“I enjoy cars and watches equally, in fact I’m a big collector of both. When filming, I’ve always made a point of wearing my own watches whenever I can. Like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. I love that watch. The one I wore in Terminator 3 was actually custom-built for the movie with anti-shock protection. It needed it too, considering the terminator isn’t exactly a careful owner! I grew up in Austria, not far from the border with Switzerland. I went back and forth between the two countries any number of times, and would always take the opportunity to look at the beautiful watches on show and imagine how one day, I’d own this one or that one. I’m amazed by how the Swiss are constantly coming up with new ideas for their watches, whether from a design perspective, or in terms of technology or complications. As an athlete, I know you can never rest on your laurels; something Swiss watchmakers realised a long time ago. They thrive on challenge and it’s this capacity to excel that enables them to reach summits no-one ever imagined they could attain.”
Robert Downey Jr.
“I often say that if you really want to know who I am, you should take a look at my watch collection. I’m not biased, I love all watches! Well, the ones that have character and a story to tell. Because every watch has a story to tell. From the minute you buy it, or it’s gifted to you, it shares every moment of your life. A watch isn’t just a thing, it’s an extension of your person. Every watch I possess has its own destiny, its past and its future. It’s so much more than hands on a dial or a mechanism inside a case. I’m convinced watches have a soul!”
“I never owned a watch before 1992. It’s actually a film that started me off. I was playing a pilot in For The Moment, which tells the story of airmen training in Manitoba, Canada, prior to flying across the Atlantic to bomb enemy lines. This was during the Second World War. On set, one of the crew pointed out that airmen always wore a watch. I wanted my character to appear authentic, so I went out and bought a watch. At Minneapolis/St Paul airport, if I remember correctly. Nothing fancy. A Gucci I paid $400 for. Since then, I’ve moved up a level and can’t stand to check the time on anything other than a watch. Time on a phone? No thanks. Let’s not put everything in the same bag.”
“I don’t know how many watches I own. I don’t keep track. But you can be sure I’m wearing one today. A man doesn’t have to go overboard, you know. A suit and a good watch are all he needs. Now you want to know, why did I sign with Breitling? Because I’m also a qualified pilot and Breitling has always maintained close ties with aviation. It made perfect sense that we should get together. I like precision instruments, reliable objects, and Breitling watches have always lived up to that expectation. A pilot has to be on time. Punctuality must be in a pilot’s blood! For me, luxury is being able to wear beautiful watches, but it’s also having a landing strip built next to my home, with a hangar where my planes can be repaired. I’ve pretty much turned my property into an airport. Just a couple of minutes, and I’m in my 747. The time it takes for my guys to fill up with fuel and for me to contact the control tower. Which isn’t mine, by the way!” [laughs].
“You’ll never see me with a plastic watch, any more than you’ll see me wearing a watch on a fabric or leather strap. My sweat eats away at leather. Latex is much better. Flip-flop watches aren’t really my thing. Anyway, I’m a bit old for that now. What I most look for in a watch is how it’s made, what goes into it, and of course the design. I look for materials that will stand the test of time, and my lifestyle of course. Whereas you change your clothes to suit the weather, or what you’re doing or where you’re going, I like a watch that I can wear for any occasion. When I go to a movie premiere, I’m not thinking, “what kind of watch goes with this shirt or this jacket?” For me, a watch is a tool. A good-looking tool, granted, but not a piece of jewellery.
“The very first watch I bought goes back to when my old pal, Ben Affleck, and I were struggling young actors. We were the ones waiting by the phone in the hope that a producer might throw us a bone to gnaw on. We knew how it felt to be let down; to be promised this or that role only to see someone else get the part. Anyway, there was this one time Ben and I were on our way to some audition or other in New York, when we came across a guy on the street selling counterfeit watches for $10. And I’m thinking, “Wow, a Gucci watch for $10!” We both bought a couple, hoping to make a big impression. Needless to say, none of them were working a month later!”
“I’m not the type that goes in for big, showy watches. Nor is my wife, Camilla. A watch can be gold, platinum, steel or composite. All that matters is that the mechanism is reliable, hard-wearing and precise. The look of the watch counts too. Personally, I avoid anything too modern, too designer, as these are the watches that tend to lose their value, or the ones you get tired of wearing first. A well-designed, classic watch will never go out of style. Having said that, I can understand how a gold watch remains a symbol of success in the collective conscious. As a kid, it used to fascinate me too.”
“I see a good watch as being the equivalent of an artwork. In fact a watch is a piece of art in miniature. Our ability to create beautiful, technical objects is what sets us apart from animals. As far as I’m aware, no-one has ever seen an animal ask what time it is, or strap a watch to its front leg! I own several Rolex, from an Everose gold Yacht-Master to a yellow gold Day-Date and the Submariner I bought for myself when I was starting out as an actor. I also have a gold Day-Date President and several GMT-Master. I really like the Deepsea Sea-Dweller. It’s a watch that can take a few knocks. Like me, I guess! I choose my watch according to what I’ll be doing that day, but it also has to match my mood. You buy a watch in much the same way you pick a car, a suit, a sculpture or a painting. You fall for it there and then, at that precise moment. When I look at my watches, they take me back to a particular period in my life. A watch doesn’t just tell you the time; it helps bring back certain memories.”
“I’ve always chosen a watch to suit what I’m doing and how I feel. When I was filming 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea for example, I obviously spent a lot of time in contact with water so I’d go home in an “aquatic mood”. I’ve actually owned more than a few dive watches in my lifetime. Firstly because they’re tough enough to stand up to all the sport I played, but mainly because I’m an insomniac and it’s easier to grab a watch that has notches round the dial. It beats groping around in the dark. Most dive watches are fairly heavy too, so you can feel it in your hand. But the really great thing has to be the luminescent numerals and hands. Back in the 70s, I tried to get into digital watches. Sure, they were fun and that was the fashion back then. I was keeping up with technology but I hated having to always press a button to read the time. That has to be the least user-friendly system ever!”