Watching Movies: Adam Sandler’s Three Watches In ‘Uncut Gems’
Red Rolex and Diamond District drama in our watch-related movie of the week.
If it’s a feel-good movie you’re after, look elsewhere. Uncut Gems (2019), directed by the Safdie Brothers, is named for a crew of scruffy characters and a literal uncut gem sourced from Ethiopia. It’s the property of Howard Ratner (played by Adam Sandler), a jewelry-store owner in New York’s Diamond District – a fast-talking hustler and unreconstructed sports gambler. Ratner has a strong watch game. The only problem is, he can’t seem to keep any of them on his wrist.
Why We’re Watching
The NBA Playoffs are in motion. Uncut Gems is not your classic basketball movie, but its entire plot revolves around the 2012 playoffs and Ratner’s chance encounter with Kevin Garnett (played by Kevin Garnett). The film tracks Ratner’s acquaintance with the NBA superstar, setting the stage for the biggest gamble of his life.
I spoke to the film’s prop master, Catherine Miller, about sourcing watches for a film so entrenched in the seedy underbelly of the New York City watch scene. According to Miller, the watches were written into the script and were an important component for the Safdies. Ratner was originally supposed to wear two watches, but the directors thought it would be funnier (this film is in no way a comedy) if he had two watches stolen from him throughout the film, so he ends up wearing three.
First up is an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph, which gets taken from him within the first seven minutes by a duo of loan sharks. That watch appears to be a reference 25860ST and has an interesting backstory. Miller was originally supplied a brand new RO Chrono, but went back to her source and requested one that would have been more period correct to 2012.
A subplot hinges on replica watches. One of Ratner’s associates, Demany (played by LaKeith Stanfield) is in the business of selling less-than-genuine watches out of a safe in the jewelry store. Hollywood is notorious for using replicas, frustrating watch spotters like myself. To her credit, Miller only used replica watches for the film when the story called for replica watches.
The second watch is a Rolex Day-Date with a red dial and an iced-out bracelet with a diamond-encrusted bezel – the epitome of aftermarket customization. This is the watch Sandler wears in the film’s poster. It was actually loaned to the production by a jewelry-store owner in the Diamond District. In fact, this generous proprietor loaned roughly 15 iced-out Rolexes to test for Sandler’s character.
“I walked up to this little jewelry store with my little backpack,” Miller says. “I threw the watches in my bag and walked down the streets of New York. I think I had about $250,000 worth of watches in there.”
Miller, the Safdies, and Sandler all huddled around the treasure trove of timepieces and unanimously agreed on the red-dial variant.
When We’re Watching
After the AP gets ripped from his wrist in his Diamond District office, Ratner has another watch taken from him for not paying his debts. It’s the Day-Date that’s next to go. Ratner is followed to his daughter’s school play, and chased around the grounds before being thrown into the back of an SUV, choked, beaten, and stripped – not just of his watch, but of everything – before being locked in the trunk of his own car. Amidst all the chaos in the scene [00:45:38], if you look closely, you can see the red dial of the Rolex reflecting off the street lights of the New York suburbs.
Ratner’s last watch is a large Breitling Chronomat with gilt numbering on the bezel and the signature Chronomat crown. The watch makes a brief but important appearance on screen as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers behind a strong Kevin Garnett performance and a truly intense couple of minutes. As Ratner unlocks the door to his shop [02:05:50], the camera focuses on his wrist, and his Breitling. You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens next.
Uncut Gems is directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, with props by Catherine Miller, and score by Daniel Lopatin. It’s available to stream on Netflix and to rent on Amazon or iTunes. You can buy the Audemars Royal Oak Chronograph from Audemars Piguet, a Rolex Day-Date (sans iced-out bracelet and bezel) from Rolex, and the new Breitling Chronomat from Breitling.