Study Guide

Watchmen Clocks and Watches

By Alan Moore

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Clocks and Watches

These days, watches are passé. Either you’ve got a smart phone or you live in the wilderness and use the path of the sun to tell time (insert Ron Swanson reference here). But in alt-1985, everyone wears a watch, even wackos like Walter J. Kovacs (I.4.8). It doesn’t take a genius to realize Rorschach likes his canned beans cold, and that a book called Watchmen about the world’s 11th hour is going to have a lot of clocks in it. Check out “What’s Up With the Epigraph?” for more on that.

Between every chapter, there’s a white clock on a black page, ticking closer and closer to midnight.

Chapter IV is called “Watchmaker,” which is the former profession of Dr. Manhattan’s dad. Indeed, Papa Osterman wonders, “If time is not true, then what purpose have watchmakers, hein?” (IV.3.6).

A few pages later, Janey Slater’s watch breaks, and Jon promises to fix it, leading to their first make out session.

Shortly after, Jon forgets that same watch inside the Gila Flat Test Chamber. Right before he’s incinerated, Jon looks down at it and says it looks as “good as new” (IV.8.2).

Toward the end of that chapter, we see an old cover of Time Magazine, where a pocket watch has frozen at the exact moment the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima.

Flip to the beginning of Chapter XII, where the Doomsday Clock has reached midnight, and the body count is in the millions.

Why all these clocks and watches? We’ve shmooped out a few theories of our own. Time = modernity. Think about it. Before the clock (and electricity), people woke up when the sun did, did their farming, and went to sleep way early. Once time gets regimented into hours, minutes, and seconds, then people’s lives can be measured and controlled, whether they work the 9-5 or the graveyard shift. Without recording time the way we do, we’d go back to living in the dark ages. Okay, not the dark ages exactly, but an era when darkness ran the show more than evenly spaced ticks. And yet, Moore doesn’t seem to have much faith in the atomic clock, which as you might know, is the most accurate way to tell time. For more, check out “Time” in the “Themes” section.

Watchmen Clocks and Watches Study Group

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