The closest thing we’ve gotten to must-see television this year is Marvel Studios’ WandaVision – a rip-roaring, time-bending superhero show as seen through the lens of classic TV sitcoms. That’s a lot to take in, but if you watch the show (which aired its series finale yesterday), then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the show, consider this a spoiler warning, and go watch it – and while you’re watching, keep an eye out for the watches.
The show signaled its watch-y ways before it even debuted, when both lead actors (Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, playing Wanda and Vision, respectively) wore wearing vintage timepieces on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. From there, WandaVision revealed itself as something of a horological paradise – where comic and watch nerdery collide.
The show’s basic conceit is that each episode (save for the finale) takes place within the structure of a classic era in TV sitcom history. The first episode takes place in the 1950s, à la I Love Lucy. There’s a ’00s episode in the mold of Malcolm in the Middle, and so on. But the best part is, as each decade changes, so do the watches – each one period correct.
I got a chance to speak with the show’s Prop Master, Russell Bobbitt – whose work in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) dates back to the original Iron Man film. Bobbitt was not only responsible for every prop in WandaVision, but every single watch you see on screen – which comes from an impressive collection of some 600 watches he’s amassed over the years.
Building the Collection
For the show, which carried the codename “Big Red” during production, “the process was that for every character, I had 10 tables full of watches for each decade that we were going to represent,” Bobbitt says. “So every character had a different watch for a different decade, which means – let’s say I had 10 main characters, that’s a hundred watches to do a few episodes of a streaming show.”
But of course, it’s more complicated than that, as he notes. “Every every single watch needed a link taken out or a link added, or can we make that a gold casing instead of a silver one? That process goes on for every character.”
Some of the watches Bobbitt used had a special meaning to him. “Most of the ladies’ collection came from my grandmother and her mother. I have a lot of watches that are so small you may not be able to read the face – obviously a lot of Elgin and things that date way back for period stuff. For the men’s watches, I have a lot of really beautiful Bulova, Hamilton, and other really cool old watches. I’ve really studied the application around the watch, how to dress a watch properly, you know – is it a stretch watch band or is it a leather strap?”
When it came to picking a watch for Paul Bettany’s Vision, digital was the obvious choice — but it was more complicated than that. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen Vision in the Marvel Universe with watches on, because we didn’t need them when he was ‘Vision Vision,’ but now he’s ‘Vision Human.’ He thinks like a machine, is made of machine parts. So I thought this is the obvious choice for this time period. For him, the thought was to take the vibe of, ‘this is an extension of Vision, inside and out.'”
The Custom Piece
The biggest watch surprise came in the show’s second installment. Each episode features an old-style commercial in the spirit of what might have aired on television during that time. For example, the ’90s episode featured an animated kids’ yogurt-themed ad, and the ’50s one had an ad for a toaster. But the ’60s commercial went over the top with a watch ad for the fictional “Strücker” watch. Check it out below.
In the spirit of such famous, made-for-the-screen watches as Interstellar’s “Murph” watch comes a new timepiece entirely conceived by Bobbitt and his team. “We really designed the heck out of it. And obviously, with the Hydra logo on there, we did many different color choices. Should we go gold? Should we go silver? What should we do? The watch is gold in a black and white TV setting, and so we really had to design that watch to pop properly. What it ended up being was gold with a black face. That was our best bet. But it was an awesome design process.”
The watch wasn’t based on any specific model in particular, but instead channeled the spirit of the era: “It wasn’t a commercial that was geared toward a construction worker. It was more geared towards a man in a suit, so that’s what helped us choose the case material and dial color, and the sharper elements of the case.”
While it’s a fully functioning watch as filmed on screen, the Strücker wasn’t built from the ground up. “We built it around an existing watch. We just changed the dial. So I had to find a bezel that existed. And a band that existed.”
Since that episode aired, the Strücker has become a hot topic in the watch world, so much so, that – go figure – Hot Topic (yes, it’s apparently still around) sold a limited run of models – though they were not 1:1 replicas, and certainly didn’t feature 1,000m water resistance as the model in the show claims to.
It’s clear that a lot of work went into building the WandaVision universe. Let’s take a look, character-by-character, at the watches Bobbitt chose to span the decades. All of the images below are the actual prop watches used in the series.
Wanda, aka The Scarlett Witch, is the creator of the “Hex” (a magical universe inside of a small New Jersey town that she turns into a decade-jumping sitcom). Here we see four time-spanning watches, all worn by Wanda on the show. At far left is a small ladies’ Bulova, followed by a gold cushion-shaped Timex. Next is likely a ’70s-era Piaget, and lastly a Swiss Army field watch on a brown leather strap.
The ’50s-era Vision sports that Bulova on the black leather strap, while ’60s-era Vision rocks the gold Hamilton on a stretch band. Moving into the ’70s, he ups his Bulova game to a quartz LED model – leaving behind mechanical watches for good. He wears the Casio Databank in the ’80s and then continues with two more digital watches – one in stainless steel with what looks like four pushers. Last, at far right, is a PVD-looking LED watch, the make or model of which I have absolutely no idea. If anyone knows what watch that is, please let us know in the comments.
The character of Monica Rambeau only appears in the ’60s and ’70s-era episodes inside the “Hex,” as well as a brief stint in the 2000s – in addition to her appearance in the real world on the show. Her earliest watch is a small ladies’ Bulova which she wears in her appearance in the ’60s episode. She follows that up with a groovy-looking stainless steel piece, the “Blue Asphalt” – a brand I’m quite unfamiliar with, but which certainly fits the era. Rounding out her collection is a black Timex on a fabric strap.
Tommy and Billy
In the show, Wanda and the Vision inexplicably end up with rapidly aging, superpower-wielding twins. Watches appear on their wrists once they hit their pre-teen years. It’s fitting that the watches match because, you know, twins. They both wear digital watches reminiscent of old ’90s Timex, but are apparently something called Sega Sports watches.
The surprise villain of the show. Part nosy neighbor and part supervillain/witch, Agatha wears a watch all along. She starts with a small ladies’ Timex on a woven strap. Next, she’s seen in a modified octagonal-cased gold watch with Roman numerals (and without any discernible branding). It’s unclear in which decade she wears the Axcess moon-phase (for those wondering, there’s one listed right now for $ 50 on eBay), though it’s likely the ’70s. She saves the darkest watch for last, with the Movado Museum quartz model, a watch both witchy and villain-appropriate.
Darcy, like the twins, is a one-watch woman, and what an appropriate watch this is for her character. We of course know her as the snarky intern from Thor, but she takes a much more prominent role in this series, and she does so wearing – what else – a Mickey Mouse watch.
Bobbit’s work on this show exemplifies how strongly watches are tied to certain eras – and the nostalgia that comes with that. Now, while he was responsible for furnishing these watches in our world, in the series, it was all Wanda’s doing in her self-created town of Westview, New Jersey.
Each time she altered her reality from one decade to the next (and one sitcom to the next), she made sure no detail was missed – and now that the show’s over, we must say, she has pretty good taste in timepieces.
Lead image courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved