El señor greets us in the lavish surroundings of the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel with all the laidback simplicity of an old amigo inviting us to share a plate of paella back at the casa. But we’re not here to talk food with Antonio Banderas. We want him to dish the news on his love of watches!
Actually, no, although a lot of people think that. The role has been hovering in the background for years but I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid it. In fact it was the first part I ever turned down, back in my twenties. And again a dozen or so years later. A script did come along about Picasso’s life that caught my attention, but this time the production company went bust! [laughs]. Then I got a call from Ron Howard and Ken Biller about a ten-episode miniseries they were planning for National Geographic. Quality like that, you can’t refuse.
For me, the definition of a genius is simple. It’s someone who has managed to break free of certain rules and conventions. Someone who is able to think beyond the here and now. Having said that, a genius isn’t necessarily perfect. They’re human beings who can also make mistakes, the difference being they’re maybe more able to learn from them, particularly in their daily lives and how they behave in relation to others. Picasso was a complex individual who lived for his art. The only thing he respected, ultimately, were his paintings. I think Pablo’s true genius was to be ahead of his time.
Without a doubt! You need a good brain to create such complex micro-mechanisms. The thing that never fails to impress me about watchmaking is its capacity to constantly come up with new ideas. There are the classics that never change, of course, but alongside them are the watches that keep pace with trends, fashions and what people want. Preferably worldwide. I’m blown away when I see a particular watch flying off retailers’ shelves in all four corners of the globe. Every culture is different after all, but for some strange reason certain watches are able to go beyond borders and reach all kinds of people. The minute they see them, they want them, as though there were some irresistible force, like a magnet…
It depends. Some people are prepared to pay the price of a small apartment for a watch. It’s like a grail for them, the object of their devotion, and if they have to bleed themselves dry to own it, then they will. Others are more interested in showing they’re part of an elite and like to wear their success on their wrist. Then there are the collectors who love watches for their technology and their mechanisms, for their beauty and design. Ask them the time and be prepared for a lecture on functions and complications! They don’t look at the dial or the hands. It’s what’s inside that counts. Like car-racing fans, they’re more interested in what’s under the hood! [laughs]
Today it’s more likely to be on impulse, but I remember arriving in Madrid to start my stage career with 15,000 pesetas in my pocket. Not even enough to put some chorizo in my salad! I think I owned a not very glamorous digital watch. You know, the kind that beeps every time you press a button. [laughs]
I’m not the kind to splash out half a million bucks just for the sake of it. I actually have pretty simple tastes although I admit that a good watch always makes a great gift. But would I spend a fortune on one, I doubt it very much. I have several watches at home, mainly by Viceroy [he is an ambassador for the brand]. I choose my watch to suit my mood and my clothes. Or what I’ll be doing during the day.
Design is important. Reliability too. It’s really a whole. You either fall in love with a watch or you don’t, it’s as simple as that!
I did have two, but I had to give one to Melanie Griffith when we divorced. I regret it now. I wish I’d tried to come to a different arrangement. If I had big money, I’d buy The Kiss for its blaze of colour, the Portrait of Dora Maar or Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which I believe changed painting for ever.