WATCH­ING LIN­COLN

A pres­i­den­tial watch gets a star­ring role

Plaza Watch International - - News -

When you hear a pocket watch tick­ing dur­ing sev­eral scenes in Steven Spiel­berg’s epic film Lin­coln, the sound you’re hear­ing is ac­tu­ally from the pres­i­dent’s watch. The film­mak­ers went to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to in­clude au­then­tic vis­ual and au­dio de­tails from the 19th cen­tury in the film.

Abra­ham Lin­coln, who earned an ex­alted place in Amer­i­can his­tory for end­ing the Civil War and eman­ci­pat­ing slaves, had a taste for fine gold watches. The film­mak­ers wanted to use the sound of one of the pres­i­dent’s ac­tual pocket watches.

They first tried to ob­tain ac­cess to the Lin­coln watch held at the Smith­so­nian Mu­seum in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which has an Amer­i­can cas­ing and Bri­tish in­ter­nal works from Liver­pool. Af­ter sev­eral months of dis­cus- sions, the mu­seum de­clined, be­cause of con­cerns about the han­dling of the time­piece. Luck­ily, the film’s sound en­gi­neer, Ben Burtt, knew about a sec­ond Lin­coln pocket watch that be­longed to the Ken­tucky His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety

“In fact, it was a bet­ter watch be­cause the prove­nance makes it a good pos­si­bil­ity that it was this watch that he had at Ford’s Theater when he died (April 15, 1865). But no one can prove that. It’s just a like­li­hood,” Burtt says.

A yel­low gold key is used to wind Lin­coln’s hunt­ing case pocket watch, which is at­tached to a chain and fob marked with the pres­i­dent’s ini­tials in onyx. The his­toric time­piece, which has an un­marked jewel move­ment and a porce­lain dial, is in­scribed on its in­ner case” J. Jac­que­son, Copen­hagen.”

The Ken­tucky mu­seum wasn’t sure if Lin­coln’s pocket watch would work, so they brought in a watchsmith to wind it.

The watch was placed in a spe­cial felt-lined box to iso­late it from out­side noise, and the sound of its tick­ing was cap­tured in 12 dif­fer­ent record­ings.

But that wasn’t the only spe­cial ef­fort made to use au­then­tic time­pieces in the film. They also recorded the sound of the clock on the man­tel in Lin­coln’s ex­ec­u­tive of­fice in the White House.

“The clock is still there. It is a French clock pur­chased dur­ing An­drew Jack­son’s ad­min­is­tra­tion (1828-1837), “Burtt told the Wash­ing­ton Post. “The sound of the of clock is used in sev­eral scenes in the movie.

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