Watches on the Screen: Vintage Finds

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Wrist watches have been around since the time of World War I, and they have been making appearances in movies since shortly after that time. As cool as it is to spot and identify a watch from a modern movie it can be even more fun to find them in older films. Both obscure and popular brands have made appearances over the past 80 plus years. From the 1920’s through the 1980’s, here are some vintage watch appearances in movies spanning those seven decades. (Spoilers ahead!)

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis is one of those films that is often referred to as a masterpiece. The film takes place in the city of Metropolis which is home to a Utopian society. It’s residents live wealthy lives without cares or concerns while below the city is an underground of workers who run the machines that keep the city above functioning. The son of the city’s founder discovers the workers below and works to unite the two classes. During the film we can see Metropolis founder Jon Fredersen check the time on his diminutive, square Movado wristwatch. It’s actually a great looking piece with a very cool set of hands and numeral markers and a sub-seconds dial at 6 o’clock. A great appearance of an actual-era timepiece in this futuristic movie.


The Maltese Falcon (1931)

Most people are probably at least familiar with the Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon from 1941, but ten years before that Hollywood had taken it’s first crack at the tale. Regardless of the version, the story is the same. Private detective Sam Spade is a womanizing, private detective who takes a case from a woman, Ruth Wonderly, who wants them to follow a man who allegedly ran off with her little sister. Spade and his partner Miles Archer don’t believe her story, but with the money she is paying they take the case anyway. Things go wrong almost right away when Archer is shot and Ruth does everything she can to keep Spade on the case, without telling him the truth. Danger ensues as the case turns to the search for a statuette of a black bird being pursued by three crooks. Sam Spade (played by Ricardo Cortez) uses his Hampden wrist watch to check the time during the film. Hampden made pocket watches between 1877 and 1927 when it went out of business due to the Great Depression. Spades watch is most likely a converted pocket watch given that is what the brand made. Converted it makes a great looking wrist watch that could fit into today’s designs just fine.

Maltese Falcon
Maltese Falcon

My Name is Julia Ross (1945)

Julia Ross (played by Nina Foch) is a single woman who is out of work and needs a job, badly. Working through a employment agency she finds a job as a live in secretary for a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hughes. After her first night in the house, Julia awakens to find that she has been asleep for two days and is no longer in the London home of Mrs. Hughes. The occupants of the estate she wakes in, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Hughes son Ralph and the staff all say that she is not Julia Ross but rather Marion Hughes, the wife of Ralph Hughes. Julia knows who she is and begins to suspect that the Hughes family has set her up to be the victim of murder and she now needs to escape their plot. The supposed husband of Julia, Ralph Hughes, checks the time on his Rolex Oyster Royal. The watch has those classic Rolex Mercedes hands, but he should take care of that crown.

My Name is Julia Ross
My Name is Julia Ross

Above Us the Waves (1955)

Above US the Waves is a British war film that is based on two real life attacks during World War II. Concerned about the constant attacks on their convoys by German submarines and the German battleship Tirpitz, Commander Fraser assembles and trains a force of frogmen to use Mk I Human Torpedo manned torpedos. They attack the Tirpitz and fail in their attempt to sink the battleship. Undeterred, they try again this time using three small submarines, X1, X2 and X3. Their second plan succeeds in damaging the battleship, but at a cost. Commander Fraser wears a Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso that he keeps flipped back to protect the dial. A smart watch to use when you never know when you will be tossed around inside a submarine. The metal back flipped to the front will keep the crystal safe.

Above Us the Waves
Above Us the Waves

Red Line 7000 (1965)

Red Line 7000 is the story of a racing team and the women who love, and worry about, the drivers. The featured racing team starts out with two drivers, Mike Marsh and Jim Loomis, run by Pat Kazarian. Jim dies before his girlfriend, Holly McGregor, arrives to the race and she feels guilty for not being there. A new driver, End Arp joins the team and falls for Kazarian’s sister. A third driver is added to the team who develops a romantic interest in Holly despite being with his girlfriend, Gabrielle Queneau. Not much mention of racing so far, but the movie does feature an appearance by a 1965 Shelby GT-350 and a 1965 Cobra Daytona Coupe. Speaking of Daytona, race team driver Pat Kazarian wears a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref.6239.

Red Line 7000
Red Line 7000

Ransom (aka The Terrorists) (1974)

This thriller finds a British plane hijacked as it is landing in Scandinavia while the British Ambassador’s residence is attacked by a second set of terrorists. Military Police Chief Colonel Tahlvik (played by Sean Connery) works to rescue the plane and passengers while also dealing with the second terrorist act at the same time. The terrorsts leader, Ray Petrie (played by Ian McShane) wears a fantastic Omega Speedmaster Mk. II that is seen a number of times throughout the film.

Ransom The Terrorists
Ransom (a.k.a The Terrorists)

Firefox (1982)

We have talked about Firefox once before but it features such a cool watch that it’s making another appearance here. Clint Eastwood plays ex-Vietnam War pilot Mitchell Gant who is tasked with a covert mission to steal the Soviet jet fighter, “Firefox”. Gant wears a great Root Beer Rolex GMT Master on a jubilee bracelet. Oddly enough, it is another watch with the crown pulled out; you think they’d know better.


The next time you are watching one of those classics, regardless of the decade, keep your eyes peeled. You never know what watch might make a surprise appearance.

Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.
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