Watching Movies: Tim Allen Wears A Rolex Daytona To Space In ‘Galaxy Quest’
The Buzz Lightyear, Cosmograph cross-over we’ve all been waiting for in our watch-related movie of the week.
Tim Allen had a moment in the 1990s. From his star-turning role on Home Improvement to his string of transformational performances in The Santa Clause, Allen was a household name that mattered at the box office. He voiced Buzz Lightyear in the foundational Pixar film, Toy Story alongside two-time Watching Movies alum Tom Hanks. But that wouldn’t be his last foray to infinity, and beyond (and I’m not talking about the Toy Story sequels).
Before the ’90s were through, Allen managed to sneak in one more film – the absolutely bizarre sci-fi adventure romp, Galaxy Quest (1999). He plays a William Shatner-adjacent television star who played a Captain Kirk-esque character on Galaxy Quest, a Star Trek-inspired show from the ’80s. As Jason Nesmith, the lead actor of a cult-TV hit for nerds, Allen wears the Rolex watch that famously never went to space … until he took it there.
Why We’re Watching
It’s convention season! Cinemacon recently came to a close, with DC’s Fandome taking place next month. Oh, and lest we forget our own slice of convention pie, we just finished up marathon coverage of Geneva Watch Days. Even Baselworld made a small comeback. Movie, television, and comic cons are a cosplay paradise – and so, in its own way, is a watch show. Galaxy Quest unifies sci-fi nerdery, pop-culture conventions, and watches.
Tim Allen’s Nesmith is the captain of an ensemble cast of characters. Their show has long since ended, yet they continue to make full-cast appearances at fan events including a literal Galaxy Quest Convention, dedicated solely to the show. The film takes a turn when a group of extra-terrestrial beings transports the entire team to outer space, mistaking their on-screen personas for real ones, resulting in a rip-roaring adventure to save the galaxy.
Nesmith has let the fame go all the way to his head … and subsequently to his wrist, as he wears a white Rolex Daytona on an Oyster bracelet for the entirety of the film – even in some places where it makes absolutely no sense.
This isn’t just any Daytona though – but rather the first “modern” Daytona, also known as the Zenith Daytona. This name refers to the reference 16520, which was released in 1988 ending the vintage, Paul Newman-era Daytona design aesthetic (that now fetches six- to seven-figure price tags). The reason for the Zenith moniker has to do with the movement beating away inside the watch. Prior to 1988, the Daytona was a manual-wind chronograph. Rolex utilized a Zenith movement but made plenty of modifications before taking the new watch to market.
The 16520 Daytona took a new visual approach to its predecessors. The new automatic movement brought with it more dial text by way of the Superlative Chronometer designation. The subdials took on a more contrast-forward design. The whole watch presented a bit more luxury and a lot less racetrack. There’s no clearer indication of that than on the bracelet, which featured polished center links (and which modern Daytonas continue to utilize today).
Nesmith’s Daytona is the white dial variant with contrasting black subdials and a steel bezel. Historically we’ve seen this watch paired with everything from casual wear to a racing uniform, which makes this one all the more hilarious as he wears his with his fictional space get-up. There’s literally no scene where he isn’t wearing the watch, which leads me to believe it bears some real importance to the character. Judging by the fact that the show came to a close in the ’80s and this watch was released in 1988, it would not surprise me if his character spent his show money on one great watch. Then, when no other work came around, he realized how much it meant to him. It’s sad, sure, but at least he appreciates it. As Nesmith’s tagline in the show goes, “Never give up, never surrender.”
The choice of watch is actually quite funny for two reasons. The first being that, with this watch, Nesmith (rather Allen) joins a lineage of fictional space captains and their Rolex watches. Both William Shatner (the OG Kirk) and Chris Pine (the modern Kirk) wore Rolex Submariners off-screen. The second has to do with the Daytona’s history with the space race. In the 1960s, Rolex had submitted their chronograph as a candidate to be the watch issued to NASA astronauts. Long story short, Omega won out, and the “Cosmograph” colloquially became the Daytona, focusing on the racetrack instead of the spacecraft. In this film, the Daytona gets its day in the stars.
When We’re Watching
Who doesn’t love a movie that starts off with a great watch shot? That’s exactly the case here as the film opens up during one of the Galaxy Quest conventions. The audience is watching old episodes of the show, waiting for the cast to take the stage and greet them. We see a clip from the show itself [00:03:51] with Nesmith fighting off villains with a ray gun (and sporting a mullet), wearing his Daytona. This is noteworthy for another reason, because the watch wouldn’t have existed in the early- to mid-’80s when the show would have aired. Short of a time machine, this is what they call, in the movie biz, a goof. The cast then proceeds to take their places at a string of tables to sign autographs. As scores of obsessed fans mob toward Nesmith to get his autograph [00:07:01], we get a clear view of the white dial Daytona peering out from beneath the grey sleeve of his costume uniform.
Toward the end of the film, as the team has gotten over the shocking reality of being in actual outer space, aboard an actual spaceship, Allen’s Nesmith finds himself alone on a desert planet as his crew tries their best to help him remotely via space walkie-talkies while he fights off a space pig and flees from a giant CGI monster made out of red desert rocks. He ditches his uniform jacket (to fend off the pig) leaving him with just a black T-shirt – granting full view of the wrist! As he radios back to the team [00:59:11], we can clearly see the white dial Daytona glistening in the red hot galactic sun.
Galaxy Quest (starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Daryl Mitchell, Sam Rockwell, and Alan Rickman) is directed by Dean Parisot, with props by Jerry Moss. It’s available to stream on Hulu and rent on iTunes or Amazon.
Lead photo courtesy, Dreamworks SKG & Amblin Partners