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Johnny Depp, the pirate collector
Culture

Johnny Depp, the pirate collector

Thursday, 22 June 2017
By Frank Rousseau
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Frank Rousseau

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6 min read

Avast me hearties! One of the year’s most eagerly awaited films is now on release. That’s right, Pirates of the Caribbean is back, and for the fifth time Johnny Depp is wearing Jack Sparrow’s tricorne. Star ahoy!

In the latest instalment, Dead Men Tell No Tales, our dreadlocked antihero is up against a ghoulish crew, commanded by a merciless captain who is determined to send every filibuster within cannon’s reach to a watery grave. The only way to stay afloat is to be in possession of the legendary Trident of Poseidon, and the ever intrepid Jack Sparrow is determined to get there first. Before setting sail for a new box-office blockbuster, and before his private life hit rough seas, the inked-up actor revealed he is an avid collector, with a treasure trove of ticking timepieces!

Not in it for the swag

I honestly didn’t think the franchise would go so far. After all, Pirates of the Caribbean could have sunk without a trace. When the Disney studios offered me the part of Jack Sparrow, I wasn’t thinking in box-office terms. It was my instinct that made me accept, not the prospect of a galleon filled with gold and precious stones. I’m not motivated by money, you know. I was simply curious. I’d always liked the idea of playing a highwayman of the seas. It was even a dream I’d had from being a kid. I can still see myself, burrowed under the bedcovers, listening to a cassette of Peter Ustinov in Blackbeard’s Ghost. The script was like the sound, not that great, but I didn’t care. I practically wore the tape out.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
Captain of his ship

I’ve always had a soft spot for people who don’t fit in, the ones who get pointed at. I’m always drawn to characters I can identify with. What’s the definition of normality anyway? I bet you can’t find one. At the end of the day, normality is completely subjective. I’m wary of anyone who says, hey, I’m just a normal guy. Once you start labelling yourself, it already means something isn’t right. Deep down, I’m like an old watch that refuses to be set to the right time. I like to go at my own pace, and not always in the same direction as everyone else.

His real treasure

My kids, of course. It’s thanks to them that I know what my life is about and where I need to take it. Apart from them, my other passion is collecting: silver spoons, crystal decanters, turn-of-the-century bottles, rare books, silverware, old pistols and paintings. And I love working on old motorbikes. I have a few, including several European ones: Triumph, Norton, Ducatti. I’ll admit to collecting more than a few speeding tickets when I was young, too! Apart from that, I have a huge admiration for ants and their hyper-evolved, hyper-organised societies. I also have a collection of old watches that I’ve picked up at flea markets around the world. Whenever I put one on, it reminds me of a trip or a particular event. My watches are a way for me to situate things in time, to remember a particular moment, or an encounter or a place. I don’t buy with my eyes closed. I like to be guided, and to be told about the watch’s past. Who did it belong to? A really good salesperson will take you on a journey. I’ve built up a great collection over the years. Very eclectic. Very international. Like me.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
On fame and fortune

A journalist once asked me how not to become totally pretentious when you’re a big name. I answered that a long time ago, I made a film with Hector Elizondo. Hector Elizondo was this fantastic actor, originally a stage actor, who’d been working in Hollywood for billions of years. So one evening, this gentleman comes over and starts talking to me about money. And back then, money was sorely lacking, so you can imagine I sat up and listened. At one point I asked if having a lot of money had made him a radically different person. How had he managed to say so ordinary, so humble in his lifestyle and his relationships with other people. Basically, how not to become a complete jerk when everything you do is a success! He replied that a man doesn’t become someone else, just because he has a $100,000 watch on his wrist. On the contrary, the more you want to stay in the spotlight, the more likely you are to show your true colours. In a word, you can be stinking rich or dirt poor, if you were obnoxious to begin with, there’s not much chance you’ll change!

It's not because someone wears a gold watch that they're rolling in cash. It could be the only one they own.
Johnny Depp

Money reveals your shortcomings and can even accentuate them. For me, true class is not making a show of your wealth. Watches are a perfect example. A watch, in the collective psyche, is a status symbol. It can even be the first thing a person buys when they want others to understand who they are. But appearances can be deceptive. It’s not because someone wears a gold watch that they’re rolling in cash. It could be the only one they own. And maybe they got into debt for thirty years to pay for it!

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
Captain Johnny's style

I don’t have a problem with how I look. My kids have always seen me dressed that way. They’re used to it. In fact if I came home wearing a black suit and a polka dot tie, I think they’d be totally confused. Not that there is much chance of that happening. I’ve always thought of a suit as the parvenu’s uniform. My wardrobe is never anything but a complete and utter mess. I’ve never known how to match an outfit. I go into my wardrobe, grab some clothes and put them on. It’s that simple. So when I read that I’m supposed to have started the grunge movement, believe me I have to smile. I haven’t the faintest idea of what’s fashionable or on-trend. I’m far more interested in vintage clothes and watches. The problem with vintage watches is that there are millions on the market. Choosing one isn’t easy. There’s something for every price range, from every horizon. I have a few old watches at home from the USSR, France, England, Italy and America. Most date from the 1950s and 60s. I also own some early twentieth-century pocket watches. They’re not that rare, you can still pick them up from antique dealers in Europe. What I most like about this type of watch is having to open the cover to see the dial. And I enjoy fastening them to the inside pocket of my jacket. I like having to dip into my pocket to take out my watch.

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