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James Marsden On His New IWC Film and the Watch That Got Away

And how the Swiss watchmaker turned him into a collector.

James Marsden in IWC's "Born of a Dream" Courtesy of IWC

NFL pro-footballer Tom Brady and James Marsden are starring in IWC’s new short film Born of a Dream, which unlike other marketing films, has a production quality and two separate plot lines that could each be a feature film in their own right. But what’s genuinely striking is the fact that both Brady and Marsden discovered a love for watch collecting long before becoming officially affiliated with the brand. Brady’s first big watch purchase was an IWC GST Alarm from Tourneau back in 2002, when he had made it into the big leagues and Marsden became a true watch aficionado thanks to an IWC Automatic Portuguese his stylist, Ilaria Urbanti, recommended for a red carpet event.

Now the two IWC fans are linking up for Born of a Dream to highlight Brady’s early career in football in a storyline that finds parallels with the story of Florentine Ariosto Jones, who founded in the late 19th century.  We caught up with Brady last month to find out what it was like looking back on his career recreated on film. Earlier this month, we sat down with Marsden, who is no stranger to the big screen, to find out how the brand turned him into a bonafide horological scholar.

Marsden’s earliest memory of a treasured watch began with a Rolex Submariner his father gifted him to celebrate his success in the film industry. He says he knew it was special, but didn’t know much about its history at the time.

“We were shooting X-Men II at the time and staying way out in the middle of nowhere at this tiny little motel,” says Marsden. “One morning my alarm didn’t go off and I was late to the set so I was rushing to get ready and I left the watch on a side table of the hotel and when I came back it was gone.” And while he vowed to get another one, it wouldn’t be until later at a red carpet appearance that a watch would ignite his passion for collecting.

James Marsden, IWC Portuguese

James Marsden, IWC Portuguese Automatic  Dan MacMedan

After Urbanati put the finishing touches on his tux with an IWC Portuguese, Marsden says he became obsessed with knowing everything about it, from what made it an automatic to the intricacies of the movement that made it tick. “When I’m not acting or I’m not parenting, I’m an extreme hobbyist. I love learning about things and collecting. I love car racing. I love guitars. I love photography. When I get into something, I have to really immerse myself in it and know everything about it.” He began studying up on the world of watchmaking, learning how all of the gears work together when the watch moves on the wrist to researching IWC’s famed movement designer Kurt Klaus.

“I remember going to an SIHH [the Swiss trade show Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, now known as Watches & Wonders] event with IWC, because they were kind enough to invite me and I don’t think they anticipated it, but I sat and talked watch nerd talk with the designer and he was so surprised and blown away by my knowledge of each watch in their line,” says Marsden. “It was evident to them that I had a real passion for it and I think that galvanized the relationship. We’ve felt like family ever since.”

James Marsden in IWC's "Born of a Dream"

James Marsden in IWC’s “Born of a Dream”  Courtesy of IWC

So, when IWC came calling to cast him as their founder in a historical tribute to its roots, it was a no-brainer. The film recounts American Florentine Ariosto Jones’ journey to Switzerland to establish his watchmaking company in the late 19th century. And, while he ultimately faced hardships and had to return to the United States, IWC lived on and grew into the big named brand it is today. “He had a belief in something and didn’t see it any other way except for it to become a success,” says Marsden. “I think that’s the human condition. We all have our dreams and our goals and we all want to feel our self-worth come from achievements.”

But if you’re looking for more than 5 minutes of Marsden on screen, we highly recommend binge-watching him on the Netflix comedy series Dead to Me. You won’t catch him in any wrist candy though.

“I’m not sure he’s a fine timepiece kind of guy,” says Marsden of his character. “Spoiler alert, but in the second season I play someone else and he’s a little dorky and makes bad jokes—as my 16-year-old daughter calls it, he can be a little ‘basic,'” says Marsden. [laughs] “It’s funny because I was talking to the showrunner about those calculator watches from the ’80s and he was like, ‘You have to wear that! It’s the perfect watch for this guy.’” In real life, however, teenage James Marsden says he did wear a calculator watch. Unfortunately, there’s no footage.

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