Full Circle at Hamilton’s Behind the Camera Awards

At the end of October 2012, I attended the 6th annual Behind the Camera Awards at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Sponsored by Hamilton, the Swiss watch brand with a rich American heritage, the Sunday-night ceremony, one of Hollywood’s more low-key shindigs, took place on the eve of Hurricane Sandy.

I was due to fly to New York City the next day. In fact, my flight had me landing at JFK at virtually the exact moment that Sandy ripped through the city. Of course, I was forced to cancel my travel plans—and wait out the week anxiously wondering what kind of destruction I would find when I finally returned to the Big Apple.

Two years later, I’m grateful for at least two things: One, I was invited back to the Behind the Camera Awards, which took place last night at the wonderfully atmospheric Ebell of Los Angeles; and two, I expect to land in New York later today on what appears to be a mild fall afternoon, 58 degrees and sunny.

The Behind the Camera Awards, as the name implies, celebrate the talented directors, screenwriters, film editors, producers, visual-effects supervisors, cinematographers, property masters, production designers, and—in the case of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Alexandre Desplat—composers who toil beyond the limelight to create great films that represent the best of American moviemaking.

To glance at the filmographies of last night’s honorees—including director Bennett Miller, screenwriter J.C. Chandor, film editor Sandra Adair, and cinematographer Robert Yeoman—is to understand that Hamilton has aligned itself wisely. This is one talented group!

Courtesy Hamilton

Steve Carell and Channing Tatum flank best director honoree Bennett Miller, who directed the actors in the upcoming film Foxcatcher.

For the brand, the opportunity to collaborate with Tinseltown’s movers and shakers is nothing new. Hamilton has had a relationship with Hollywood since 1951, when actors playing navy divers The Frogmen, which was nominated for two Oscars, wore its timepieces.

Check out this impressive list for an exhaustive inventory of Hamilton’s on-screen appearances, which culminate with the brand’s latest placement, potentially its best and biggest thus far: Two Hamilton models appear in Christopher Nolan’s much-buzzed-about space-exploration drama Interstellar, out in theaters now. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m told that “appear” doesn’t do Hamilton’s role justice.

“The only way you could have gotten a better placement would have been to green screen the watch on an actor’s face,” said Ariel Adams, founder of ABlogtoWatch, a Los Angeles–based watch writer who attended last night’s event.

When I sat down with Hamilton CEO Sylvain Dolla in the greenroom following the presentation, he said the brand’s work on Interstellar constituted “a full partnership” that involved designing a brand-new model for the character Murph, played as a younger adult by Jessica Chastain.

Courtesy Hamilton

Alison Miller, publisher of Los Angeles Confidential magazine, and Hamilton CEO Sylvain Dolla

In the film, Murph as a child is given the watch by her father, Cooper (played by Matthew McConaughey, who is outfitted with the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date). Those of you who’ve seen Interstellar should understand what Dolla means by the following statement:

“The film is really emotional and the watch plays an emotional role, too,” he said.

The unique model specially designed for, and actually worn by, Jessica Chastain’s Interstellar character, Murph

Courtesy Stephen Watson

The Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date worn by Cooper, the character played by Matthew McConaughey, in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar

I asked Dolla how that kind of product visibility translates to sales, and he denied that the brand’s work in Hollywood has anything to do with sales. (“For us, it’s a source of inspiration,” he clarified.)

I find that hard to believe—sponsoring an awards show ain’t cheap, after all—but I do believe that quantifying the number of watches Hamilton might sell due to a high-profile hero prop placement like the one in Interstellar is difficult to estimate, and may take years, if not decades, to play out in the marketplace.

One sign that Hamilton means business? Dolla said the Murph watch isn’t going to be available at retail, but later acknowledged there’s always a possibility: “It’s nice to have watches that remain linked to a movie,” he said. “But we will see—maybe.”