It’s remarkable to consider that someone as visible in the filmmaking world—heck, let’s call it the zeitgeist in general—as Ryan Gosling has never endorsed a product before his recent partnership with Tag Heuer, which was announced in the fall of 2021. In a major coup for the Swiss watchmaker, the Canadian-born actor can now be seen wearing the newly revamped Carrera Three Hands on his wrist, signaling a watershed moment both in the recent history of Tag Heuer and Gosling’s own trajectory as a leading man.
From Tag’s perspective, of course, this isn’t the first instance of a tie-in with a popular actor, or with a specific film. The brand’s automotive sponsorships of the 1960s and 1970s saw a Monaco on Steve McQueen’s wrist as he screamed around the track in 1971’s Le Mans. And, more recently, a Tag Heuer 1000 accompanied Leonardo DiCaprio’s wrist for his star turn in The Wolf of Wall Street. However, product placement in a single film is one thing — having a celebrity brand ambassador with the cachet of someone like Gosling sign on for a multi-year contract is quite another.
The 41-year-old actor has been heavily involved with the campaigns for the new Carrera Three Hands, taking an active interest in the photo shoots, art direction, and more. (For those counting: he wears a 39 mm version with a silver dial and a date window at 6 o’clock, powered by the automatic Calibre 5 movement.) It’s clear from conversations with Tag employees that said interest and his attentiveness to detail have been a boon for the relationship, cementing the idea that the partnership feels right for both parties. After all, this is a man who could conceivably partner with any brand in the world.
Gosling’s cognizance of watches came early in life, in a way that many can undoubtedly relate to: “Growing up, I think I thought (it) meant you had somewhere important to be if you had a watch,” he said. “It was one of the first things I bought when I had money. Not much money—paper route money. It was like a Casio with Hulk Hogan on it, I think. (And nothing says you have places to go and people to see like a Hulk Hogan watch.) But I do think that’s when I first became aware of them.”
As he matured, so did Gosling’s thinking about watches—especially so when he began his career as a working actor and needed to incorporate timepieces into his roles. “And then just in terms of men’s style growing up they started to sort of register,” he continued. “But before you start every film, a prop person comes up and asks you, ‘What kind of watch does your character wear?’ It’s not something that I had ever really thought of before that, but then it sort of became this opportunity to say something about your character that wasn’t in the script. Like when I did this film Half Nelson, I had a calculator watch with a broken strap. Which, you know, says something about that guy! And it started to become this opportunity.”
The film that cemented Gosling as the perfect choice for the new face of Tag Heuer in the mind of CEO Frederic Arnault was his starring role in Drive, in which time and timekeeping take center stage. Gosling continues: “When I did Drive, I think it was the first time where I really wanted to feature a watch as something that was telling you something about this character. I thought, ‘How do I differentiate this getaway driver from all the other drivers you’ve seen in film?’ And I thought the fact that he didn’t trust whatever clock was in the car that he was in, that he was very discerning in his trust and that he put it all in this one watch, and that he lives or dies based on every second…And then sort of strapping it to the wheel of the car and making it, you know, for easy visibility—but also, I wanted to make sure that that idea was communicated.”
Gosling’s horological inclination played into his most recent role, as a man pulled out of prison to work for the CIA as a spy and assassin in The Gray Man—a film by the Russo brothers, of Marvel Cinematic Universe fame. “So I guess Half-Nelson was the first time I really implemented it, but Drive was really the first time I went all the way with it,” Gosling said. “Where I didn’t want it to be subtle—I wanted to make sure it was seen. So, ever since then I’ve kind of done the same—maybe not to that extreme, but with this film (The Gray Man), we felt like there was a real opportunity again because watches are such a part of spy movies and these characters, that we felt like this was an opportunity to say something. And we were trying to create a fresh take on a spy character, so I felt this particular watch (the Carrera Three-Hands) was helpful in doing that.”
When it’s suggested that Gosling’s acting (and sartorial) style are reminiscent of those of the American “greats” of 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s cinema—the Brandons, McQueens, etc. of the world—and he’s asked if those figures loom large in his conscious as an actor, he’s humble in his reply. “I’m a movie fan, so those are definitely the people I was aware of,” he says. “And they’re definitely people that, from a style standpoint, you run into time and time again. Every time I go to a photoshoot, there are pictures of those guys. But there’s something timeless, I think, about their styles. ‘Timeless’ is always in style. That’s why it keeps enduring. But I think that’s part of why I like the (Carrera) Three-Hands as well—because I think you could put it in any time and put it in any of those photographs, in any era, and it would still be cool.”
The Gray Man will be available to stream on Netflix on July 22, 2022.