With the title “Time Zones” and a fourth wall breaking opening monologue from Fred Rumsen pitching the wristwatch ad tagline, “Accutron. It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece,” it’s no great stretch to see the use of time as a motif in MAD MAN’s first episode of Season 7.
The idea of time is injected into many of the important conversations that take place throughout “Time Zones.”
For instance, Don and Megan meet over dinner with Megan’s agent, Alan Silver. There they find out that Megan is a strong contender for an acting role on an NBC pilot. Quite visible during the scene is Silver’s ostentatious gold watch (which looks like something from the new season collection of Royal Crown Watches and that would seem to match his equally ostentatious personality).
Later, During Joan’s first meeting with Butler’s Wayne Barnes, she discovers the wunderkind is planning to propose that his company take all their ad business in-house. Barnes’ excuse to cut the conversation short is his stated desire to get home to tuck in his kids (bedtime).
At her invitation, Roger meets his daughter Margaret for lunch where she forgives all his “transgressions” as part of some new-found (and yet unexplained) spirituality. The scene opens with Roger apologizing for being late because of traffic.
Newly armed with a decisive counter-argument, Joan calls Wayne Barnes’ to explain why his cost savings plan isn’t a winning strategy. Upset and somewhat desperate after realizing Joan is correct, Barnes abruptly rises from his desk. As he and Joan figure out a way to buy the junior executive time with his superiors, there is a conspicuously placed wall-clock clearly visible in the shot behind him.
Finally, one is tempted to link the use of timepieces in “Time Zones” with the first scene of Season 6’s opening episode, “The Doorway.” There, Don is shown reading “Dante’s Inferno” on a beach in Waikiki. At one point, Don notices that his wristwatch is broken. In the context of that episode, the “broken ticker” related to the theme of “problems of the heart” (both physical and emotional) developed throughout the episode. Some have even suggested it foreshadowed Don’s death (running out of time).
However, “Time Zones” could also be extending that motif into Season 7 by making the dysfunctional Don’s broken watch a symbol of his inability to have real “conversations” with the people in his life.