An enthusiast watch collector gives an excellent analysis of the symbolism and significance of high-end watches in Mr. Robot.
Mr. Robot is undoubtedly one of the most detailed TV series of the last few years. It perfectly balances a captivating plot with heavy psychological and philosophical content all the while maintaining a great pace and managing to tell stories with even the tiniest of details. You could spend hours analysing cinematographic and musical choices in each episode, and still have a lot of new information to unveil. The writing on the show is no less profound: symbolical elements are intrinsically tied to the dialogue, and yet not emphasised in the frame too much, leaving an aftertaste and not fully revealing themselves until thorough analysis.
An example of this is found in Mr. Robot season 1 episode 6, “eps1.5br4ve-trave1er.asf”. In the scene between the soon-to-be-appointed CTO of Evil Corp., Scott Knowles, and show’s main antagonist, Tyrell Wellick, who’s aiming for the position of CTO himself. The shifting power dynamic between the two is implied through seemingly irrelevant remarks about the watch that Scott is wearing.
Tyrell: Is that a Vacheron?
Scott: Patek Philippe Tourbillon. A gift from the Prince of, uh… Oh, does it even matter?
The watch itself is never really shown clearly: we only get a blurry glance or two while the characters talk, but not a single close-up shot, and yet the conversation comes back to the watch nonetheless, emphasizing its significance to the quickly changing power dynamic in the room.
A horology enthusiast from Reddit, /u/ButtOfGod gave a spotless interpretation of this scene from a watch collector’s point of view. He mentions the holy trinity of high-end watches: Patek Philippe (PP), Vacheron Constantin (VC) and Audemars Piguet (AP). As he points out, there is a somewhat common perception of these watches, wherein Vacheron Constantin is considered to be the equivalent of the wise old grandfather, or a retired king, so to speak; Patek Philippe is the current undisputed king, and Audemars Piguet is the ambitious young prince. In that view, Scott wearing PP clearly signifies his undisputed authority, while Tyrell is caught wishful thinking that Scott would be the retiring, retreating opponent, that would soon give way to him, the young and ambitious CTO-wannabe.
Interestingly, this theory is backed up by the fact that even in earlier episodes Tyrell was wearing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch, that fits perfectly to the idea of him being the prince on the rise, but not yet a king. Coincidence? Highly doubtful.
You can read the original analysis and full discussion on the subject on Reddit: