Watchmen Timeline Explained

We've made a complete and chronological timeline of the events of Watchmen, from the original book to the HBO show. It...wasn't easy.

HBO Watchmen Timeline Explained

This article contains nothing but spoilers for Watchmen, both the book and the HBO series.

HBO’s Watchmen timeline is non-linear and occasionally confusing (or “infuriating” as Dr. Manhattan puts it) in its use of time. The book from which it draws inspiration is similarly non-linear and occasionally confusing in its use of time. To make matters even trickier, the show expands upon and even retcons events that take place or are alluded to in the book.

So what’s a fan to do? Why, make a complete and chronological Watchmen timeline, of course! That’s a perfectly sane and normal activity for any well-adjusted adult, and it certainly didn’t give me any severe migraines or make me question my own perception of time at any point. Nope. Not at all.

read more – Watchmen: Unanswered Questions We Have From the Finale

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To compile this complete Watchmen timeline, I only used stated dates from the book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, dates and events from the show itself, dates noted in HBO’s official supplemental materials, Peteypedia, and the occasional date from actual real life (for example, the birth of lawman Bass Reeves). I don’t consider DC’s Before Watchmen prequels canon (and apparently neither does this show) but I DID cheat and use dates from some long out-of-print Watchmen roleplaying game supplements that Alan Moore consulted on to date a couple of events from the book. 

Now, let’s get to work…

July 1838Bass Reeves born.

1908 – Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis) born.

1915 – Will Reeves born.

1918 – Obie Williams, Will Reeves’ father and the great-grandfather of Angela Abar, serves during World War I. It’s here he picks up (and keeps) a German propaganda flier indicating that there’s more racial equality in Germany than there is in the United States. He carries it with him until passing it on to Will.

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May 25, 1921Trust in the Law, a silent movie about Bass Reeves, premieres.

May 31 – June 1, 1921The Tulsa Race Massacre takes place. Will Reeves and June Abar escape Tulsa.

1936 – Hans Osterman takes his son Jon from Germany to England to escape the rise of the Nazis. There they stay with other refugees in an English manor home, sheltered by a kind young couple, who later inspire Dr. Manhattan to create life in their image.

Nelson Gardner honorably discharged from the Marines.

1938 – Will Reeves (Hooded Justice) and Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) graduate from the New York Police Academy.

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Spring 1938Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman is published. Will Reeves and others take notice. The arrival of superheroes as a publishing phenomenon inspires a number of people to put on costumes and fight crime. Ironically, the presence of real world superheroes ends up killing them as a viable genre in comic books, where other genres such as pirate stories instead become dominant in the form and pop culture.

Oct. 1938 – After intervening in a mugging after he had been the victim of a racist attack by his police office colleagues, Will Reeves makes his costumed debut as Hooded Justice, tracking the activity of a group known as Cyclops, an apparent offshoot of the Ku Kux Klan.

1939 – Hollis Mason debuts as Nite Owl. The Silhouette, The Comedian, Silk Spectre I, Captain Metropolis, Dollar Bill, and Mothman, all similarly inspired by the exploits of Hooded Justice, make their crimefighting debut shortly after. 

July 2, 1939Adrian Veidt born.

Mid 1939 – The Minutemen, the first superhero team, are formed thanks to an alliance between Sally Jupiter’s manager (and future husband) Laurence Schexnayder and Nelson “Captain Metropolis” Gardner.

March 21, 1940 – Walter Joseph Kovacs (Rorschach) born.

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Oct. 2, 1940 – Edward Blake sexually assaults Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre I) after a meeting of the Minutemen. Hooded Justice intervenes and severely beats Blake. Blake is expelled from the Minutemen shortly after. 

1942 – Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis) puts crime fighting career on hold to serve in the Marines during World War II. The Comedian joins the war effort, beginning a long career as a government agent and super soldier.

Sept. 18, 1942 – Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II) born.

Aug. 7, 1945 – Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Jon Osterman’s life path changes from being a watchmaker to a nuclear physicist.

1946 – Minutemen member The Silhouette is outed as a lesbian in the press, kicked off the team, and subsequently murdered by an old enemy.

1947 – Sally Jupiter quits Silk Spectre career.

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1948 – Sally Jupiter and Edward Blake conceive Laurie Juspeczyk (FBI Agent Laurie Blake on the show) in a secret, consensual sexual encounter.

Autumn, 1948 – Jon Osterman accepted to Princeton.

1949 – Laurie Juspeczyk (FBI Agent Laurie Blake) born, the Minutemen disband.

Dec. 1, 1949 – Judd Crawford born.

1952 – Will Reeves (Hooded Justice) uncovers the Cyclops mass hypnosis plot and executes several of their members. 

1954 – The remaining members of the Minutemen are called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and asked to reveal their identities in testimony. Hooded Justice disappears after refusing to reveal his identity to HUAC.

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1955 – Circus strongman Rolf Müller found dead. While this fact was never made public, Müller was murdered by Edward Blake, who believed him to be Hooded Justice, in an act of revenge for the beating he received at HJ’s hands in 1940.

J. David Keene gifts Judd Crawford’s father with a replica of George Catlin’s painting, “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship.”

1956 – Sally Jupiter divorces Laurence Schexnayder. Adrian Veidt begins traveling the world and preparing for his crime fighting career.

1958 – Adrian Veidt makes costumed debut as Ozymandias.

Spring 1958 – Jon Osterman graduates Princeton with a PhD in Atomic Physics.

May 12, 1959 – Jon Osterman begins work at Gila Flats, site of the intrinsic field generator, and meets Janey Slater.

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August 1959 – Jon Osterman trapped in Intrinsic Field Generator and torn to atoms.

November 1959 – Jon Osterman “returns” as Dr. Manhattan after reassembling his physical form on the atomic level.

March 2, 1960 – Dr. Manhattan’s existence revealed to the world.

May 1960 – National Periodical Publications (now known as DC Comics) begins publishing Tales of the Black Freighter, a pirate comic by Max Shea and Joe Orlando.

June 17, 1960 – Dr. Manhattan meets Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) for the first time.

May 16, 1962 – Nite Owl I (Hollis Mason) retires.

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1963Under the Hood, Hollis Mason’s memoir about the Minutemen and his time as Nite Owl is published. Among other things, this popularizes the (incorrect) theory that Rolf Müller was actually Hooded Justice.

March 20, 1964 – Walter Joseph Kovacs begins crimefighting as Rorschach

1965 – Rorschach partners with Nite Owl II

April 14, 1966 – Nelson Gardner (Captain Metropolis) tries and fails to put together a new superhero team, the Crimebusters. Dr. Manhattan first meets Laurie Juspeczyk. Laurie first meets Edward Blake.

May 1966 – Dr. Manhattan begins romantic relationship with Laurie Juspeczyk (Silk Spectre II).

Aug. 26, 1966 – Janey Slater leaves Dr. Manhattan after learning of his affair with Laurie Juspeczyk.

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1967 – Adrian Veidt exposes “a plot by rogue right wing extremists in the US military to test biological weapons on the citizens of Nairobi and the surrounding areas.”

1968 – Adrian Veidt begins formulating his master plan to bring about world peace.

March 1971 – Dr. Manhattan intervenes in Vietnam and meets Edward Blake.

June 1971 – The United States declares victory in Vietnam, marking the first VVN night. Edward Blake murders a Vietnamese woman carrying his child while Dr. Manhattan stands by and does nothing.

1972Fogdancing by Max Shea, an important and influential work of literature in the Watchmen universe, is published.

Aug. 9, 1974 – Nelson Gardner killed in automobile accident in New York City.

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1975 – Constitutional amendment abolishing Presidential term limits passed, allowing Richard Nixon to seek re-election. Ozymandias retires and reveals his identity to the public. Rorchach’s activities become more brutal in the wake of a kidnapping case he solved.

March 3, 1975 – Will Reeves is presented with the contents of Nelson Gardner’s will in New York City. Reeves is working at a movie theater in Harlem at the time.

1976 – Judd Crawford marries Jane Lestley. Angela Abar born.

Nov. 22, 1976 – Calvin Jelani born.

June 1977 – A superhero exploitation movie called Sister Night is released in Vietnam. It would later go on to influence young Angela Abar.

Aug. 3, 1977 – Nationwide police strike and civil unrest leads to the passage of the Keene Act, outlawing masked vigilante activity. While Silk Spectre and Nite Owl II retire in light of the new law, Rorschach refuses.

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1979 – The Comedian frees American and Canadian hostages from Iranian “anti-Manhattanite extremists.”

1980 – Judd Crawford joins the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department

Early October 1985 – Edward Blake (The Comedian) drunkenly confesses to Edgar William Jacobi (Moloch) the details he has learned of Adrian Veidt’s plan.

Oct. 12, 1985 – Edward Blake (The Comedian) is murdered by Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias). Rorschach begins an investigation and notifies Dan Dreiberg (Nite Owl II) of Blake’s death.

Oct. 13, 1985 – Rorchach notifies Adrian Veidt, Laurie Juspeczyk, and Dr. Manhattan of Blake’s death.

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Oct. 16, 1985 – Edward Blake’s funeral.

Oct. 19, 1985 – Dr. Manhattan leaves Earth for Mars, a result of continued public pressure after information planted by Adrian Veidt leads the world to believe that Dr. Manhattan’s presence causes cancer.

Oct. 20, 1985 – Russia invades Afghanistan, bringing the world to the brink of World War III.

Oct. 21, 1985 – Rorschach arrested for violating the Keene Act, framed for the murder of Edgar William Jacobi (Moloch).

Oct. 28, 1985 – Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II return to active duty as costumed adventurers to rescue people from a burning building in lower Manhattan.

Oct. 31, 1985 – Nite Owl and Silk Spectre II break Rorschach out of jail. Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) is murdered by a gang of Knot-Tops who believe that he’s the same Nite Owl responsible for breaking Rorschach out of prison.

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Nov. 1, 1985 – Nite Owl and Rorschach head to Karnak, the Antarctic retreat of Ozymandias, to confront Adrian Veidt about his plans. 

On Mars, Laurie Juspeczyk convinces Dr. Manhattan to intervene on behalf of  humanity, and learns the truth about her parentage. 

Lady Trieu conceived when her mother artificially inseminates herself with Veidt’s genetic material.

Fogancing author Max Shea, and anyone who can connect Adrian Veidt to 11/2 is killed. Rorschach’s journal is delivered to the New Frontiersman offices.

Nov. 2, 1985 – 3 million killed in New York City after Veidt teleports a giant, telepathic, genetically engineered squid into midtown Manhattan. The ensuing chaos averts World War III and ushers in a new era of global cooperation. Intermittent squid rains begin shortly after.

Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, NJ, young Wade Tillman survives the psychic shockwave unleashed by the squid, and is severely traumatized, putting him on a path that leads to him becoming Detective Looking Glass back home in Tulsa, OK.

Rorschach killed by Dr. Manhattan. 

Dr. Manhattan leaves Earth for Europa, begins terraforming the planet and creating life.

December 1985 – Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk assume new identities as Sam and Sandra Hollis. At some point in the next few years, Dan founds Merlincorp and begins providing Nite Owl technology to police departments.

July 1986 – Lady Trieu born.

Mar. 21, 1986New Frontiersman begins printing excerpts from Rorschach’s Journal. They’re widely dismissed as the ravings of a crank, and the general public doesn’t believe Adrian Veidt had anything to do with the events of 11/2/85.

1987 – Angela Abar’s parents are killed in a terrorist attack in Saigon. Angela is placed in an orphanage, before meeting her grandmother, June Abar, who tells her that their family has roots in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

c.1988 – Richard Nixon dies in office. Gerald Ford takes over as President.

1992 – Robert Redford defeats Gerald Ford to become the new President of the United States.

Jan. 21, 1993 – Robert Redford sworn in as President, and learns the truth about Adrian Veidt’s involvement in 11/2 via a videotaped confession.

1993 – The Tech Recall and Reintroduction Act is passed, “reintroducing technologies once deemed unsafe or illegal back into the public space” after the paranoia brought on by the events of 11/2. 

c. 1994Steven Spielberg releases Pale Horse, a movie about the events of 11/2/1985.

April 19, 1995 – Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk arrested for violations of the Keene Act, in the process of stopping Timothy McVeigh from carrying out the Oklahoma City bombing.

April 28, 1995 – Merlincorp, the technology company owned and operated by Dan Dreiberg and that provides police with crimefighting tech (and Laurie with that crazy Dr. Manhattan dildo), is raided by the FBI. 

1999 – Veidt Enterprises licenses cloning technology. Eventually Lady Trieu uses this technology to clone her mother, Bian.

2004 – Judd Crawford becomes a detective in the Tulsa PD.

2007 – Adrian Veidt’s final public appearance, accepting Kenya’s highest civilian honor, the Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart. Trieu Pharmaceuticals launches Nostalgia. It is recalled a few years later and made illegal because of addictive properties.

2008  – The Victims of Racial Violence Act, known by some as “Redfordations” passed.

Lady Trieu first confronts Adrian Veidt in Karnak about her identity and her plans to surpass his accomplishments and make the world a better place.

June 2009 – Dr. Manhattan meets Angela Abar in Mr. Eddy’s bar on VVN Night. Several weeks later, he takes the form of the deceased Calvin Jelani.

Dec. 13, 2009 – Dr. Manhattan, in the form of Calvin Jelani, visits Adrian Veidt in Karnak. Veidt gives Dr. Manhattan a device that will neutralize his powers and his memories so he can live a normal life with Angela Abar. 

Dr. Manhattan sends Adrian Veidt to Europa, the moon of Jupiter where he has been creating life.

Dr. Manhattan meets with Will Reeves.

With the onset of his Veidt-assisted amnesia, Dr. Manhattan “officially” assumes the identity of Calvin Jelani, after taking his form for several months prior.

2010 – Trieu Industries begins launching space probes.

Dec. 13, 2010 – Adrian Veidt celebrates his first anniversary on Europa.

Dec. 13, 2011 – Adrian Veidt celebrates second anniversary on Europa. To celebrate, he puts on a play dramatizing how Jon Osterman became Dr. Manhattan.

2012 – Adrian Veidt declared missing on Earth.

Dec. 13, 2012 – Adrian Veidt “celebrates” his third anniversary on Europa and begins formulating his plan to escape. He runs afoul of the mysterious Game Warden.

2013 – Adrian Veidt uses the bodies of his servants to spell out the words “Save me daughter” on the surface of Europa, just in time for one of Trieu Industries’ space probes to fly by and see it. Shortly after, Veidt is put on trial by the inhabitants of Europa for attempting to escape. 

read more: Watchmen Finale Explained

2015 – The trial of Adrian Veidt concludes, and he is sent to prison.

Dec. 24, 2016 – The 7th Kavalry implement a coordinated strike on police officers around the country, which is later dubbed The White Night. During one such operation, “Mike” a member of the 7th Kavalary is mysteriously teleported to Gila Flats during his attack on the Abar residence, raising suspicions that Dr. Manhattan is alive and well and living in Tulsa.

The events of The White Night lead the passage of DOPA, the Defense of Police Act, which allows police officers to wear masks and hide their identities. The key author and sponsor of DOPA is Senator Joseph Keene, Jr., the son of the Senator Keene who got the law passed which outlawed vigilante activity in the 1970s.

2017 – Trieu Industries acquires Veidt Enterprises. Angela Abar adopts the identity of Sister Night in order to continue her police work. A Trieu Industries spacecraft lands on Europa to collect Adrian Veidt and bring him back to Earth.

2018 – Judd Crawford becomes chief of police in Tulsa. Lady Trieu breaks ground on the Millennium Clock.

Sept. 8, 2019 – A Tulsa police officer is shot dead by a member of the 7th Kavalry during what appears to be a routine traffic stop. This is where the events that happen in the present day on the show begin, and they take place over the span of approximately three weeks. 

Sept. 9, 2019 – Adrian Veidt officially declared presumed dead. John Grisham retires from the Supreme Court.

Sept. 16, 2019 – Judd Crawford dies.

The final Peteypedia memo confirms (among other things) that everything within the show took place no later than October 1st, 2019.

Mike Cecchini is the Editor in Chief of Den of Geek. You can read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @wayoutstuff.

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