WE TAKE A DIVE WITH BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH IN THE NEW JAEGER-LECOULTRE POLARIS MARINER MEMOVOX
Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of stage, television, and film, has been featured in several star-making roles on British television, most notably, the series Sherlock, for which he won the Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. He is best known on this side of the pond as Dr. Strange, featuring appearances in a host of superhero films set in the very popular Marvel cinematic universe, as well as his Academy Award-nominated turn as Alan Turing in the acclaimed The Imitation Game. Akin to his numerous roles, Cumberbatch is a somewhat mysterious character himself, thoughtful, speaking in measured statements, this is not a man prone to hyperbole. A cerebral actor who takes his craft very seriously, he has been compared to other famous British thespians such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Alec Guinness, whose approach to work was as uncompromising as their characters.
What is the connection between diving, meditation, and acting?
As you can probably imagine, working on a film can be a chaotic experience. There is a lot of noise and movement. So, for me, it’s a way to slow down and focus. It’s not so much as having a favorite mantra but concentrating on breathing and awareness to just still the mind. I do a little bit of yoga as well. If I’ve had a rough night or interrupted sleep, I try to meditate in the morning as part of my daily routine. A busy day implies an active mind. When things are getting frantic, and you’re just not connecting with people or the issues you’re trying to tackle with, by just being able to remove yourself for a bit, it’s just wonderful. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, sometimes only five or ten minutes will do. A little goes a long way, and when it’s perfect, it’s one of those weird things where it can feel like half an hour because of how focused you are, slowing your breath and your heart rate down, and I believe in those moments. You do gain more time. Diving is alongside the same lines, there is peacefulness one finds while submerged under water, there is a meditational element to it; you need to control your breathing and allow the environment to be a part of you. It also has a very low impact on the environment, which is very important to me. It’s an extraordinary feeling to be that immersed in an activity. You have to be very present while diving, and I find the parallel with acting to be relevant.
In the days of digital phones and devices, is it still essential for a gentleman to wear a watch?
I have to say that I’m not wild about carrying a phone in the first place. There is so much information at everyone’s fingertips, and it’s a bit about being busy. I love wearing a watch for the utility of it, much less as a fashion statement. Don’t get me wrong, I love to wear elegant timepieces that are well designed and engineered, but ultimately, it’s about practicality. I want to be able to glance at my wrist and know what time it is without having to reach out for my phone.
What are the must-haves when you select a watch?
I wear different watches for different occasions. It’s a bit different wearing something at a red-carpet event than while diving. As I’ve mentioned previously, I select my watches based on the activity I am doing at the moment. When I dive, which is chronicled in the film we did with Jaeger-LeCoultre, I count on the watch to perform. More than anything, I love something that is crafted with the highest level of skill. I was fortunate to witness some of the artisans at Jaeger-LeCoultre, and I was blown away at how skilled these people are. From the smallest (and I mean tiny) detail, to the artistry taking place, all designed to create timepieces that are both beautiful and precise. It’s just extraordinary to see the connection between the human eye and hand coordination. Whether it’s an engraving or a complication or painting or a piece of assembly, it feels like I’m seeing blood flow, veins, and nervous system in its totality. It looked alive and organic. It is truly astonishing. Lastly, I think about the brand’s heritage, which is over 200 years in the making, I can certainly appreciate all it takes to get this accomplished, and it is so inspiring.
What are your favorite features about the Polaris Mariner Memovox?
Considering it is a watch created specifically with diving in mind, it has vital features. It’s incredibly luminescent underwater, which allows you to read the dial in terrible conditions. I also love the fact knowing that it’s got some weight to it. It can carry itself. It’s responsible, and it’s not going to crack, leak or steam. It’s made with the highest specifications and unified standards, which means that you can rest assured that you’re wearing something reliable. It’s so slight and elegant for a diving watch. I don’t have a huge wrist, but I am not too fond of watches that scream out even if I did. It doesn’t feel like a diver’s watch, and yet, it works perfectly in the water as it should with a wet suit.
What have you learned about watchmaking during this relationship with Jaeger-LeCoultre? Has something surprised you?
I mean, it’s so dependent on people. Just like a skilled surgeon with a scalpel, the artisans working on those watches may be in their thirtieth year of watchmaking. It’s a generational endeavor. You will see craftsmen who might just be starting while in their twenties who will continue to hone their craft well until their sixties. I was so surprised at the amount of time and energy it takes to put one piece together, from the initial design to the final production, not to mention all the testing and research. It truly is extraordinary.
Do you identify with those values as an actor?
I want to think I do. I believe that all watches point to a specific thing, which is time. Time is incredibly precious to me. I also feel that watches communicate precision and reliability, which I try to convey in my work as an actor. During the making of a film or television project, you have only a certain amount of time to get things right. There’s no limitless pot of money equaling time in the film world; if anything, it is increasingly less. So, even with big-budget films like those from Marvel, a particular scene’s success or failure comes with critical and tiny moments of decision or indecision to make a scene work or sink. Yes, time is essential.
What is the once-in-a-lifetime adventure a man must undertake in his lifetime?
I don’t know that I can speak for all men, but for me, a great diving expedition is at the top of my list. Trying to find the best location to feature In A Breath, (the film introducing the new Polaris Mariner Memovox,) we went to New Zealand, to a remote island right off Auckland (on New Zealand’s North Coast), and it is simply stunning. The water feels just like a warm bath (akin to swimming in the English Channel, which I do a lot of). It was beautiful and sort of memorable for two reasons. The island itself is a very particular community of people because there’s no infrastructure, and there is a specific type of person that lives there year-round. It’s also a place of great abundance and wealth (the right kind) and an inspiring place to be overall. Another excellent location for diving (regardless of any geopolitics concerns) is Cuba’s northwestern-most point, which is incredible and brilliant.
It is pretty obvious is that Cumberbatch has all the attributes anyone would want in a gentleman. He is a lover of fine things, a student of his craft, curious about the role men play in our society, and most of all, he is dedicated to leaving a positive legacy through his work and actions. A Nobleman indeed.
WORDS BY YVES LE SIEUR