The Meaning of Hayes’ Watch in The Idea of You

The Idea of You chronicles Hayes Campbell and Solène’s relationship as they attempt to overcome obstacles to their love. Throughout the film, Hayes’ watch is an important plot device with many meanings for both characters.

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An Unlikely Connection

Based on Robinne Lee’s 2017 novel of the same name, the film finds Solène and Hayes in an unlikely romance. Solène (Anne Hathaway) is a 39-year-old divorcee and mother who meets Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine) at Coachella. Hayes is charming and an old soul, but he’s also 24— a full 15 years younger than Solène. Further complicating matters, he’s the lead singer of one of the hottest boy bands on the planet, August Moon.

Hayes and Solène first meet at Coachella when Solène enters Hayes’ trailer, thinking it is a VIP restroom. The two have an instant connection, and are able to share a few quiet moments talking when Hayes invites Solène to hang out for a bit. That time together is interrupted when Hayes’ handlers start coming into the trailer demanding his time and attention. The scene is a foreshadowing of the chaos that would drive the two apart.

One of the first things we see from Hayes’ handlers is forcing him to put on a new Tag Heuer watch because they had secured a deal with the company. The watch starts as a symbol of the time they met, and it continues to play a pivotal role throughout The Idea of You.

Hayes’ Watch in The Idea of You

Hayes Campbell is a character with much more depth than you might expect a fictional boy band singer to have. He is thoughtful, kind, and his love for Solène is genuine. For Hayes, the watch is partly a representation of everything he has grown to resent. Just like he can’t wear the watch he previously had because his handlers are now telling him to wear this one, he can’t have the true happiness and closeness he wants in life because of the chaos that surrounds him. Early in the film, Hayes speaks about how it is hard for him to trust anyone because it’s hard to trust their intentions. A big part of the reason he falls for Solène is because she doesn’t care about his fame or image. She is attracted to the real Hayes Campbell.

The watch also represents the beginning of Solène in Hayes’s life. Both the watch and Solène entered his life within minutes of each other early in The Idea of You. By giving her the watch, Hayes is leaving part of himself that began when he met her in her possession. For Hayes, leaving the watch with Solène also helps remind her of him, keeping him in her thoughts when he is away.

Hayes Gives the Watch to Solène

After the two first meet at Coachella, Hayes visits Solène at her art studio in Silver Lake. He buys everything in her studio, then the two evade the paparazzi and have lunch at Solène’s house. After their first kiss, Hayes leaves the watch behind when he leaves. For Solène, the watch symbolizes the connection and love the two have. When she accepts Hayes’ invitation to visit him in New York, she wears the watch. Even when she is wearing nothing else in that scene, she is still wearing the watch—it has become the symbol of her embrace of the relationship. When Solène makes the decision to join Hayes on August Moon’s European tour, she is seen wearing the watch throughout.

However, when she learns that Hayes has had short-term relationships with other older women and that the song she thought was dedicated to her was actually a bit the band often does for a woman they find attractive, Solène feels humiliated and breaks things off with Hayes. When she leaves to fly home, she leaves his watch behind. Hayes’ watch represents the idea of him; when Solène no longer feels safe with Hayes, she leaves the idea of him behind.

The two attempt a relationship after everything becomes public, but the weight of the media and public scrutiny is too much for Solène and her daughter, Izzy, to bear. Solène once again breaks up with Hayes by giving him the watch back. Hayes asks her to fight for them, and after a conversation, they agree that if neither have found happiness in five years, they would possibly attempt to rekindle the romance.

The Watch Represents Timing

Time and timing are a theme throughout The Idea of You. Hayes and Solène’s age difference presents obstacles for the couple and leads to additional scrutiny. Hayes is still in the midst of superstardom and Solène needs more stability for herself and her daughter. Although their love for each other is genuine, the timing of it won’t allow them to find happiness together while Hayes is still in August Moon. These elements make Hayes’ Tag Heuer watch a perfect symbol of the ups and downs of their relationship in The Idea of You.

After five years pass, Solène sees Hayes on the Graham Norton Show, and he indicates that he is taking some time off in Los Angeles soon. When we see Solène in her art studio next, she is wearing the watch again. She has welcomed the idea of Hayes back into her life, and when he shows up in the studio, it’s clear that the relationship will begin again.


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Author
Tyler Erickson
Contributor at The Escapist and has been writing about games and entertainment for over 10 years. I love FPS games, action/adventure, and sports games. In entertainment, I write about everything Star Wars, comics, action and horror movies, and fantasy and horror books. I have also written for GameRant, TheXboxHub, and Strangely Awesome Games. Podcaster and streamer, and always happy to talk games or entertainment, so follow me on socials!