There’s been a whole lot of celebration at Jaeger-LeCoultre this year to celebrate the 90th anniversary of their Reverso, and in addition to the raft of new models they’ve unveiled, the Swiss Watchmaker also found time to produce a short film. Shot in Switzerland by French director and cinematographer Théo Gottlieb, and starring British actor Nicholas Hoult, it is a quiet reflection on life’s turning points – as well as an ode to the Reverso’s unique hinged case. Hoult, who you’ll recognize from the Oscar-winning The Favourite and Amazon’s The Great, is a watch fan in his own right, with a nice collection of pieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre, among others. We caught up with him in Paris to discuss The Turning Point, his partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre, and his enduring love of mechanical watches.
How did you become interested in watches?
I think it’s something that got distilled in me quite early through my father, who was always wearing a watch. Then when I was 14, I shot a movie called Wah-Wah, which is about Richard E. Grant’s life, and watches are a big part of that story because he always wears two. Gabriel Byrne, who played my father in that, gave me this antique Russian watch as a wrap gift, and it had this interesting story behind it. He had bought it when he was in Russia with an ex-girlfriend, and she said that the watch wasn’t his and that he’d eventually find the right person to hand it to. So he ended up handing it to me and I feel like at some point I will hand it down to an actor of another generation.
How did you connect with Jaeger-LeCoultre?
Working with Jaeger came about in a really wonderful way whereby quite a few films that I was really proud of premiered at the Venice Film Festival, which they sponsored. So through being there a few times and spending time with them and wearing their watches at these really momentous and memorable moments, they felt special to me. So then getting to work with them more closely and develop that kind of partnership with them was a very natural thing.
Which kinds of watches do you find yourself wearing the most?
I do love the square face of a Reverso and I feel like it has a great duality to it. It’s interesting, because the film we made, The Turning Point, is kind of about being able to reach those turning points, and prepare for them using the experiences and knowledge that you’ve accumulated through your life. Reverso has that for me as a watch – you can dress it down and wear it throughout the day, or wear it with a tuxedo and it doesn’t feel out of place. I also have an affinity for chronographs because of my love of racing. I appreciate the high complications, too, but I’m also just in awe of them. Just trying to understand how they do what they do makes my brain start to fizz.
When it comes to high complications, it doesn’t get much wilder than this year’s Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque.
Yeah. My brain can’t begin to fathom it. When I was at the manufacture in Switzerland, they were explaining the watch can remain accurate for hundreds of years and predict leap years and never skip a beat. How is it even possible to create that in something that fits on your wrist? And yet they did it.
How do you explain your love of watches to other people?
It’s interesting because there is an instant affinity between people who get it, but to try and put it into words is an odd thing. I’m already seeing it a little bit in my son, when he sees me put on a watch he wants to explore it and understand it, and then wants to go get his plastic watch and put it on. So you can already see that seed and that passion being planted and growing in his brain, which is exciting from such a young age. I think it’s partly to do with the fact that time is such a weird concept when we break it down, and it’s something that’s always controlling the parameters of our lives. So to have a mechanical thing that’s living and breathing in a way makes it feel more tangible.
Which watch are you wearing right now?
I’m wearing the Reverso Tribute Monoface Small Seconds.
Is the case back engraved?
This one isn’t engraved, but I have another Reverso that is engraved, and that’s got my son’s initials on it. So when he’s 18 or 21, depending on his maturity level and how much he can be trusted with something precious, I’ll pass it down to him.
What do you think Jaeger-LeCoultre does better than anyone else?
The history of their designs, how they’ve evolved, how they’re always pushing designs and complications and the engineering side of things forward, but also staying true to their roots and who they are. It’s quality and artistry – there’s so much that goes into it, but all of those things feel incredibly special when you combine them.
So what does the film, The Turning Point, have to say about life’s important moments?
A lot of the time in life you can look back and you can recognize turning points that perhaps you didn’t see at the time. But there are also these that you do recognize in the moment as being life-changing. That’s what the film is about. To me, it’s those moments when you recognize this could be a significant change in your life – professionally, personally, whatever it might be.
Was there a particular turning point in your life that stands out?
That’s a really interesting thing because there are obviously the ones that everyone looks at and goes, ‘Oh, you did this or you got that role, and then that led to this.’ I can map out very easily, for instance, how doing The Favourite led me to meet Tony McNamara who wrote that, and who also writes The Great. So that’s a very clear, tangible cause and effect right there. The more difficult ones to understand are the ones when it doesn’t work out and you don’t get the part that you went up for. That’s interesting to look at in hindsight, because a year or two down the line you can look back and realize if I’d done that, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to do this, and I wouldn’t have been able to meet this person. Acting as a career is interesting for that reason, because those turning points are so clear compared to most career paths.