Anyone who’s ever hopped an overnight flight will be all too familiar with the concept of lost time. Through the magic of air travel, it’s possible to board a plane with an evening sunset and disembark with the next day’s sunrise in a matter of a few hours. The cost of this travel, of course, is the loss of a night’s sleep and the only way to cope is to rub your eyes, adjust your watch, and press on with the day.
While global travelers are practiced at adjusting to different time zones, watch brand Citizen set out on a wholly unique time-based quest: to stay in the same moment in time for as long as humanly possible. In “Chasing Horizons,” a global short film from Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo to promote the Eco-Drive Satellite Wave F100 watch, ex-NATO pilot Jonathan Nicol and photographer Simon Roberts take to the sky and chase the sun around the world.
“Chasing Horizons” is an example of a simple brief taken to an exceptional place. Michael Farr, executive creative director at Wieden + Kennedy Tokyo, says the client simply asked the agency to do something on time zones since the notable thing about the F100 is the ability to determine what time zone you’re in and automatically change it within three seconds (common for smartphone timepieces but impressive for a wristwatch). “This seemed like the ultimate way to put that to the test,” says Farr. “Rather than travel across the Earth from time zone to time zone, we decided to stay constant in space above the Earth and let the time zones come to us, in effect living in the same hour for as long as we could.”
How exactly were they able to hang in the same hour? With a great deal of precision. To achieve the effect of suspended animation, the plane needed to fly in the opposite direction of the Earth’s rotation at the exact latitude of 80 degrees–the point at which the Earth rotates at its slowest speed of 289.95 km/h–across all of the planet’s time zones. Then, at exactly 18:30, Roberts snapped his photos. It is, as he says in the film, taking the concept of sunset photography to the edge of what is possible. The film was directed by Tristan Patterson of Smuggler.
The greatest challenge was the fact that this was truly a one-shot deal, says Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam art director Vasco Vicente. “While we pre-shot a few interviews with our photographer and pilot throughout the planning stage, we only had one shot to achieve our mission–to actually chase the horizon. We set off from Reykjavik in Iceland, and continuously kept up with the sunset for eight hours before landing in our final destination in the Arctic Circle.”
The intense calculations required to get it right and the harsh arctic conditions also complicated matters. “We had to keep the aircraft steady and at a constant speed to allow the Earth to rotate under the aircraft, while also ensuring the calculation of the tilt of the sun and the Earth to capture the sunset,” says Vincente. “We also had to deal with frozen engines and a race to get back into the air before missing the next sunset after two refuels. Space in the aircraft was also a challenge; when you have four people inside such a small airplane you can imagine how difficult it was to move around the space and shoot different angles. It was also packed, cold, and intense inside. Everyone had a task to do and a small time window to get it done. But even after all that we got what we needed and achieved our goal and mission.”
As a commercial, “Chasing Horizons” is an effective way to demonstrate the F100’s time-changing capabilities, without the product becoming overbearing–even when flying so far north that the aircraft is, as Nicol says, “very much on our own here,” the watch corrects to the right time. As a piece of film, it’s sure to impress aviation and sunset enthusiasts alike. And for those interested in achieving a sense of stopped time, it’s pretty clear that doing so atop the Earth watching a never-ending sunset is a pretty excellent way to do it.