It was while playing the lead character in the film Doctor Strange that Benedict Cumberbatch rekindled his love for watches. In the film, the title character is a watch collector who holds on to a broken watch because it bears the inscription “Time will tell how much I love you.” It was something that resonated with the actor and as a result, there was probably little surprise when Cumberbatch was named as brand ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre.
“Watches are a key character prop in my role as Dr Strange,” says the critically acclaimed actor. “So when the time came for me to choose one it had to fit a man of status. The Jaeger-LeCoultre watch spoke to me about classic elegance, but what really captured my imagination was this idea that the watch was given to him by someone who he loved – it came from the heart of someone who knew his tastes, making it more than just an object of status.”
In the movie, Dr Strange wears a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, a gift from Christine (played by Rachel McAdams), his beloved. The watch is later smashed resulting in the entire concept of time being transformed, stretched, multiplied and magnified. The watch, though cracked is enduring as it remains with him forever. The idea of keeping a watch for sentimental reasons is something that Cumberbatch could identify with.
“I do have an eye for watches,” he says. “Not in an obsessive sense. I just like what I see when I see it, and I love the idea of timepieces existing after the immediate function of just telling time – being artefacts and heirlooms, a special weight that the luxury end of watches is carrying.”
As brand ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cumberbatch now sports the Polaris on his wrist. “Jaeger-LeCoultre’s newest watch fits right into my daily routine. It’s both hardy and glamorous,” he says. “I can wear it washing the dishes, walking in the woods or just as easily with a smarter look on the red carpet.”
The versatility of the timepiece was captured on camera by Steve Schofield who perfectly captures the stoic charm of the actor. From a midnight blue two-piece evening suit, to more casual combinations of wool and fleece, and even when paired with a denim shirt, the Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris remains an apt accompaniment to the Cumberbatch classic yet contemporary appeal.
The Polaris takes inspiration from the illustrious history of Jaeger-LeCoultre and Memovox Polaris watch from 1968 but remains as relevant today as it did 50 years ago. 2018 has been deemed as being the year of the Polaris and the choice of Cumberbatch as the face of the Maison proved to be a fitting one given that both have a strong commitment to artistry.
“Being a great watchmaking enthusiast, I am delighted to be associated with such an outstanding watch manufacture as Jaeger-LeCoultre,” he said in January when his association with the brand was announced. In a statement, Jaeger-LeCoultre said Cumberbatch, “embodies the elegant and active man of today with his integrity as an actor, a family man and someone who dedicates himself with energy to charitable endeavours.”
The actor also had the opportunity to visit the manufacture where he got an in-depth look at the craftsmanship of the watchmaker.
“When I visited the manufacture in Switzerland what made the biggest impression on me was the legacy of skills from craftsmen who have worked there all their lives. I couldn’t believe the sheer dexterity of manual work going on there that I had assumed was done by a machine or computer. It was astounding to watch the enamel work on the back of a Reverso. Learning how mechanisms work, seeing their complexity up-close and watching the Sphéro-tourbillon being assembled was really, really fascinating. My absolute highlight was meeting the people who make the Jaeger-LeCoultre watches and seeing them at work.”
Cumberbatch received numerous nominations for his portrayal as the mathematician Alan Turing in the critically acclaimed The Imitation Game. He also appeared in The Fifth Estate and Twelve Years A Slave. He also received a BAFTA nomination for his role as Richard III in BBC’s The Hollow Crown. Cumberbatch is also an accomplished stage performer having appeared in Hamlet and Frankenstein. In 2015, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Photography by Steve Schofield