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 and tales behind the timepieces behind the cameras. In this weeks edition, we uncover the signature model in Christopher Nolan’s epic retelling of history in Dunkirk (2017).
Tackling history on film is always an ambitious task. The biggest risk to an audience is the measure of authenticity and neatly fostering the tales of the past with accuracy. In Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, there is a greater challenge at stake, documenting one of the darkest hours of World War II on screen.
Titled Operation Dynamo, the Battle of Dunkirk resulted in the rescue of over 338,000 British and French soldiers from the French coastline between 26 May-4 June 1940. The evacuation, which saw a flotilla of civilian boats travel across the channel to save stranded soldiers, frames the narrative of Nolan’s critically acclaimed action film, starring Kenneth Brannagh, Tom Hardy and the on-screen debut from Harry Styles.
For a war that took place over sea, land and sky, Nolan’s portrayal spans a medley of alarming aerial shots with Tom Hardy playing an RAF pilot. Defending the bleak skies from German Luftwaffe planes, the finale of the film sees Hardy’s character run out of fuel and dismount into enemy territory. But before the fictional character’s demise – despite bringing victory to the allies – Hardy soars through the skies, to the raucous soundtrack of Hans Zimmer, with both fear and determination seeping through his skin.
As Hardy remains in the cockpit for the entirety of the film, tension remains at the forefront of Farrier’s narrative, constantly checking his watch to record the timing of intervals. An advocate for detail, Nolan dresses Hardy in an Omega CK2129, otherwise known as the ‘Weems,’ an influential watch worn by pilots in the early days of the war.
A main supplier to the British Ministry of Defence, due to Omega’s legacy of precision and the ability to mass-produce high quantities for service, the timepiece offered potential life-saving capabilities and utilitarian simplicity. For instance, the unique rotating bezel was valuable for pilots and navigators during missions as it enabled the timing of specific intervals and could be locked by the watch’s second crown to avoid any inaccuracy should it be knocked.
With around 2,000 Omega CK2129 models created at the start of the war, for its essential contribution to aviation, Omega acknowledges that much of the watchmaking ‘intel’ gathered during the war years, later entered production in the form of the 1948 Seamaster model, of which iterations are still available today. The watch was made to be particularly easy to read, which is why it featured a contrasting cream dial with clear Arabic numerals and poire hands so that in times of crisis, this delicate piece of engineering was doing all it could to help.