Let’s take a leaf out of Harvey Specter’s playbook and get straight to the point in under six billable minutes. The brand new season of Suits premieres just a couple of hours from now, and Gabriel Macht, the Miami-based actor whose life and career has been transformed by his character in the hit legal drama, has never done an interview specifically on the subject of watches.
He has never been asked if the Patek Philippe 5004P he wore in Season 1 is real. He has never talked about his own idiosyncratic, sentimental collection. And he has never before confessed just how “sub-par” his gifting has been to fellow actors over the years. This is best illustrated by an anecdote in this story featuring Scarlett Johannson, a lovely vintage pocket watch and a disappointing scented candle.
But this is all about to change.
I interviewed Gabriel, live on stage in Melbourne a couple of years ago and it’s fair to say we hit it off. If a man could be better in the flesh than Specter on screen, somehow Macht achieves it. The charisma. The warmth. The smile. Sigh. So, when I got in touch to see if he’d be up for round two, with a watch flavour, before I could say ‘silk-wool blend’ (Harvey’s daily suiting choice), we were chatting on Voxer, him from the set of Suits in Toronto, me in Sydney. Here’s what happened.
T+T: Firstly, what are you up to right now?
GM: Well, I’ve just done a 15 hour day on set, and I’m fried. Sorry about my voice – you can probably hear I’m losing it.
T+T: And you’re talking to us? Ridiculous! In which case, let’s get to it. Tell me about your watch collection.
GM: Nine years ago, we bought my father-in-law a Breitling Superocean, and it was the first watch he’d had that was a real luxury watch. Then when he passed, he left it to me. It’s a cherished memory, and for the past seven years I’ve hardly taken it off. It’s probably my most prized and dearest possession.
T+T: How did you choose it for him?
GM: He was a watch guy, and he probably had 150 watches – but all lower-end ones – and he loved tooling around with them. He’d open them up and put them back together. He also had grandfather clocks that he liked to work on. He always wanted one of those top-shelf watches, and Breitling was one he felt he could never afford. He was salt of the earth, a fire fighter for 33 years. Such a solid guy with amazing strength, in every way. He came from nothing and built a little empire, he and his wife. So that was a gift from Jacinda and I for his 70th birthday. And he completely broke down, it was so meaningful to him. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I don’t want to be sappy about it, but it really is an emotional connection that I still have with him.
…that was a gift from Jacinda and I for his 70th birthday. And he completely broke down, it was so meaningful to him. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I don’t want to be sappy about it, but it really is an emotional connection that I still have with him.
T+T: That’s beautiful. So, your watch was originally bought for a much older man. Does it suit you both?
GM: I think it does suit us both. It’s strong, it’s bold but it’s not in your face. I like the black face. It’s got a nice weight to it. It just feels right. I also have an old 1970s Omega, which was another of my father-in-law’s watches, which he gave to me. It was a surprise. Jerry was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back.
T+T: What do you know about the Omega?
GM: The only thing I know is that it was from the early ’70s, which is when I was born, so I kind of like that we’re around the same age. It’s totally classy. It’s got a romantic vintage feel. And I like that Bond wears Omega. But I haven’t worn it in years because I tend to wear the Breitling. Part of that reason is because it allows me to feel close to him. He died almost eight years ago. I feel his presence. It’s very close to my heart.
T+T: What a lovely story. It’s going to be hard to beat that. But what else do you have in your collection?
I also have a pocket watch that Scarlett Johansson gave me as a set gift for the film A Love Song for Bobby Long.
T+T: Are set gifts a common occurrence?
GM: Yes and no. It depends on the person. I think I gave her something like a scented candle – so definitely sub-par compared to her gift to me. And I felt terrible! I’m the worst gift giver. Daniel Craig gave Jacinda and I a mix tape for our wedding, and to this day I feel guilty about the gift I gave him. We worked on a film called Archangel and I was reading a book about Stalin for research on the era – and I gave him that because my suitcase was too heavy to bring back to the states.
T+T: Wow. You really are bad at gifts – well, apart from Jerry’s Breitling. So, how did you get into watches?
GM: My first watch when I was a young kid was a Goofy watch – one of those cheapies you can buy on the street. You know – they’re rubber and they usually break within a day or two. That’s the oldest recollection I have. The next one I remember was in about fourth grade, I had a Casio calculator watch. My buddies and I would play stopwatch baseball. I know they don’t really play baseball in Australia, so probably none of this will make sense, but you’d press start and then stop it, and you as the batter would hope to land on 1:00 or 1:01, which would signify a home run. If you got a 1:02 to a 1:05, that signified a triple, and so on. Then you’d just have to remember who was on base.
T+T: Yep, we have no idea what any of that means. But keep going with your watch history.
GM: Then I had my bar mitzvah in the mid-80s and everyone bought me Swatch watches. No joke – I think I got 13 Swatches of the same kind – the cool one at the time, which was the clear one, so you could see what was inside. I remember sitting around with my family opening presents and giving them away to my cousins – because what was I going to do with 13 watches? In my early twenties I got a Seiko with a blue face. Then it wasn’t until my early thirties that I got the Omega that Jerry gave to me. I also have an Apple Watch. I wear it a little bit here and there.
No joke – I think I got 13 Swatches of the same kind – the cool one at the time, which was the clear one, so you could see what was inside.
T+T: All your watches seem to have a story to them. Is that important to you?
GM: I think what attaches me to watches is that there’s some connection – even the Swatch watches that make me think of my buddies, and girls I went to school with. Or the Omega and the Breitling with my father in law. I haven’t carried round my pocket watch, but there’s a story to that, about the history of the film and that time in my life. If a new watch came into my life, I can see how new stories would attach themselves to it from there.
If a new watch came into my life, I can see how new stories would attach themselves to it from there.
T+T: Is there a dream watch you’d love to own?
GM: Honestly, I think it’s this Breitling – I’m the keeper for the long haul. So no, I don’t have a dream watch because it’s already there.
T+T: Speaking of dream watches, we’re dying to ask you about Harvey Specter’s Patek Philippe 5004P…
GM: You’re gonna hate me, but I think Harvey only wore a watch once, about five seasons ago, probably in season one. And the reason we have not put Harvey in a watch since then is because the suits look better without. As great as the show is, it really doesn’t lend itself to detail. Other than some necklaces you might see Jessica wear, you don’t see any jewellery. When I directed episode 4:11, I had Louis wear some wolf cufflinks, and I don’t even know if it made the final cut. So, Harvey does not wear a watch for that reason. With all the changes that we go through in a day – I change probably five suits a day – it became too much without enough success of getting those shots in. I hope you don’t kill me – but Harvey doesn’t wear a watch anymore.
…the reason we have not put Harvey in a watch since then is because the suits look better without.
T+T: Was it real or a fake – like all the Pateks Ryan Gosling wore in Drive?
GM: I don’t know. Unlike the wardrobe department, the prop department never had a big budget. I’d be surprised if they had that sort of money.
GM: The 5004P seemed like the perfect choice for someone like Harvey. He’s successful, sharply-dressed in his Tom Ford suits and a baller with no budget – it adds up to a Split Seconds Chronograph Perpetual Calendar, doesn’t it?
GM: Yes, it’s a good choice for Harvey because his dress and presentation is quite aware of itself. I could see a Patek being part of his arsenal to put someone off guard. But you know what: as it stands now in Season 6, the stakes have risen so high that getting Mike out of prison far supersedes Harvey’s ‘dress to impress’ motto.
…in Season 6, the stakes have risen so high that getting Mike out of prison far supersedes Harvey’s ‘dress to impress’ motto.
T+T: What other watches have you worn on film.
GM: When I was in Behind Enemy Lines – a film I did with Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman, I wore a G-Shock, and I also had one of those in The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino. I took that one from production. I had that for many years, and somehow the band broke, but I think I still have it somewhere.
T+T: A lame gift giver AND a thief. And we thought you were so nice. So, all of these watches – will you pass them on to your kids one day?
GM: I absolutely will pass my watches onto my boy, Luca. If he wants to wear them, great. If he just wants to keep them as a memento of me, I’m fine with that too. And if he turns out not to be a watch guy, that’s alright. I’ll support him either way! And my daughter will get all of my wife’s beautiful jewellery.
T+T: Do you think watches will still be around when they’re grown up?
GM: This is gonna sound cliche, but mechanical watches are absolutely timeless. It’s an art. On every level – luxury watches definitely provide a professional looking piece where you can tell the time, but more than that, they’re beautifully crafted and a lot of time and focus goes into building these objects. I’m blown away by that. Some of these companies have been going strong for hundreds of years, and I absolutely think they’ll be a part of our future. It’s funny – I’m directing an episode of Suits right now, episode 6:08, and the title as it stands is ‘Borrowed Time’. It signifies that we’re all running against the clock, the stakes are super-high, and if there’s any way to get out of the mess we’re in, we all have to run-and-gun-it to make it happen. It’s symbolic that I’m doing this interview with you while I’m directing this. And it’s thrilling. We’ll see if you spot any of the subtleties of the time motif in the piece, once you see it.
T+T: How much longer are you filming?
GM: We shoot the first 10 episodes till August – then we take a break and get back into it in September, until November. We’re shooting 16 episodes in total this season.
T+T: So, you haven’t finished making season six, and you’re going to air?
GM: Correct – we air this week and it’s fast tracked to many countries. But yeah, I think maybe just the first three episodes are cut and edited and ready to go, and we’re still working on the rest. But they’ll be ready in time!