Bruce Willis Pulp Fiction Trench Watch:
Quentin Tarantino’s iconic motion picture, “Pulp Fiction“, was released in 1994 and it continues to enthrall its fans with an eclectic mix of pop music and Tarantino’s unique brand of dialogue. To wit, the watch scene:
That scene, even two decades on, portrays Bruce Willis’s character, Butch Coolidge’s, first and presumably final visit with Vietnam veteran Captain Koons, played by Christopher Walken. Koons uses a tiny gold watch tell the most compelling watch tale cinema has ever produced.
This watch I got here was first purchased by your great-granddaddy. It was bought during the First World War in a little general store in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was bought by private Doughboy Ernie Coolidge the day he set sail for Paris. It was your great-granddaddy’s war watch, made by the first company to ever make wrist watches. You see, up until then, people just carried pocket watches. Your great-granddaddy wore that watch every day he was in the war.
Then when he had done his duty, he went home to your great- grandmother, took the watch off his wrist and put it in an ol’ coffee can. And in that can it stayed ’til your grandfather Dane Coolidge was called upon by his country to go overseas and fight the Germans once again.
This time they called it World War Two. Your great-granddaddy gave it to your granddad for good luck. Unfortunately, Dane’s luck wasn’t as good as his old man’s. Your granddad was a Marine and he was killed with all the other Marines at the battle of Wake Island. Your granddad was facing death and he knew it. None of those boys had any illusions about ever leavin’ that island alive. So three days before the Japanese took the island, your 22-year old grandfather asked a gunner on an Air Force transport named Winocki, a man he had never met before in his life, to deliver to his infant son, who he had never seen in the flesh, his gold watch.
Three days later, your grandfather was dead. But Winocki kept his word. After the war was over, he paid a visit to your grandmother, delivering to your infant father, his Dad’s gold watch. This watch. This watch was on your Daddy’s wrist when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was captured and put in a Vietnamese prison camp. Now he knew if the g**ks ever saw the watch it’d be confiscated. The way your Daddy looked at it, that watch was your birthright. And he’d be damned if any slopeheads were gonna put their greasy yella hands on his boy’s birthright. So he hid it in the one place he knew he could hide somethin’. His a$$.
Five long years, he wore this watch up his a$$. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my a$$ for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you.
The watch, a Lancet, started on the Western Front during World War I, made its way halfway across the globe to a Hanoi prisoner-of-war camp, and finally returned to America, all the while concealed in an unlikely and unforgettable cavity – Koons’ bu**.
The Lancet – bears not just antique value, but also chronicles a key transition in watch-wearing conventions. Before the wars, men typically attached their pocket watches to chains, while wristlets — or wristwatches as we know them — were predominantly a woman’s accessory. However, the practical needs of wartime, especially those provoked by trench warfare during World War I, necessitated a watch that could be glanced at quickly and that could withstand rough treatment.
These watches, called Trench Watches, featured simple, rugged movements and flat cases and crystals. Many featured shrapnel guards or covers that could be popped up to view the time and almost all of them were luminous meaning they were painted with radioactive paint that, in most cases, has burnt out by now.
As a result of this functional requirement, the pocket watches were often retrofitted onto leather bracelets to become Trench Watches although, over time, the wristwatch supplanted the often bulky pocket watch conversion.
Lagendorff Watch Company, owner of Lancet, observed this surge in wristwatch demand. They responded by engineering watch cases that included lugs which could be attached to a strap. The Lancet watch that features in Pulp Fiction was manufactured in 1918, making it plausible for a serviceman to have used it during the First World War. Throughout that era, countless such inexpensive, hand-wound Lancet watches poured onto the market, and you can still snatch one up on auction sites like eBay today for a modest sum.
If you’ve ever desired to have your very own “uncomfortable hunk of metal,” as it was so memorably described by Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction, it’s certainly within your reach. Where you keep it entirely up to you.
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About the Author / Author Expertise & Authority
John Biggs: I live in Brooklyn, NY and write about technology, security, gadgets, gear, wristwatches, and the Internet. After spending four years as an IT programmer, I switched gears and became a full-time journalist. My work has appeared in the New York Times, Laptop, PC Upgrade, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, InSync, Popular Science, and I’ve written a book called Marie Antoinette’s Watch about the most famous and mysterious watch ever made. I am the former East Coast Editor of TechCrunch.com.