Tag Heuer chief executive officer Frédéric Arnault expressed his admiration for the actor, describing him as “true artist” who “dedicates himself to [his projects] like no other, not only shaping his character but the entire creative direction” and lauding his “sense of detail in every image. His every shot is full of symbols, to a point where each one almost feels like arthouse cinema. Even when he doesn’t have much dialogue, [Gosling] expresses something very strong.”
As for Gosling, it’s the fact that the brand has “quietly and consistently been a pillar of excellence in their field for the last 160 years” that whetted his interest, the actor told WWD in a phone interview.
To those who have followed Gosling’s style as much as his career since he made an impression with early roles in “The Believer” or “Half Nelson,” timepieces — vintage ones in particular — are always a notable element of his outfits, on and off-screen.
“For a long time, I was just responding to the aesthetic design [of watches],” he recalled. It wasn’t until a visit to NASA while preparing for his portrayal of astronaut Neil Armstrong in the 2018 biopic “First Man” that he started to appreciate the mechanical artistry involved in timepieces, and learned of Tag Heuer’s involvement in the space race — John Glenn had used a Heuer 2915A stopwatch during his three orbits around the world in 1962.
And it wasn’t until the prop department started to ask him what kind of watches his character wore that he started to consider his choices. “It’s when I started working that I started thinking about watches in a way I never had before…I tried to use them to communicate something that may not be obvious or in the script,” he said.
New York-based photographer Pari Dukovic, who shot the campaign, said that Gosling was deeply involved in the creative process. “[He] wanted to do something completely different. Color has emotion and it’s completely unexpected,” bringing a “timeless and timely” quality to the shots that nods to the visual universe of “Drive,” the 2011 action drama that put Gosling on the map with his role as a stuntman-turned-getaway driver.
Like Tag Heuer’s legendary 1960s CEO Jack Heuer, a grandson of the watchmaker’s founder Emile, who once fell from first to third place in a race due to an illegible dashboard timer, Gosling’s character did not trust the car’s built-in timepiece.
“With ‘Drive,’ I tried to find the most simple and legible watch I could find because I had this idea that the character might affix it to the steering wheel because he didn’t trust the legibility or accuracy of the clock in the car,” he remembered.
As a child, the actor “would watch people checking their watches and wonder what exciting things were going on in their lives,” he recalled.
Acquiring a timepiece felt like a rite of passage. “Nothing said ‘grown man with important things to do’ like a watch. I felt like life began by getting a watch. It’s one of the first things I bought with my own money — if I’m honest, it was a digital Casio with a Hulk logo on it,” he added.
His appreciation for older models came from “the idea that a vintage watch comes with this history, but it’s still perpetually present,” but also to a pragmatic outlook. “We grew up on a tight budget. Timeless things were helpful because you didn’t really have to try and keep up with trends. I think that’s spilled into my current aesthetic sensibilities and ultimately finds its way into the films I make,” he said.
Another rite of passage put watches at the top of Gosling’s mind: parenthood. “Time in general is just something I think more about now. I have two small kids, and they’re growing up fast. I don’t want to miss any of it so I keep my eye on the clock in a way I never used to,” he said.
His first campaign for the brand will feature the Tag Heuer Carrera Three Hands collection. Dukovic created the boldly toned images featuring the actor in a car and wearing the Tag Heuer Carrera Date 39 mm timekeeper, one of the 13 pieces reinterpreting this horological cornerstone of the brand.
Other Tag Heuer ambassadors include tennis star Naomi Osaka, rising track-and-field athlete Sydney McLaughlin and actor Patrick Dempsey.