Few television shows have been as loudly or consistently praised for the quality and authenticity of its costumes, sets and props as AMC’s Mad Men. Now in its fifth season, the show continues to go to great efforts to source appropriate accessories to showcase a hyper real version of New York in 1966.
This obsession with historically accurate physical culture extends to the wrists of the characters, and for years watch fans have eagerly paused DVDs on partially blurred wristshots of Don Draper and his co-workers. The ability to accurately identify a watch from 50 paces (or a blurred screengrab) is a highly prized skill among watch fans. Today we’d like to take a closer look at some of the lesser stars of Mad Men: Four watches used in the most recent season.
Derek Dier, owner of Watches to Buy, received a call from Ellen Freund, the prop-master for Mad Men, a scant 24 hours before shooting was about to start. She needed a watch, not just any watch – she needed Don Draper’s watch.
Of all the wrists of Mad Men, Don Draper’s has been the most scrutinised. In series one he wore a Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox, but with replacement “Tuxedo” style dial. Season two sees him graduate to a gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso (we even saw a special tribute edition of the 1931 Reverso), and season 4 stepped it up another notch with a Rolex Explorer.
So for series five the props master has specific needs. They needed a watch from 1966 (only the latest model for Don), and they wanted a Rolex. Derek suggested that a Rolex from 1966 would be indistinguishable to a casual eye to a Rolex from 1956 or 1986, and argued that Omega, specifically the Seamaster Deville, was an iconic watch of the 60s. And that is how Don Draper ended up with his elegant and refined black dialled Deville.
Derek didn’t stop there. In consultation with the Freund he was able to supply a further four watches to the show, but could only tell us about three, because to tell us about the last one would give away as yet unaired storylines (there’s something to look forward too).
Roger Sterling was next, and his choice was an easier one. Of all the watches Derek suggested, everyone agreed that the clear choice was the Tudor oyster prince with a ‘Tuxedo’ dial. It’s a striking watch, so striking that John Slattery (who plays Sterling) wanted to buy one for himself. We certainly agree that this is a great choice for Sterling; a slightly older model than Draper’s Seamaster, but a classic piece nonetheless.
Freund chose Pete Campbell’s watch herself, and to be honest she hit the nail on the head. Campbell wears a very 60s Hamilton Sputnik on a strap (we do think an original spiedel band would have been ideal, but tough to find in good condition. The Hamilton is a more accessible watch – the 1960 sticker price of $100 makes it comparable with modern Hamilton watches in price. We think it’s the perfect piece for Campbell; it’s a watch with more than a hint of boyish wonder, and as Dier suggests, a perfectly plausible watch for a young Campbell to receive as a gift, perhaps given along with a Chip ‘n Dip.
The last watch Dier provided for the show was something more of a challenge, a watch for Don’s new bride Megan. Dier was told to find a watch that expressed ‘youth an modernity.’ While we’re not sure that the nineteenth century Swiss brand, Jules Jurgensen screams modernity – the ellipse dialled, diamond bezelled white dialled watch is certainly an appropriate choice for the energetic Megan Draper.
As watch enthusiasts it’s great to see a television show such as Mad Men pay such close attention to the wrists of the characters, and to historical accuracy. And it’s fascinating to get an insight into the processes involved in selecting a watch for a character, and we look forward to analysing the wrists of Draper et al for many seasons to come.