Barry Sonnenfeld never knows what time it is

Why does a famous movie director wear two watches?

At D5, I sat next to Barry Sonnenfeld during the George Lucas session . You may know Sonnenfeld as the director of Men in Black and Get Shorty, but he's also a gadget fiend, and writes a tech column for Esquire magazine. It was cool to sit next to a famous Hollywood guy and talk about Thinkpads.

One for function, one for form. Rafe Needleman / CNET

I couldn't help noticing the man was wearing two watches. He explained why. He's a watch nut, he said, and on his left wrist, he wears his watch of the moment. At D5 he was sporting a gigantic Swiss windup (sorry, I didn't get the type). On his right, a Breitling Professional Emergency. It has a built-in emergency location transmitter to help rescue crews find the wearer after an aviation disaster.

Sonnenfeld had such a disaster. In 1999, he was the sole passenger in a G-II jet that plowed into a series of cars following an emergency landing. (It ran out of fuel, he told me.) After the plane came to a rest, the pilots ran out. Sonnenfeld, shaken but uninjured, stayed in the plane awaiting rescue or instructions. Looking out the window, he saw gasoline from a wrecked car flowing toward the damaged plane he was sitting in. At that point, he wisely decided to jump out. Shortly thereafter, he bought himself the emergency watch. And canceled his contract with the charter company he'd been using up till then.

He told me that Brian Williams of NBC is also a two-wrist watch wearer. Understandable: Williams reports from global trouble spots, such as Iraq.

 

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