Hamilton 2019: Hollywood to Graceland to Space and BeyondBy Ken Kessler
London: Answering the question on everyone’s lips – “How would the Swatch Group compensate for its withdrawal from Baselworld?” – Hamilton kicked off the 2019 season with a superb pop-up exhibition at London’s Carousel Restaurant in Marylebone. Upon entering the room, one was overwhelmed by posters, props and memorabilia charting the brand’s history, with the focus on a number of themes identifying the brand’s broad scope – especially its starring role in over 500 films.
Once inside, we were treated to what might be the largest line-up of new models the brand has produced. If there was an over-riding leitmotif, even with the superlative number of new military-themed models, it was this declaration: At the Heart of Cinema – Celebrating Over 80 Years of Hollywood Movie Collaborations. From Shanghai Express, starring Marlene Dietrich back in 1932, to the Men In Black franchise to recent Marvel features, the brand has dominated the silver screen. As the company points out, it’s not mere product placement: their watches are favoured by prop masters and directors because the models used are often the result of true partnerships, realised in bespoke designs, as seen in 2001 – A Space Odyssey and Interstellar.
Probably the most famous of all of the film-related watches is the Ventura, which – before it graced the wrists of the various Men In Black, found fame as Elvis Presley’s watch of choice for 1961’s Blue Hawaii. Not one but two new Venturas will be released in 2019, the instantly recognisable, asymmetric design being the first commercially successful electric wristwatch, way back in 1957.
For the Ventura Quartz Chronograph, Hamilton will offer two schemes, including silver dials paired with stainless steel polished cases and champagne dials in yellow gold-coloured cases, both 32.3×50.3mm watches wearing flexi bracelets. Each version also can be fitted with a black leather strap, as per the original from 1957.
For the other Ventura, Hamilton turned to the model first worn by Marvel’s Iron Man, as played by Robert Downey, Jr. in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Ventura Skeleton. It’s notable for the spider-web-look of its skeletonised dial, while the updated, oversized 42.5×44.6mm stainless steel, black PVD case contains the H-10-S automatic movement with 80-hour power reserve. This beauty is limited to only 999 pieces, which might cause the myriad fan boys to fight over them.
Still with the movies, Hamilton responded to the overwhelming demand for a commercially-available version of one of the best-looking, made-for-the-movie pieces in recent years, “The Murph” from Interstellar: This was a specially modified, oversized Khaki Field watch with no direct equivalent. Fans gave it the nickname, the model integral to the plot, with the hero sending a message across time using Morse code through the seconds hand. When his daughter works out the formula, Murph shouts “Eureka!” upon realising that humanity is saved.
For the Khaki Field Murph, Hamilton made an exact reproduction of the movie watch: 42mm stainless steel case, black dial, beige Super-LumiNova inlaid hands, H-10 automatic movement with 80-hour power reserve and black leather strap. But there is one delicious difference: the word “Eureka” is printed in lacquer in Morse code on the seconds hand. As the brand points out, “If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never see it: it is barely visible to the naked eye. For those in on the secret, it’s clear to see and will have special significance for Interstellar fans.”
Adding to the desirability, Hamilton delivers the watch in a special striped box representing the famous tesseract from the film, created with input from film’s award-winning production designer, Nathan Crowley. Only 2,555 Murphs will be delivered in the special box.
Still with the film-inspired timepieces, referencing 2001’s Pearl Harbor (although some schmuck provided the filmmakers with quartz models…), Hamilton has expanded the range of hugely desirable mechanical Khaki Field watches with new Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanicals in a variety of configurations: 38mm natural stainless steel case or a stainless steel case treated with “Hamilton’s original earth-colored PVD” with green, black or white dial, nickeled hour and minute hands with Super-LumiNova, white lacquered seconds hand, H-50 movement with 80-hour power reserve, date and green and brown textile straps.
Away from the films, Hamilton also showed “panda dials” on the new Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph, which celebrates the Chronograph A from 1968. This updates the devilishly handsome design with a 40mm stainless steel case instead of the original’s 36mm. Inside is the exclusive H-31 automatic chronograph movement with 60-hour power reserve. Hamilton also used the font and logo of the historic version from 1968. It will be tough choosing between the white dial with black counters and the carbon-paper blue and off-white matt dial version, both fitted with soft touch leather strap.
With more models in the Khaki Aviation X-Wind range for the upcoming Red Bull Air Race season and the new Spirit of Liberty in the American Classic range, this is a bumper year for the best brand ever to come out of the USA. But there’s more: hidden away in CEO Sylvain Dolla’s pocket was a prototype we cannot describe because of a full-on, your-life-will-be-for-it embargo, but watch this space: I can promise you that every Hamilton fan is gonna go nuts later this year…