Unpacking Jaeger-LeCoultre’s mysterious new film with British actor Nicholas HoultLuke Benedictus
News that Jaeger-LeCoultre have teamed with British actor Nicholas Hoult on “a new short film” is intriguing. After all, if a recipe is only as good as the quality of the ingredients, French director Théo Gottlieb has a couple of hand-picked treats straight from that over-priced deli that you only go to on really special occasions.
On the one hand there’s Jaeger-LeCoultre, the 188-year-old “watchmaker’s watchmaker” that this year celebrated the 90th birthday of their iconic Reverso. And then there’s Nicholas Hoult who, in my book at least, is one of Hollywood’s most consistently underrated actors. Rather than succumbing to the predictable “child-star-gone-bad” career trajectory, Hoult continues to make an astonishingly varied body of work.
Consider the evidence. As Marcus in About a Boy, he was the 11-year-old with the bowl hair who had us on edge with his Acapella rendition of Killing Me Softly. As a teen, he was the cocksure Tony in Skins, but managed not to get stuck doing interminable adolescent dramas. His breakout role was his brilliantly assured performance as skinny-dipping student Kenny in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. But in a dramatic tonal shift he was also Nux in the high-octane blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road (surely the best-ever film that’s basically just one very long car chase). He’s been a zombie in the surprisingly excellent Warm Bodies and a hairy blue mutant in X-Men: First Class. I could go on here, but you get the idea – Hoult is an actor with serious range. Plus he also used to date Jennifer Lawrence, too.
So he’s a pretty inspired actor for JLC to align with. Much like the brand themselves, Hoult might not be the biggest name of them all, but he’s a considered, knowing choice with a real depth of understated quality. At 31, he’s young enough to potentially attract a new audience to the brand, but old enough to be able to pull off a Reverso himself. Because Jaeger-LeCoultre isn’t the right watch for some callow youth. You need a bit of refinement and gravitas to wear a JLC – in fact, that’s probably they made their name a bit tricky to pronounce (let alone spell).
As a friend of the brand, Hoult wears their watches well, too. He’s been spotted on the odd red carpet wearing a Master Ultra Thin Perpetual Calendar and a Master Ultra Thin Moon. This is a guy who can exude the requisite level of classic style but not in a boring way.
So what about this new collaboration entitled: Turning Point? Well, billing it as a “short film” is admittedly a bit of a stretch given that it’s just 1.25 minutes long (on his website, the director tellingly lists it under his “commericals” section). On the positive side it’s beautifully shot with images of Hoult and his Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon inter-cut with stunning footage of the Vallée de Joux forests near JLC’s manufacture. On the negative side, well, there’s no getting away from the fact that, with all the dream-like footage and gnomic symbolism combined with portentous dialogue and a head-scratching “plot”, it does feel a bit like a fragrance advert.
Perfume is, I guess, a particularly intangible product to bring to life in visual form. That’s why the ads focus more on conjuring a specific emotion along with the brand evocation – invariably some combination of prestige, aspiration and sex. A watch is more of a concrete proposition, but JLC are more interested here in delivering the mood board of the Reverso’s essence rather than the product itself.
There is purportedly a narrative in Turning Point, too, but you’d need to use the press release as a crib sheet to figure it out. JLC explains:
“The narrative follows Nicholas through the process of an audition, contrasting moments of intense focus as he prepares to go onstage, with periods of calm reflection amid the forests of the Vallée de Joux. As the film moves between the two settings, the actor flips the Reverso Tribute Duoface Tourbillon on his wrist to reveal its second, contrasting face. The second time zone on the reverse side subtly underlines the sense of reaching a new point.
“These turning points are the essence of who we really are – the transcendent moments in our life’s journey that take us from where and what we are, to reveal what we can become. The moments when everything clicks beautifully into place – symbolised by the gentle and satisfying click of the Reverso as it locks into its new position.”
So you there you have it. It’s certainly not a bad advertisement for the Reverso by any means, just a little baffling. And presumably for a luxury watch brand, confusing is far better than seeming (horror of horrors) mass-market.