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Watch-Hunting on the Set of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’


A true stickler for the details doesn’t stop at styling, and Christopher Nolan is no exception. The five-time Academy Award-nominated filmmaker is revered for his meticulous approach to planning, the results of which speak for themselves. For his latest endeavour, Oppenheimer, Nolan took things to a new extreme. No detail was deemed too minute, with Nolan reportedly even going so far as to source a series of vintage, period-specific watches for the upcoming blockbuster.

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’

The new film focuses on the real-life story of American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, otherwise known as the father of the atomic bomb. The massive film spectacle charts the enigmatic scientist’s role in the Manhattan Project; a top-secret government research and development project that began during World War II and ultimately led to the creation of the first nuclear weapons.

As we noted when the first trailer was released, the film also draws inspiration from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’ by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. Oppenheimer sees Cillian Murphy taking on the role of the titular character. Murphy has previously collaborated with Nolan on a number of projects, however Oppenheimer is firming up as the duo’s most explosive.

Cillian Murphy in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures

Importantly, the film has a certain understanding of time and place. Set during a period when the American dream was truly conceptualised, Oppenheimer perfectly embodies the strange contrast between white picket fences and nuclear war. Somewhere in the middle, there’s an innate sense of style that Nolan has been able to capture in nearly every frame.

“Time has been a factor in a lot of my films,” Nolan said in a featurette for the new movie. “I always like to say that I’ve lived in it, I’m fascinated by it and I very much enjoy stories that play with it somewhere or focus in on it. In the case of Oppenheimer, the whole film is one big countdown to this world-changing event. And so the portrayal of time; the importance of time to the characters in the story is enormously important.”

Once again, it comes back to the filmmaker’s incredible attention to detail, right down to the timepieces. For Oppenheimer, Nolan and co. sourced six period-accurate watches created by American stalwart Hamilton from vintage collectors around the world.

“We’ve had a great experience working with Hamilton in the past and in the case of Oppenheimer, it’s really about recreating the history; really looking back at the Hamilton watches and what these characters would have worn at the time,” Nolan continued.

Hamilton Piping Rock worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Piping Rock worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches

Hamilton Watches x Oppenheimer

An American icon, Hamilton is no stranger to a guest appearance on-screen. The brand has featured in over 500 major films since the 1930s, including the recent Indiana Jones, cementing itself as Hollywood’s favourite timepiece. While often, the process involves developing custom prop watches, this time around, Hamilton teamed up with Nolan to source the historical timepieces that appear in the film.

“They were incredibly helpful in securing the appropriate watches for these characters,” Nolan said. “It’s that kind of detail work, in combination with all of the costume work and the prop work in the film, that’s become so important to involving the audience in the story and a world that they can recognise and has a nice tactile, relatable sense to it, but, that is historically accurate.”

Matt Damon as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Matt Damon as Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures

Three of the film’s central characters: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer and Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, Jr. wore Hamilton timepieces, with six watches, dating from the 1930s and 1940s visible on-screen.

“We wanted to push the authenticity as far as we could,” Oppenheimer production designer Ruth De Jong said. “We want it to feel like you are right there, you are in this – this happened, this is real.”

Hamilton Cushion B (1930s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton
Hamilton Cushion B (1930s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton

Cushion B (1930s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer

  • Case: 26.7 x 26.7mm gold plated case
  • Thickness: 10.8mm
  • Lug width: 15mm
  • Dial: white/cream
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Brown lizard strap

Originally introduced in the early 1930s, the Cushion B is a flawless example of Hamilton’s Art Deco design language. The original models arrived in a 14k gold-filled case and were powered by the 987-F movement, however, towards the end of WWII, the brand switched to 10K gold. According to reports, only around 2,000 Cushion Bs were ever produced, characterised by the unique case shape and stunning numerals.

Hamilton Lexington (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton
Hamilton Lexington (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton

Lexington (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer

  • Case: 29mm gold/silver plated case
  • Thickness: 10mm
  • Lug width: 16mm
  • Dial: Black
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Green calf leather strap

Despite being marketed as a ‘military watch’, the Hamilton Lexington was always designed for civilian use, and this is perhaps most evident in the movement. According to reports, these watches made use of the 980 movement rather than the 987A and F series that the military preferred, however, it matters little. The stunning 1940s timepiece featured a rugged design that foreshadowed Hamilton’s much-loved Field Watch collection.

Hamilton Endicott (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton
Hamilton Endicott (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton

Endicott (1940s) – worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer

  • Case: 27.8mm gold plated case
  • Thickness: 10mm
  • Lug width: 16mm
  • Dial: Champagne
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Brown calf leather strap

First appearing in 1938, the Hamilton Endicott is one of the watchmaker’s most iconic pieces. Featuring an 18k applied gold numeral dial, the watch quickly became a hit. The model that appears in Oppenheimer is among the rarest, due to its rectangular hour markers, as opposed to the more-common triangular.

Lady Hamilton A-2 (1947) – worn by Kitty Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton
Lady Hamilton A-2 (1947) – worn by Kitty Oppenheimer | Image: Hamilton

Lady Hamilton A-2 (1947) – worn by Kitty Oppenheimer

  • Case: 13.5mm x 15mm gold plated case
  • Thickness: 8.7mm
  • Dial: White
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Brown calf leather strap

In the film, you’ll note Emily Blunt’s character Kitty Oppenheimer also sports a rather spectacular timepiece. The thin-bracelet model is a vintage Lady Hamilton A-2 from 1947, which arrives in a gold-plated case. Delicate and dainty, the timepiece perfectly embodies the 1940s design language of art jewellery, whereby women’s watches walked the line between tool and accessory.

Hamilton Piping Rock (1920s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves | Image: Hamilton
Hamilton Piping Rock (1920s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves | Image: Hamilton

Piping Rock (1920s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves

  • Case: 30mm x 30mm steel case
  • Thickness: 9mm
  • Lug width: 16mm
  • Dial: Champagne
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Black calf leather strap

The first of two watches worn by Matt Damon’s Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, the Hamilton Piping Rock is one of the brand’s most popular releases, despite the first run of production being halted after just four years (it was picked up again in 1948). First unveiled back in 1928, the Piping Rock was powered by the Hamilton Calibre 979 hand-wound movement, however, was updated with the 17-jewel Calibre 747 in 1948. The 30mm watch was described in the Hamilton catalogue as “an ultra-modern strap watch styled by designers of international prominence” and nearly 100 years on, it’s hard to argue with that.

Hamilton Military Ordnance (1940s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves | Image: Hamilton
Hamilton Military Ordnance (1940s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves | Image: Hamilton

Military Ordnance (1940s) – worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves

  • Case: 32mm steel case
  • Thickness: 11.7mm
  • Lug width: 15mm
  • Dial: Black
  • Movement: Mechanic movement
  • Bracelet: Green Nylon strap

If ever there was a true predecessor to the current Hamilton lineup, it would be the Military Ordnance. A traditional field watch, the timepiece was a favourite amongst the US defence forces, even going so far as to nab the U.S. Army-Navy “E” Award for manufacturing excellence. This model arrives in a 32mm steel case and features a striking black dial with highly legible numerals. A vintage icon.

Hamilton Endicott worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Endicott worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Military Ordnance worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Military Ordnance worn by Lieutenant General Leslie Groves in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy on the set of 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal PicturesChristopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy on the set of 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy on the set of ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
The watches that appear in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
The watches that appear in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Cushion B worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Cushion B worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Cillian Murphy in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Hamilton Lexington worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Hamilton Lexington worn by J. Robert Oppenheimer in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
The watches that appear in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
The watches that appear in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Cillian Murphy in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Universal Pictures
Lady Hamilton A-2 worn by Kitty Oppenheimer in 'Oppenheimer' (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches
Lady Hamilton A-2 worn by Kitty Oppenheimer in ‘Oppenheimer’ (2023) | Image: Hamilton Watches

Oppenheimer Watch FAQs

What watch does Cillian Murphy wear in ‘Oppenheimer’?

In Christopher Nolan’s 2023 epic ‘Oppenheimer’, lead actor Cillian Murphy wears three different watches. His character, J. Robert Oppenheimer, wears a Hamilton Cushion B (1930s), a Hamilton Lexington (1940s) and a Hamilton Endicott (1940s). According to the film producers, all the watches were time and period-authentic, sourced from collectors across the globe.

What watch does Matt Damon wear in ‘Oppenheimer’?

In the film ‘Oppenheimer’, actor Matt Damon wears two different watches, both from the American brand Hamilton. His character, Lieutenant General Leslie Groves, wears a Hamilton Military Ordnance (1940s) and a Hamilton Piping Rock (1920s), which are time and period-authentic. According to the film producers, all the watches were time and period-authentic, sourced from collectors across the globe.