Watching Movies: Matt Damon And Christian Bale Both Wear Heuer Watches In ‘Ford V Ferrari’

Watching Movies: Matt Damon And Christian Bale Both Wear Heuer Watches In ‘Ford V Ferrari’

The watches are sweet, though not entirely period-accurate, in our watch-related movie of the week.

Ford v Ferrari (2019) is an immersive movie experience tracking the exploits of renowned car designer Carroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) and British racer driver Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) as they play the yin to each other’s yang while building a car fit to take on Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In the process, they struggle with endless bureaucracy inside the Ford Motor Company – for whom they are building a car. In line with the times, both characters wear undeniably cool Heuer watches with real racing heritage.

Why We’re Watching

The 2021 Le Mans race is upon us this weekend. The Steve McQueen-led film Le Mans (1971) is no doubt a classic, featuring the now iconic Heuer Monaco – but let’s not count out this modern entry. Ford v Ferrari, in most foreign markets, is known by the title Le Mans ’66. This movie lives and breathes the race, and gives the audience a firsthand look at what it takes to build a car worthy of inclusion – and one that can compete. It just so happens that the world brought to life by director James Mangold (of Wolverine fame and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones 5) gives us some sweet vintage Heuer watches to look at when there isn’t high-octane racing.

Just a couple of cowboys (Matt Damon and Christian Bale) hanging out. Note the Heuer Carrera ref. 7753 on Damon’s wrist. Screengrab courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Just like we saw with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, TAG Heuer played an active role in helping find the right watches for the characters in the film. I made mention of this in a recent appearance on HODINKEE Radio when I said that not all product placement is bad. When brands get actively involved in a film from a historical standpoint, the results are a stronger movie overall, even if the watches aren’t 100% accurate to the year. Omega played a prominent role in supplying First Man with period-correct timepieces, as well. In the end, it’s great for watch lovers to know that attention was paid all the way down to the wrist.

Bale’s Ken Miles with his Autavia ref. 2446 on the underside of his wrist. Screengrab courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Matt Damon’s cowboy-hat-adorned Carroll Shelby wears a Heuer Carrera, Reference 7753 SN. Now, for all the talk of period accuracy, this one misses the mark by a few years. The film takes place, for the most part, in 1966 but the 7753 did not hit the market until 1970. This is, what the good folks on IMDB would call, a goof – but not a drastic one by any means. It would be far more egregious for him to have worn a modern Carrera.

Similar Heuer Carrera ref. 7753 to the one worn by Matt Damon in Ford v Ferrari. Photo: Bonhams

Standout features of this watch are its two-register layout with a white dial and black contrasting sub-registers. Damon’s Shelby, with his slight southern twang, wears this watch effectively for the entire film.

Christian Bale’s Ken Miles also sports a Heuer, though his is much harder to see, since he mostly wears it on the underside of his wrist throughout the film. His is the Autavia ref. 2446, also known as the “Rindt” (after the famed racer Jochen Rindt). Again we run into a slight historical faux pas in that this particular watch wasn’t released until 1968. I would say “but who’s counting?” But who am I kidding? We all are.

Similar Heuer ref. 2446 to the one worn by Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari.

According to Jeff Stein on On the Dash, period-correct Autavia watches were “far more rare (and expensive) than later models.” Looks like 1968 was the next best year. But that doesn’t make the black dial, reverse-panda configuration design with it’s tachymeter bezel any less cool though. Bale’s character obviously found it so cool that he wore it beneath his wrist or the method actor knew the watch was off by a couple years and was doing his best to hide it from the camera.

When We’re Watching

Since Miles wears his watch on the underside of his wrist throughout the movie – a clear shot is all but impossible. We get our best view of it in a sequence where both Shelby and Miles are touring Ford’s facilities, and being shown the racing engines. Miles, with a very ’60s yellow polo, is standing above the Ford engine as it rattles and roars. As a trained driver, he’s just taking it all in. Eventually he puts his hand up to his black Ford-branded ear-muffs [00:56:51], and as he does – we can see the Rindt peeking out from underneath. A brief moment, sure, but a cool one.

Screengrab courtesy: 20th Century Studios

About midway through the movie, Ford makes a tough call – informing Shelby that Miles will not be driving a Ford car at Le Mans. He just doesn’t fit the Ford image in their mind. It’s Shelby’s job to let him know, and Miles doesn’t take it well. Needless to say, Ford didn’t fare so well with their driver of choice, which gave Shelby leverage to put Miles in the driver’s seat for the following year, 1966. In a hilarious scene where Shelby shows up on Miles’s front lawn cowboy-hat-in-hand (literally), the two end up throwing hands in a child-like brawl that ends with both on their backs [01:14:53], amid a sea of spilled groceries, drinking Cokes. It’s at this moment that Shelby’s Carrera ref. 7753 comes into clear view.

Screengrab courtesy: 20th Century Studios

Ford v Ferrari (starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale) is directed by James Mangold, with props by John Paul “J.P.” Jones. It’s available to rent on iTunes or Amazon.

Lead image courtesy 20th Century Studios

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