Chrono Story in Seven Years in Tibet

Posted by Charlie on April 11, 1998 at 8:38:34:

The other night I sat down somewhat reluctantly to watch a movie my wife had rented called Seven Years in Tibet. It’s based on a book with the same title by Heinrich Harrer, the legendary Austrian mountain climber who was a member of the first team to scale the Eiger North Face in 1938. Shortly after that feat Mr. Harrer is off in early 1939 to the Himalayas for a climb that ends not at the summit but at the foot of British troops who unceremoniously cart off Harrer and his fellow team members to a prison camp since Germany and England have just gone to war.

After several attempts to escape, he finally manages to break out joined by the head of the climbing team, Peter. These two embark on an amazing journey, constantly at odds with each other but also growing together as friends, to make it into Tibet, the land forbidden to foreigners, and onto China. The first time they cross into Tibet they are gruffly booted out. Two Tibetan guards take them to the border and on the way they stop at a open air
bazaar. The two are pretty desperate and Harrer persuades Peter to barter away his gold wrist chronograph, a treasured gift from his father, for food. They manage to escape shortly thereafter but Peter soon discovers Harrer was holding back three watches of his own. This is nearly the end of their friendship. Harrer gamely pleads that his are only cheap Italian watches (they appear to be period chrome or
nickel tank pieces). Somehow the two make it together to Llasa, and Harrer eventually becomes friend and mentor to the young Dalai Lama. Years later Harrer throws a Christmas party in Llasa and presents Peter with his beloved chronograph, which Harrer has miraculously retrieved from another Tibetan trading post. It was, I believe, a pretty late-thirties Omega with flat pushers. I couldn’t find a copy of Harrer’s Seven Years in Tibet at our local Borders. I wonder whether this chrono story is real or just imagined by the filmmaker.

Story of watches in the movie (long and boring)

Posted by James M. Dowling on April 12, 1998 at 3:48:02:

In Reply to: Chrono Story in Seven Years in Tibet posted by Charlie on April 11, 1998 at 8:38:34:

Hi Charlie;

As some of you may know, I run watch shows here in London. Well at one of them, 3 years ago, I was approached by a gentleman named Jimmy Chow. He was the prop master for the movie ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and he asked my assistance in supplying a range of vintage watches, which he assured me played an important role in the movie.

Initially the plans called for the movie to be shot in India (as it is set in the Himalayas) however the Indian govt. decided they did not want to offend the Chinese (I mean guys they have had 3 full tilt wars against each other, but they are worried about a movie!!!). So it was then decided to move the whole thing to the Andes; all the time I am faxing pix of what they have taken to calling ‘the HERO watch. This watch was one given to Harrer by his father for being the first German to climb Mont Blanc. After much discussion they decided on an 18k ref 4500 Rolex 2 dial Oyster chronograph (the very watch shown at the bottom of the cover of our book); I explained that this watch was an anachronism in that it was made some 15 years after the Mont Blanc climb. But they were adamant, and anyway they were paying for it. However all bets were off when the producers decided they needed every watch to be supplied in duplicate, as they were worried about continuity problems if one of the watches became damaged whilst 15,000 feet up a mountain. I was unable to provide 2 identical model 4500 watches; so they reverted to plan A. This called for Harrer to wear a Mk1 cushion oyster (a more likely choice). I supplied 2 of them in silver, which they wanted gold plated to look like a more expensive watch, with enamel dials. Also included were 2 watches for the climber played by David Thewliss, what they called ‘set dressing’ watches and a bunch of contemporary fountain pens. I had to deliver them to Heathrow airport one evening and hand them to a member of the crew who was about to fly out to Argentina.

My deal with Mandalay films was that I would be paid 25% of the value of the watches for 3 months usage plus I would get a minute ‘screen credit’ which we negotiated as ‘Watches courtesy: Pastime London’. I got my check and a copy of the company’s insurance policy and sat back and waited. Seven months later, the watches returned.

Late last year my wife and I were visiting her parents in Florida where ‘Seven years in Tibet’ had just opened, we dashed off to see it. As I had read the book I knew when the watch would play its part; imagine my disappointment when Pitt shows off his GOLD OMEGA; the entire cinema turned as one to stare at me when I called out ‘SH*T’.

As I have many friends in the movie biz, I made enquiries as to what happened and I later discovered that he thought the Oyster Cushion ‘not Butch enough’ and so wore the watch he had admired on a crew member’s wrist.

So the end result of this is…does anyone here want to buy a watch NOT worn by Brad Pitt?? I still have one.

Good luck