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For Elsa Zylberstein, a watch must be more than a timepiece
Watch Stories

For Elsa Zylberstein, a watch must be more than a timepiece

Friday, 25 June 2021
By Frank Rousseau
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Frank Rousseau

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4 min read

She is one of the most brilliant French actresses of her generation. One of the most versatile, too, switching between comedy and drama with disconcerting ease. Elsa Zylberstein talks watches to FHH Journal.

She gave a moving performance in Roger Avary’s La Voix Humaine, made us laugh out loud in Tout le Monde Debout by Franck Dubosc, captured the magic of India in Un + Une by Claude Lelouch and brought tears to our eyes in Christian Duguay’s A Bag of Marbles. In her latest role, she plays French feminist politician Simone Veil. For the moment, though, Elsa Zylberstein talks about the watches that mean most to her.

So, dear Elsa, are you a watch addict?

Not really, although a beautiful watch will always be a beautiful watch. I’m very lucky to have been given two IWCs, both absolutely divine. I’m actually wearing one today. An 18k pink gold Portofino with tiny diamonds. I see watches more as jewellery than a means of telling the time. My idea of a watch goes beyond its purely organic function. Apart from that, I have been known to fantasise about owning a Bulgari Serpenti. We all have in mind this extraordinary watch, worn by Elizabeth Taylor and countless other film legends. Another that springs to mind is a simple, understated, rectangular Chanel on a chain bracelet. I connect more with a watch that also functions as jewellery. Less when it serves an ordinary, conventional purpose. I’m not saying a watch isn’t there to give the time. Simply that, if you’re looking at a dial, you may as well be transported by the beauty and grace of the object, and the craftsmanship that goes into these masterpieces of miniaturisation. I remember a Van Cleef & Arpels watch that I wore for the Cannes Film Festival. It was shaped like a flower, a pure delight. I suppose you could say I like watches that have charm. And if they also have a classic design, well, I never want to take them off!

The most beautiful watch you were ever given?

Probably the Chanel J12 that was given to me by Karl Lagerfeld after a photo session. I wore it for years and absolutely adored it. I don’t know if Karl designed it. He was such an intuitive person, he must have sensed how amazed, how captivated I was by this wonderful watch. I can’t explain why, but wearing it is empowering. Possibly because it gives off something masculine. A masculinity which, strangely, can easily be worn by a woman.

Elsa Zylberstein
Elsa Zylberstein
Would you ever sell watches you were given, make a clean slate of the past?

Never! I keep them and I wear them. Together forever!

What’s the first thing you look for when buying a watch?

I usually follow my instinct, although I do tend to look for something that’s as much jewellery as watch. Something I won’t want to take off. The J12, for example, has a strong presence on a woman’s wrist but is still elegant. A watch like that is all you need to feel fully dressed. Possibly a ring to finish it off, but that’s all.

Does it matter what it’s made from?

You bet it does! It’s a dealbreaker. The Chanel watch I haven’t yet bought for myself, or that someone hasn’t yet bought for me, is in silver [laughs]. The IWC I’m wearing is in pink gold, the other is in white gold. I also have a watch for summer and another for winter.

Have you ever gifted a watch to a man?

Good question. Let me see…. No, I don’t think so. If I were to buy a watch for a lover, I would probably be drawn to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso which, in my opinion, is the height of refinement for a man.

You’re no stranger to red carpets and gala evenings. Have you ever lusted after a watch worn by another famous personality?

Oh yes! And it was a Serpenti. I remember thinking what an absolutely amazing, crazy thing it was [laughs]. Not long ago, I fell head over heels for a watch one of my friends was wearing, from the new Gem Dior collection, designed by Victoire de Castellane. I want one! [laughs].

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