The best retire at the top of their game – leaving us to wonder what they would have left in the tank if they hadn’t hung up that jersey. Like Michael Jordan when he left the Chicago Bulls in 1993 after winning three straight championships. He reached the mountaintop – had nothing left to give. The game was too easy. Or Michael Jordan, after un-retiring in 1994 and then re-retiring in 1998, after winning three straight titles. Or Michael Jordan after un-retiring in 2001 and re-retiring in 2003. Okay, maybe this was a bad example, but it’s all to say that one of the most talented actors of his generation, Daniel Day-Lewis, the MJ of Hollywood, abruptly announced his retirement from the craft in 2017.
His last movie would be the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed Phantom Thread (2017) which he also co-wrote (though it was uncredited). The film tells the story of famed (and fictional) fashion designer, Reynolds Woodcock – a notoriously difficult man, who lives with his sister. In some ways, this film is thematically in tune with Hitchcock’s Psycho, only Norman Bates couldn’t sew a dress like Woodcock and there’s significantly less stabbing. References to the master of suspense aside, this film is Day-Lewis’s sendoff – and in his final appearance on the silver screen, he straps on an important, and very personal, gold watch.
Why We’re Watching
New York Fashion Week kicked off on Wednesday, so now’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time with another celebrity fashion designer, albeit a fictional one in 1950s London. In the movie, we watch Woodcock struggle to carry on any kind of personal relationship. He’s married to his work – obsessed with it (I think many of us in the watch world can relate). Only that very obsession might be the thing that pushes people away. In one of the more quotable moments from the film, he explains the origins of his obsession to his love interest, Alma:
“When I was a boy, I started to hide things in the linings of the garments, things that only I knew were there. And over my breast, I have a lock of my mother’s hair, to keep her close to me always.”
Like I said, Psycho vibes. While Day-Lewis’s performance doesn’t meet the exaggerated levels of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood or Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York (both of whom have enviable mustache game), his nuanced depiction of Woodcock – a character he helped develop – is just as powerful and a worthy sendoff for the actor. To mark the occasion, Day-Lewis chose to pair a certain gold watch with his bespoke double-breasted suits and tuxedos. It’s a J.W. Benson, an unheralded timepiece from a brand out of London, from the actor’s personal collection.
While Day-Lewis has been seen wearing a variety of watches over the years – including a 36mm Rolex Explorer – there’s one piece, above all others, that has stood the test of time, and the strap has lasted just as long. This particular J.W. Benson watch has been on his wrist since at least 1990, when he won his first Academy Award for the film, My Left Foot. The left-handed Day-Lewis, wore the watch on his right wrist as he proudly held the Oscar.
Nearly 30 years later, for his swan song, he chose that watch – on the very same strap. Only Reynolds Woodcock isn’t left-handed, so it ended up on the left wrist this time. This timepiece features distinctive teardrop lugs, an impossibly thin case, gold Arabic numerals, and a small seconds subdial. Dial text is sparse, telling us only the name and city of origin, which actually tracks with the location of the House of Woodcock.
It’s impossible to say whether Day-Lewis’s retirement will stick, à la His Airness, but for the time being he remains finished – and in doing so brought new meaning to the idea of the gold retirement watch. Woodcock appears to wear another watch in the film, a square-cased gold number. If you think you can spot it, let us know in the comments.
When We’re Watching
At the tail end of the first act of the film, we find Woodcock – fresh off a break-up – cruising in his red Bristol 405 to his house in the countryside. He makes a stop at a roadside restaurant for breakfast where he orders enough food for a family of four and meets Alma. Instantly infatuated, he asks the young waitress to dinner. Following their first date, the two retreat to his home and ascend the stairs to his workspace on the top floor. As Woodcock proceeds to show off his skills, taking Alma’s measurements (and trying various colored fabric swatches on her), we see the thin, gold J.W. Benson emerge from his cuff-linked sleeve [00:24:23] as Jonny Greenwood’s (of Radiohead fame) luscious score swells in the background.
As the movie reaches its midway point, Woodcock and Alma’s relationship has blossomed, with the two working as something of a team in his design house. We see Woodcock fitting a dress, only this time to a self-conscious customer named Barbara Rose. As he slides the dress over her head and adjusts it to fit, the watch fills the frame [00:50:25]. Later, we see that Rose has overly imbibed at a party while wearing her Woodcock dress, which leads to Alma and Reynolds storming her hotel room and taking the dress back. As Alma states in the film, “It’s no business of ours what Mrs. Rose decides to do with her life, but she can no longer behave like this and be dressed by the House of Woodcock.”
Phantom Thread (starring Daniel Day-Lewis) is directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, with props by Paul Stewart, costume design by Mark Bridges, and score by Jonny Greenwood. It’s available to stream on Cinemax and rent on iTunes or Amazon.
Lead image courtesy, Focus Features
This content was originally published here.