Through a short movie made in collaboration with actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Jaeger-LeCoultre debuts its new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox diving watches
Set against the breathtaking beauty of Rakino Island, New Zealand, In A Breath takes viewers on a soothing journey into the mind of A-list actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who draws a parallel between meditation and diving — the magic of the relationship between breath and time.
The powerful film depicts how when one is in the water, external distractions disappear; divers feel suspended in space and lose all sense of the temporal world. As they focus entirely on the moment and the world that surrounds them, the only measure of time is their own breathing and the watches on their wrists.
As a long-time practitioner of meditation, the British actor says that meditation gives him a sense of serenity, connection and being alive. “When you reconnect with what’s really going on in your inner life, when you are in a still space... you distance yourself from the distracting traffic of life... When you sit in that, you have a very clear focus [on the present] and that’s what you’re aiming for in the flow state of any performance — whether it is athletic or acting or a moment of creation or artistry. You want to be in the flow, disconnect- ed and connected at the same time,” he describes.
The star of films such as Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War and The Grinch reveals how timepieces, diving and meditation find a peaceful middle ground. Here are excerpts of an interview Cumberbatch gave to Jaeger-Le- Coultre and shared with Options.
What was the impetus for In A Breath and how did your relationship with Jaeger-LeCoultre begin?
The impetus for In A Breath was the idea of what ‘time’ means in a context where things are slowing down. This film happened right at the beginning of Covid-19 and we didn’t even know when the film would be released and the appropriateness of that. Jaeger-Le- Coultre and I discussed it as a team, as we always do with these interactions, and we all felt strongly that it should be focused around something that is to do with time but also personal to me.
I said, well, diving is a very interesting use of time because of course it involves a fixed amount of time underwater, it still obeys the same rules as time does in general — in our universe, not necessarily the Marvel universe — but, seriously, it is a fixed period of time and within the diving experience, something odd shifts and you move into a way of experiencing time that makes it stretch; somehow it feels longer, it’s bizarre and obviously you need to check your watch in order to know how much longer the dive is going to be. I was talking to them about this as an idea and they went ‘Great! Fantastic!’ and it was set up.
I was in the middle of filming with Jane Campion doing a fantastic film called The Power Of The Dog in New Zealand and we had to work [on this] in a break in my schedule from that. I think it’s alright for me to admit that there was a slight bit of miscommunication in that my initial suggestion of ‘diving’ was translated as ‘free-diving’, and I had meant scuba diving but the set-up was constructed around me doing free-diving. I just said, ‘Well great, I’ve never done that before.’ Jaeger-LeCoultre said, ‘but you DO like diving?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, I like scuba diving.’ So, it ended with me learning how to free-dive.
I already had some idea about how to do it, as I’ve got a couple of friends who free-dive and I have in the past watched people doing it. I am also a big fan of Wim Hof’s breathing technique, which is all about increasing your oxygen capacity for holding your breath, which is, of course, a key element of free-diving. I had a safety instructor to guide me through it on the day [of filming], so all of those things helped and I found I absolutely loved it. It’s such a wonderful, focused, isolating and time-slowing experience and obviously truly immersive. I love to be lost in nature and (on a dive) it’s just you, your breath and a few weights; you feel very at one with your body in a very natural way.
You first became properly acquainted with Jaeger-LeCoultre during your time filming Doctor Strange, correct? Which new aspects about Jaeger-LeCoultre did you learn?
I wanted to know more about the piece I was wearing in the Doctor Strange film, as, for me, the watch became an incredibly resonant object. For me as an actor playing the role with it, what it became was a moment of frozen time. A moment of time I’ll never go back to. A relationship to do with the personalisation of the watch with an engraving on the back. It carried history with it, as a lot of luxury watches do. They become beautiful things to inherit and keep for a lifetime. At the time when I was approached (by Jaeger-LeCoultre) it didn’t mean anything beyond that, so I asked if I could come and see them and see how the watches are made and the Jaeger-LeCoultre ethos, how their people create these beautiful things that I’m wearing. I wanted to understand them.
So I went to the manufacture and completely fell in love with the company and its process. The breadth of history within that institution, how the watches came into being, the personal relationships that led to the first watches and how the company has expanded into something huge yet remain incredibly intimate in the setting of the manufacture.
I watched someone recreate Seurat’s The Bathers on the back of a Reverso — which is the size of a postage stamp — and you realise the artistry, craftsmanship and the level of ability that the men and women in the manufacture have. It’s just phenomenal. From the assem- bly and checking the mechanism, to the enamelling and engraving and the per- sonalising of watches. Yes, it is all aided by precision computer technology and machines, but at the end of the day, it’s all done with a human touch, and it personalised the experience for me and what the watches and brand meant to me. I knew I was getting behind a brand that supports craftspeople and their traditions and that’s a good thing in a world that is becoming increasingly digitalised, automated and dehumanised.
From your visit to the manufacture of Jaeger-LeCoultre, what are some discoveries about watchmaking that impressed or surprised you?
There was a sense of ‘a job for life’ at the manufacture. I met craftsmen and women who had worked there for an entire lifetime and some who had only joined recently. To see that continuation was very impressive and
it surprised me, the fact that it’s the same people behind the watches over a long period of time personalises the experience even more.
What do you seek in a watch?
Understated, elegance and pragmatism: that’s what I seek in a watch. Something reliable and good to look at but nothing that shrieks ‘look at my watch’. When I was younger, watches were a little bit like sunglasses, they would get lost. What I value about my Memovox is that it I have held onto it for a long time and I want topassiton—Iwantittocontinuein my life and my family’s life.
Precision and reliability are two of the main values of a brand such as Jaeger-LeCoultre. Do you identify with these values as an actor? Precision is so important, you only have a certain amount of time to get things right. People think ‘oh you can just do another take’ but no, you can’t — there is not a limitless pot of money equalling time in the film world and increasingly less so. And even with the big players like Marvel — all that work and time and money and effort comes down to a critical moment to make a scene sing or sink. So, precision is really important, but within that you need to also be artistic and loose, and dance with the scene — so it’s a balance. There are definite parallels.
Do you draw any parallels between your love for acting and watchmaking?
I suppose so, without sounding like I’m in ‘pseudo corner’ (as we call it in the UK) — it takes time, it takes a long time
to make a few seconds’ worth of film, to rehearse a play and do background research on any kind of engagement to do with acting. There is artistry in both, there’s artistry in acting and there’s a huge amount of artistry in making a watch, but I think there’s also a large amount of technical ability — whether that’s hit- ting your mark or timing a comedic beat or a piece of action to a camera move — there is a sort of precision to the dance of what we do in a physical space that we perform in. It is not obviously down to the sort of scientific precision of watchmaking; there is definitely room to be a little more messy and free.
Having attended a private watchmaking masterclass and visited the Manufacture, would you ever consider becoming a watchmaker yourself?
Absolutely not! I couldn’t pretend to — well, actually that is exactly what I could do, I could pretend to be a watchmaker — but with a lot of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s help! But, would l like to have a go — of course, I would love to try and paint a miniature Lucien Freud onto the back of a Reverso, absolutely I’d love to have a go. But I think it might cost them a little bit in time and money should I get involved...
Jaeger-LeCoultre introduces the Polaris collection
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner presents two new models that unite fully ISO 6425-com- pliant specifications: the Jae- ger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner
Memovox and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Date. Benedict Cumberbatch has this to say about the two watches:
You were diving with the new Polaris Mariner Memovox: what features and functions do you like the most and find to be the most impressive?
[One feature is] the safety gauge on the central bevel that means you cannot overestimate the time [left in a dive]; you can only underestimate the time should the worse happen and it comes loose — in my hands it’s pretty difficult to make that happen but you can touch against things or hit it on a diving belt — but it’s preventable in terms of giving you a false sense of security as to how much time you have in a scuba dive.
It has the latest illumination on the hands, so you can see very clearly where the second, minute and hour hands are, so it’s very easy to navigate when you’re deep in the dark of the water when you’re diving.
It’s light, it’s incredibly durable and I love the feature where it’s designed such that you can see the mechanism at the back. It’s the geek in me — I love to see the organic mechanisms that they manage to produce in these watches. Although it obviously doesn’t have a tourbillon, it’s still a mightily impressive bit of engineering and it’s incredibly sleek for a diving watch. It doesn’t feel overbearing on a wrist if you’re wearing it casually as well as for its purpose: diving. It’s a beautiful object, a classic look, timeless.
What are some specific details that you admire about the new Polaris Mariner?
I think it’s a very elegant timepiece; with the classic link chain, it’s not overstated as a dive watch. It is slight for a diving watch, which I really like, and it’s a very stylish thing — I can just wear it at home with a jumper as well as with a wetsuit. The watch face is easy to read underwater in the dark, thanks to its high luminosity hands and the differentiation between the size and shapes of the hands.
One of the most important things about a diving watch is obviously its safety and how secure it is to rely on at depth. It functions at a 300-metre depth — well beyond most recreational and commercial dives. It has a lock on the central crown — on the bezel so that if by accident it did come out or it did get knocked — anything can happen on a dive — it will only give you the impression that you have less air rather than more. So, you’ll surface with air to spare rather than the other way around. And it’s a beautiful, classic timepiece. I like that you can actually see the mechanism at the back through the glass — which is quite rare in a dive watch and it must have taken a lot of effort to have something that is resistant to that much pressure and that much depth still visible with the transparent face on that back.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Date
Dimensions: 42mm x 13.92mm
Calibre: Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 899
Functions: Hours/minutes/seconds, date, unidirectional rotating inner bezel
Power reserve: 70 hours
Case and Bracelet: Stainless steel
Dial: Gradient blue dial, sunrayed, grained and opaline finish
Water resistance: 30 bar Reference: Q9068180
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox
Dimensions: 42mm x 15.63mm
Calibre: Automatic mechanical movement,
Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 956
Functions: Hours/minutes/seconds, date, alarm, unidirectional rotating inner bezel
Power reserve: 45 hours
Case and Bracelet: Stainless steel
Dial: Gradient blue dial, sunrayed, grained and opaline finishes
Water resistance: 30 bar