The pocket watch - well two actually - was a major device used in For A Few Dollars More, and they pop up regularly within the genre. I sometimes feel that these appear as a deliberate reference/homage to the former film. In FAFDM, Manco becomes the mediator between El Indio and Col. Mortimer and the watches are seen physically 'between them' in these two iconic scenes.
The watches are incredibly important - and all three characters become embroiled in the quest to recover or own 'the girl with no name' (Mortimer's sister, and her image inside one of the watches).
As we can see, Manco has the least emotional 'investment' - and uses the second watch, which he has 'borrowed' from Mortimer - [top image].
El Indio has the fetishistic object of his dreams - literally, when we see him smoke a reefer and disappear into the inner mechanisations (clockwork) of his brain. His trauma/impotence is relayed to us via these flashbacks - and we eventually see that Mortimer's sister has chosen to impregnate herself with a bullet, at the moment of her being raped by him.
Col. Mortimer has the second watch. He stares into it when Manco asks the older man if he was ever young, once? The col. replies that he was ".. just as reckless as you. Then one day something happened to me - made life very precious to me." The film immediately jumps to the scene of El Indio looking at the other watch. Whereas El Indio has internalised his trauma and only the watch is an outward sign of it, Mortimer’s whole image has grown outwards from the watch. The watch is on a chain, the chain on a waistcoat, and the waistcoat worn under a long black coat. If, as we may have noticed earlier, he was mistaken for a preacher, we might now think that he is a man in mourning.
FAFDM is my favorite spaghetti Western, as it is with plenty of others here. The device of the using watches to link these three characters is nothing short of genius, and it is not surprising that, as an object, it would appear deliberately (or indeed accidently) in following films of the genre. It may be used 'playfully' or as mentioned, as homage. It has been adapted as well - the clockwork motif has 'evolved' into the musical box, or as a ballerina, as well in at least 3 films that I can think of.
Clockwork/pocket watches ... then chaps. Accident or design? Films and thoughts?
(This thread was born from watching Stagecoach of the Condemned which had a watchseller salesman who had his wares shot, so as to show off Fernando Sancho's Sartana character's shooting skills. Lordradish recently reviewed A Barrelful of Dollars and also referred to the pocket watch ... may I quote you here Lordradish...? "Fidani loves those pocket watches, ever since he saw For A Few Dollars More, as he seems to put them in a lot of his films." ).
[Next installment - Thematic devices - The Umbrella ;D]