Breguet’s Hollywood Moment

The 90th Academy Awards are this Sunday. If you’ve paid any attention to the film circuit this year then you probably know that the competition for Best Picture will be fierce with Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri; Phantom Thread; The Post; The Shape of Water; Call Me By Your Name; Dunkirk; and Lady Bird all posing as formidable threats to take home the golden statuette. Less undetermined, however, is the race for Best Actor in a Leading Role. While Daniel Kaluuya, Timothée Chalamet, and Denzel Washington are all accomplished actors worthy of the career-affirming trophy, this year’s ceremony seems like a two-man competition between Daniel Day-Lewis and Gary Oldman.

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

In any other year, Daniel Day-Lewis, 60, would be considered a shoo-in. As one of the most admired and awarded actors in history, it would be fitting to end his career (he has said that Phantom Thread will be his last role) with a record fourth Best Actor award. However, the praise for Oldman’s turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour has been nothing short of stupendous and he has already bested Day-Lewis at the Golden Globes this awards season. 

© Yousuf Karsh
Winston Churchill portrait by Yousuf Karsh

Long considered a chameleon of the film industry, Oldman, 59, is known for blending into his roles in such a seamless manner that he becomes unrecognizable. One of the reasons he was able to transform himself into the former British Prime Minister so effectively is thanks to a replica of the Breguet No. 765 “Turnip” pocket watch that the brand reincarnated for the film. Churchill inherited the timepiece from his grandfather, John Spencer Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, who was also an ancestor to Princess Diana. Originally commissioned in 1890, the rattrapante minute repeater chronograph with an enamel dial, boasts a prominent chain at the waist that can be seen in many of the most iconic images from World War II. You can find the original Breguet pocket watch inside The Churchill War Rooms at The Imperial War Museum in London.

 Breguet No. 765 “Turnip” pocket watch replica
The Breguet No. 765 “Turnip” pocket watch replica.

Recently, we had the chance to go hands-on with the replica watch that Oldman carried throughout the film and had a few short observations. It’s much, much smaller than it appears in the famous war-time images of Churchill. I wasn’t able to record an exact measurement when viewing the watch (where’s a caliper when you need one?), but an approximate size comparison would be the dimensions of an average soda can. It’s also surprisingly beat up given its short lifespan. This is the rare case where having a scratched case is actually a positive. It’s much more compelling knowing that Oldman was on set using the watch like it was meant to be — as a daily companion — rather than as a decorative prop.

After talking with some Breguet representatives, I was also surprised to find out that this was a completely organic collaboration. There was no payment between the brand and the film studio as Breguet simply wanted to provide Oldman with an authentic representation of the timepiece.

For those that enjoy a good cigar with their watch, it’s worth noting that in Oldman’s quest for authenticity, he smoked at least 400 Romeo y Julieta Cuban cigars. In fact, $20,000 of the film’s $30 million budget literally went towards stogies. Oldman told the Hollywood Reporter back in December that, “I got serious nicotine poisoning. You’d have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you’d light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar — we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene.”

Tune into the 90th Academy Awards on ABC at 8:00 EST this Sunday, March 4. If you’re in Beverly Hills, the timepiece will be on view to the public at the Breguet boutique until tomorrow evening.

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