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Harrison Ford, actor and watch designer
Watch Stories

Harrison Ford, actor and watch designer

Friday, 13 March 2020
By Frank Rousseau
Frank Rousseau

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7 min read

Newly adapted from Jack London’s literary classic, “The Call of the Wild” transports us to the snowy expanses of Alaska in the 1890s, with Harrison Ford as prospector John Thornton. The actor talks about climate activism, technology and why mechanical watches beat smartwatches every time.

For those who haven’t yet devoured its pages, The Call of the Wild is a story of adventure, survival and friendship between a solitary prospector and Buck, a loyal sled dog. While this isn’t the first screen adaptation of London’s classic novel, director Chris Sanders delivers an entirely modern version by mixing live action with CGI. Bringing the two brilliantly together is a rugged Harrison Ford. At 77 years, the Han Solo of the Star Wars saga and the Indy of the Indiana Jones franchise is like the character he plays: never still and always at the heart of the action. But the actor’s true talent is to have kept his private life out of the Hollywood spotlight. Deep down, he has a lot in common with the Hamilton watch he designed: vintage and sexy!

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
What made you accept the role of John Thornton?

I loved the novel as a kid. Now that I’m older, I can relate to many of the film’s messages, which are important to all generations, such as awareness that we must protect the environment. The consequences of climate change are sufficient reminder that we most unite to preserve nature and the beauty of the world we live in. We have a duty to save the natural spaces and species that have been spoiled by twenty-plus years of relentless industrialisation. Let’s take a long, hard look at things: the planet will continue to exist with or without us, but we can’t exist without the planet. Nature provides us with free services such as cleaning and recycling the air we breathe, supplying us with clean water, fish, fruit, vegetables, seeds to sow in the ground, and much more. If we don’t tackle the problems created by climate change, we’ll lose all these benefits. It’s in our own interest to protect nature. Being an ecocitizen isn’t about crying over cute little furry creatures becoming extinct or complaining the sea is polluted when we’re on vacation. It’s about taking action at every level.

So The Call of the Wild is a hymn to nature, away from technology…

We needed technology for the computer-generated images, but that kind of thing is beyond me. I own a computer but wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoy tapping away at a keyboard. Computers are supposed to save us precious time: in theory but not in practice as mine is constantly crashing. To be perfectly honest, I don’t have a vast amount of patience for electronic devices. They can be useful, when I’m drafting a flight plan for example, but I still prefer pen and paper for the rest.

Harrison Ford at the premiere of “The Call of the Wild”
Harrison Ford at the premiere of “The Call of the Wild”
Do you feel the same about watches?

Well, I’m not a great fan of smartwatches. I don’t need something vibrating on my wrist whenever I get a call or an email. Let’s not mix things up. When I want meat, I don’t go to the fishmonger. It’s the same for watches. If I want a watch, I go to a watch store or a jeweller’s. Some brands are making the most of the high-tech trend and why not. There has to be something for everyone. But at my age, if I want to see a movie, I go to the theatre. I don’t watch it on my wrist or on my cellphone. I don’t want to ruin my eyesight.

So you think smartwatches are a passing fad?

I don’t know, but I do know you can use a good old, wind-up mechanical watch wherever you might be and for a long time to come. Try using your smartwatch in the middle of the jungle with no electricity to charge it. Another thing people don’t consider when buying a smartwatch is the need for constant updates, and the fact it will soon become obsolete. With a classic watch, you’ll never have to worry about battery life or picking up a signal and it will always do its most important job, which is to give the time.

What do you look for in a watch?

I prefer large, raised numerals that stand out clearly against the dial. Materials should be simple and solid. A watch should adapt to every situation. I cut wood, I sweep chimneys, I do repairs around the house, I fly planes, I lead an active life and the last thing I want is to have to worry about my watch. A few years ago, Hamilton asked me what my ideal watch would be. So I sat down and came up with the Khaki Conservation range. Proceeds from sales went to Conservation International, an organisation I give a lot of time and money to. It was set up in 1987 and is active in more than 40 countries on four continents, researching eco-compatible economic alternatives. Our mission is to save natural spaces and species. This doesn’t mean we’re opposed to all forms of progress. We believe we must strike the right balance between productivity and respect for the environment. We show companies how they can do business without harming nature. For the Khaki, for example, we used recycled corrugated cardboard for the packaging.

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
How do you spend your free time?

I’d like to travel more, but I also want to spend more time at home. I’d like to fly to places I’ve never flown to before, and I’d like to spend more time with my children and grandchildren; take them to school or take them fishing on my ranch in Wyoming. The world is a big place and there’s a lot I still haven’t seen. Right now, if I had a spare day then I’d go through my wardrobe. You see, I have a clause in my contract stipulating that I get to keep all the clothes I wear in my films, meaning I now have a wardrobe bursting with thirty years’ worth of suits. Some are by famous designers, some are still in their box…

How about making some room in your watch collection, too?

Definitely not. It means too much to me. A watch symbolises so many things. I just got back from a twelve-day trip with family and friends through the Grand Canyon. There were no distractions. Just our monkey brains to understand we are a part of nature. Our phones couldn’t get a signal. The only thing we had to tell us it was time to head back for the night was my watch. That’s not such a bad thing. When you turn on a smartphone to check the time, you can’t help checking the different notifications, messages and emails as well. A watch is something you can pass on to your children in the hope of still being a small part of their life. I doubt that leaving someone your smartphone would have the same effect!

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