time is a key theme in watchmen, intricately woven throughout the graphic novel. it appears in the following ways:

Nostalgia: The Past

Millennium: The Future

Time according to Dr. Manhattan

The Doomsday Clock

Nostalgia: The past

Nostalgia, defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past”, is a recurring motif in Watchmen. It serves as the name for Adrian Veidt’s premier line of fragrance, carrying the slogan, “Where is the essence that was so divine?”. Dan Dreiberg and Laurie discover that they ask themselves that same question, both longing to relive their days as vigilantes. Their shared nostalgia becomes the core of a romantic relationship that involves them venturing out as vigilantes once again to save civilians from a burning building. Watchmen also frames nostalgia as illusionary. When Laurie discovers that her previously unknown father is actually the Comedian, she violently shatters a glass bottle of Nostalgia, revealing that in our longing for the good things in the past, we often choose to ignore the bad.
"I mean, were both friends; were both in the same line of work; were both... were both leftovers." -Dan Dreiberg

MillenNIUM: the future

After he unleashes a biological weapon that eliminates half of New York, Adrian Veidt releases a new line of fragrance, Millennium, that serves as the direct counterpart to Nostalgia. With the slogan, “This is the time, these are the feelings”, Veidt is well aware that there is nothing to long for in a past full of violence and impending nuclear disaster. The other characters, are for the most part seemingly in agreement with Adrian, despite his plan’s heavy ramifications. Dr. Manhattan’s killing of Rorschach, the character who has the hardest time letting go of the past, marks the final transition from Nostalgia into Millennium.
"This is the time, These are the feelings."

Time & Dr. Manhattan

Dr. Manhattan views time as non-linear. He sees everyone and everything in the world as puppet-like, attached to strings that are pulled through time and space. As someone who can see the proverbial strings, Dr. Manhattan lives concurrently in the future, present, and past, but as a result cannot fully experience the present. Because he interprets that the strings of time and space are pulled in a predetermined path, Dr. Manhattan is unable to manipulate them. Thus, while most people on Earth see him as an all-powerful, god-like figure, Dr. Manhattan understands that he is only following his predetermined course of life. Watchmen cleverly foils him against his father, whose profession of a watchmaker entirely depends on the steady one-dimensionality of time.
"We're all puppets, Laurie. I'm just a puppet who can see the strings."


The Doomsday Clock, which represents the world's proximity to a human-caused global catastrophe, appears at the beginning of every chapter of Watchmen. In reality, the Doomsday Clock wavers, moving closer or father from midnight based on the events following its previous adjustment. However, it is interesting to note that in Watchmen, the clock only moves forward, inching closer and closer to doomsday. This is likely related to the impending nuclear crisis, but it also raises questions regarding the novel's theme of destiny. Could there have been any kind of alternate ending where the characters successfully stopped Adrian's plan and prevented the Doomsday Clock from striking midnight? Or is the clock just another puppet on a string; was Adrian's plan destined to happen?



While Dr. Manhattan’s belief in the inevitability of destiny raises existential questions, the true conclusion about time that one can draw from Watchmen concerns how people handle the past and prepare for the future. The hours before Doomsday are full of nostalgia, where Laurie, Nite Owl and Rorschach do all they can to cling to their past years as vigilantes. However, when the clock strikes midnight, a new day begins. The once-nostalgic characters’ decisions to adapt to the forever changed world convey the message that while nostalgia is often comforting, it is essential to accept change and adjust to it accordingly.


Created with images by info254 - "pocket watches time of time"

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