The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking. The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I would have become a watchmaker.
— Albert Einstein

"Watchmaker" is the fourth chapter in the twelve-chapter series Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. It was released in December 1986


Featured characters


The chapter discusses Dr. Manhattan/Jon Osterman's current location on Mars and revisits various turning points in his life. When his father, a watchmaker, hears about the bombing of Hiroshima, he pushes Jon to become a scientist. Jon attends Princeton and is eventually employed by a research lab at Gila Flats in 1959, where he meets and eventually falls in love with Janey Slater. At a carnival, a fat man steps on and breaks Janey's watch. Jon later fixes the watch, but forgets it in his lab coat. When he goes to retrieve his lab coat from a test vault, he is accidentally locked in. When Dr. Glass and others arrive back from their lunch break, Jon embarrassingly asks to be released, but to everyone's horror, the vault has automatically time-locked and generators have already began warming up to begin an experiment: removing the intrinsic field from cell block fifteen. Expecting certain death, Jon examines the watch he has put back together. He is then disintegrated in a flash of light. A month later, "ghosts" of Jon begin to appear at the research site. First a circulatory system, then a muscled skeleton, etc. Finally, he appears as a complete being, entirely blue with abilities far greater than that of a normal human being. He retains all of his memories and has vaguely similar physical features, although he appears distant and somewhat unemotional to those around him. He begins to argue frequently with Janey, whom he still dates and says he loves and needs (although this is a lie). In addition to his new, purely scientific outlook on life, he can telekinetically assemble and disassemble objects, transport himself or others great distances, alter his size and multiply his image, among other things. He is almost immediately recruited as a military asset of the United States, given the moniker "Dr. Manhattan". He is touted as the first super hero with actual super abilities, worrying the active costumed heroes who are already beginning to disassemble for various reasons. Although he is the United States greatest weapon, he is apparently unable (or unwilling) to prevent certain disasters, such as the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1966, Jon leaves Janey for the then sixteen-year-old Laurie. He becomes a hero at Vietnam and is the only superhero to be left active after the Keane Act besides The Comedian, who is also employed by the government (and Rorschach, who evades capture). Then Jon briefly remembers Laurie leaving him and his current activities on Mars. He creates a giant, glass structure that rises from the soil, then stands on its balcony to watch a meteorite shower.




  • Alan Moore wrote to Dave Gibbons at the beginning of the script for Issue #4: "When you opened the envelope this arrived in, I'm willing to bet that you said 'It's about time.' Well, do you know, as an example of the strange, almost spooky synchronistic nature of this book, it actually is about time this episode. More precisely, it's about time as seen through the eyes of Dr. Jon Osterman. Isn't that an astonishingly paranormal circumstance to kick off the day with?"
  • Note the format of Jon Osterman's caption boxes, which are colored the same blue as his speech balloons to indicate that they are his thoughts. The use of caption boxes for this purpose is in contrast with the more common comic book practice of displaying thoughts in balloons with little bubbles leading to the thinking character. Jon is the only character in Watchmen whose thoughts are shown.
  • Where there was pink planet in the night sky in Issue #3, here we see a matching green one; Doctor Manhattan is now on Mars, and the long-distant world is Earth.
  • Doctor Manhattan observes Halley’s Comet as it passes by him on Mars. He says, “I am watching the stars. Halley’s comet tumbles through the solar system on it’s great seventy-six year ellipse.”  Halley last appeared in the inner parts of the Solar System in 1986, and is set to return in 2061.
  • Albert Einstein resided in New Jersey, from 1933 until his death in 1955. During this time, he was a resident scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, a postdoctoral research center that is located near the campus of Princeton University but is not part of that school. He had no teaching duties but often held seminars following others' lectures.
  • The highlights on the Christmas tree's ornaments form small smiley faces.
  • Note the foreshadowing of the red star (Mars) seen here above the house.
  • In November 1979, a group of radical Muslim students occupied the U.S. embassy in Iran and took more than 50 American diplomats and embassy staffers hostage. In our world, these hostages were held prisoner for 444 days, and were released shortly after Ronald Reagan was elected president.
  • At the end of Issue #4, a quote of Albert Einstein asserts, “The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking… The solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.” Einstein's knowledge of the atom bomb and his role in creating it caused his anxiety. He wishes to be a watchmaker– a job that is precise, ordered, and definite. Instead, he comes up with the idea of relativity, which makes time variable and complicated. Doctor Manhattan struggles with the same idea—he literally almost became a watchmaker, and he wishes he could go back and change the past. He wishes for a simple life, one where he is not a god and does not have to make decisions concerning the future of humanity.


Watchmen Chapters
Chapter I: At Midnight, All the Agents...Chapter II: Absent FriendsChapter III: The Judge of All the EarthChapter IV: WatchmakerChapter V: Fearful SymmetryChapter VI: The Abyss Gazes AlsoChapter VII: A Brother to DragonsChapter VIII: Old GhostsChapter IX: The Darkness of Mere BeingChapter X: Two Riders Were Approaching...Chapter XI: Look On My Works, Ye MightyChapter XII: A Stronger Loving World
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