Like many people this summer, I enjoyed watching the Wonder Woman movie. Overall, I rank it up there with some of the best superhero flicks. If I was put under the influence of a magic lasso, I might even admit to my wife that the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, was one of the prettiest women on television in the 1970s (or ever), and the new actress, Gal Gadot, is stunning as well. But whatever… this is a watch blog… so let me change the subject before I get into too much trouble.
Instead of discussing strong leading ladies, I’d rather talk about a prominent wristwatch that was seen a few times in the Wonder Woman movie. This watch was owned by the character Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) who brings Diana from her secret paradise island into the ugly modern world in the middle of its first “Great War”. World War I was a time of industrial innovation, as most wars are. The pocket watch was invented during this time and proved to be more useful in the trenches than the bulkier chained pocket watches of the 1800s.
I will not reveal anything that is not already in a trailer, but I will discuss the closing credit animation later. There should not be any spoilers here to ruin your experience if you have not seen the film. According to the plot, Steve’s father had given him a pocket watch that later was converted into a wristwatch. It shows up occasionally throughout the film, but much of the time it is covered up by Steve’s wardrobe of baggy flight suits and jackets.
An early example of a World War I wristwatch shown below was made by the Waltham watch company. Notice the soldered wire lugs that were used attach the watch to a strap. This was a time before sapphire and plexiglass crystals so many of the watches wore a metal cage one the glass to protect the watch from being smashed. Notice the crown at the modern 3:00 position. This was a later development when watch cases and movements began to be built specifically for wearing on the wrist. This position is more comfortable since the crown would not hit the back of your hand.
Many people already know that pocket watches were replaced in a short time with the more ergonomic wristwatches worn on leather straps. This transformation happened during World War I when pocket watches had lugs welded onto them, which eventually morphed them into the somewhat standard watch format we know today.
Even earlier pocket-watch-to-wristwatch conversions were literally pocket watches with the crown still at the 12:00 position that were mated to a leather strap. I believe that is the type that the character Steve Trevor had. Steve claimed that his watch was an old pocket watch that his father had given him. Presumably it would have been an American brand like Waltham who made millions of watches. Steve’s character was a bit of a super hero himself having lived at least 3 careers as a pilot, soldier and spy in the span of America’s short involvement in the war.
A leather pocket with straps would have encased “top crown” pocket watches like a cocoon. Notice how the winder sticks out of the top. Versions of this bund style survived well into World War II, but that is a story for a later time. These watch bands are still made today like the ones for sale at MK Leathers in Poland, which is where I got this image. Check them out if you are in the market for a watch band like this.
Unfortunately for the Watch Hunter, Steve’s pocket watch was on the screen so fast that I could not tell the brand or other details. For all I know, it could simply be a movie prop devised without any real-world company on the dial. It looks like we will have to wait until Wonder Woman is released on Blu-Ray so that I can examine the watch in more detail. Until then, comments about this film are made from my memory… so please take them with a grain of salt.
After the movie had ended, my wife and I stayed to watch the film credits. As the lights turned on, the pimply-faced teenager sweeping up popcorn told us “This film is by DC Comics not Marvel (morons)… They don’t have extra scenes at the end!” The “morons” part was implied, but we got the message anyway. haha.
Regardless, I am glad we stayed because some parts of the credits were scenes shown as slow-motion animated vignettes. When Steve’s wristwatch made its appearance… I gasped in horror.
My wife heard me say “NOOOO!!! OH MY GOD!!!” and asked me what was wrong. I am sure that she thought I had put my hand on a half-chewed piece of gum under the seat… or maybe I was being attacked by bed bugs.
I just muttered…. “IT TICKED!…the seconds hand on Steve’s watch TICKED!” This earned me a strange look as if to say “Yeah so… watches tick. What’s your problem?”
The problem was that the animators had unknowingly committed horological treason. Any good watch collector knows that the only watches that TICK are quartz watches†, and those were invented by Seiko in 1969, which is at least 52 years later than the movie’s timeframe. Only mechanical watches existed during World War I so the ticking hand was clearly a mistake.
When I say “TICK”, I mean that the second’s hand on a quartz watch jumps directly from one second marker to the next. The second’s hand on a mechanical watch sweeps smoothly in a continuous motion or at least appears this way (there are actually many little jumps per seconds that looks like smooth motion to the human eye). In film terms, the quartz watch would be like a film shot at a jerky1-frame-a-second and a mechanical watch would be the equivalent of 5-frames-per-second making the appearance of a much smoother movie.
Another possible issue is that watches of that era favored a small seconds sub-dial as seen on the Illinois pocket watch below. This is different than a seconds hand that is on the same register as the hours and minutes. The ticking watch in the credits had a central seconds hand so now I am really curious what Steve’s prop looks like throughout the movie… I don’t recall seeing a sub-dial. I really should have paid closer attention.
I find it unbelievable that this tiny detail was not caught or corrected. Maybe the animators knew the difference and made a ticking hand on the central axis purely for effect thinking that a jumping seconds hand would look better than a sweeping hand. Maybe they just did not know the difference. If you read the Wonder Woman Trivia facts on IMDB, they list a few other minor mistakes of showing a modern objects in the World War I setting.
Did this ticking watch ruin the movie for me? Don’t be ridiculous…. I barely noticed the watch when Gal Gadot was on screen. However, I will have to make a note to see if the movie prop watch ticked the seconds like a quartz watch or displayed them with a mechanical sweeping hand. If Steve’s watch ticks… I would be tempted to say “Don’t you know this is supposed to be a mechanical watch, not a quartz watch, morons!” except this time the “morons” would NOT be silent. haha.