatch with a remote thumb-trigger cable with an 8 lap split memory with an audible beep. On the other hand sits a stainless steel Helbros watch, a relatively unsung brand , Helbros first opened a factory in Switzerland 1913 by brothers Helbein in Geneva, recorded in 1918 only to later settle in the United States taking the name of Helbros Watch Corporation. But it doesn’t stop there, as Doc proves his penchant for Seiko with a stopwatch tied around his neck. Let’s not be forgetting Einstein, Doc’s dog wearing a Citizen stopwatch around his neck.

Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Universal Studios

Meanwhile, Marty McFly can be found wearing a Casio CA53W Twincept Databank. Understated and practical, it offers a dual-time function, alarm and stopwatch settings, alongside the primary an 8 digit calculator, 1/100 second stopwatch, auto calendar and it’s water resistant to a depth of 100 meters ensuring Marty a sturdy passage as he is transported through time.

Back to the Future isn’t so much about the wristwatches featured alone, as much as it is the backdrop of puzzles littered throughout the narrative. As Marty wakes up at the beginning of the film, a Panasonic RC-6015 clock radio rests next to him, and once he returns to the present day from 1955 to 1985, the radio plays “Back in Time” song by Huey Lewis and The News. Safely returning to the present day, Back to Future is a stellar introduction to Spielberg’s trilogy proving the temper of time is not to be messed with by human hands. 

Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Universal Studios
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Scarlett is a writer, editor, and creative consultant specializing in art, fashion, culture and digital strategy. Drawing on her work from previous titles including Dazed, LOVE Magazine, The Perfect Magazine, AnOther and 1 Granary, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Hour, Scarlett is leading the editorial vision toward new territories providing an alternative lens of social commentary to recontextualize the world of watchmaking for the next generation.