Watching Movies: Russell Crowe’s Special Omega Speedmaster In ‘State Of Play’
In our watch-related movie of the week, an ink-stained wretch somehow pulls off a Moonwatch LE.
When done right, a thriller can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any great movie. State of Play (2009) is that kind of thriller – pairing high-stakes power politics in Washington with down-and-dirty investigative journalism. The film follows Cal McAffrey (played by Russell Crowe), a classic newspaperman (with an amazing movie name) who uncovers a conspiracy at the highest levels of government, following the death of a congressional staffer. Every journalist needs a good watch, and Crowe’s is as good as they come.
Why We’re Watching
We learned this week that 20th Century Studios (basically Disney) is preparing a prequel to the criminally underrated film Master and Commander, which also starred Crowe. While the new film will likely be recast with new actors, it seemed the perfect time to revisit one of the grouchy Aussie’s best performances (settle down Gladiator fans, I said “one of”).
McAffrey is your prototypical veteran investigative journalist. He cares not for haircuts nor shaving, his idea of fashion is a corduroy blazer, and he cooks boxed mashed potatoes. Everything about his character is consistent, from his packrat cubicle to his beat up Saab hatchback, which is why the watch he wears stands out from the crowd.
Strapped to his wrist in every scene of the film is an Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch on a black leather strap. But this isn’t any Speedy. It’s the 50th Anniversary Limited Series ref. 3184.108.40.206.01.001. One key difference between this and a standard Speedmaster is the gilt hippocampus at the top of the dial with the year 1957 printed below as well as the Omega logo and wordmark in red. You don’t see these often – and it took a lot of pausing and zooming to identify it here.
While seemingly the most expensive object he owns, this watch makes a lot of sense for his character. First of all, there’s precedent for journalists in cinema to wear iconic watches. The most famous is, without question Robert Redford in All the President’s Men, with his red Submariner. State of Play director Kevin Macdonald apparently took a lot of inspiration from that film – as one should.
I like to think that this choice of watch is a subtle nod to that classic film. The Speedmaster is as much an iconic timepiece in horological lore as the Submariner. Crowe’s character strikes me as a one-watch guy – in addition to being a one-car, one-shirt, one-pair-of-pants guy – and the Speedmaster is the ideal one-watch watch.
Back in 2018, Crowe auctioned off a sizable number of watches from his personal collection at Sotheby’s Australia. One of those watches was – you guessed it – an Omega Speedmaster on a black leather strap, though different from the one worn in this film. Rumor has it that this 50th anniversary piece is also his personal watch, though I have no concrete information to confirm that, and in the spirit of writing about journalism I really shouldn’t speculate.
When We’re Watching
The fictional newspaper in the film is undergoing rapid changes after being purchased by a media conglomerate. The paper’s editor (played by Dame Helen Mirren) is trying to adapt to the Internet age but faces pushback from McAffrey. “I hear our online side is doing great,” he says sarcastically. “I mean, not like I’m the kind of guy that would notice that sort of thing.” Just your classic grizzled journalist arguing with his editor. His diatribe about computers and technology lasts a minute and a half [00:13:12], and all the while we can clearly see the Moonwatch strapped to his defiant luddite wrist.
Toward the end of the film, when it seems we’re headed for a simple happy ending, McAffrey enters the office of his colleague Della Frye (played by Rachel McAdams). He proceeds to pour shots of Jack Daniels into dixie cups and as they imbibe, McAffrey has an epiphany, unlocking the mystery of the conspiracy. He then raises his hand to his face revealing an in-focus shot of the Speedy [01:47:58]. There aren’t many closeups of the watch in this movie, but this is as good a view as we get, and it comes at a pivotal plot reveal. Surely he wouldn’t have broken the story without the watch.
State of Play (starring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, and Ben Affleck) is directed by Kevin Macdonald, with props by Robin L. Miller. It’s available to stream on Netflix and is available to rent on iTunes or Amazon. For more on the Omega Speedmaster, click here.
Lead image courtesy: Alamy/Moviestore Collection Ltd.