Adam Driver is one of the most exciting actors working in Hollywood today. Fresh off of an Academy Award nomination in 2018 for his supporting role in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, plus a Tony nomination for Best Actor for his ongoing role in the Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson’s Burn This, Driver has established himself as one of the premier talents to watch in the entertainment industry going forward. It was only natural then that when Breitling CEO Georges Kern was looking for someone to join Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron within the brand’s team of brand ambassadors, a group Breitling has dubbed the “Cinema Squad,” they went with Driver. Earlier this week at the Breitling boutique in Midtown Manhattan during an event celebrating the brand’s partnership with the Norton Motorcycle Company, Driver sat down with WatchTime to discuss his connection with watches, what he’s learned about the industry since joining forces with Breitling, and how his military service impacts his relationship with time.
Were watches a part of your life growing up or was it something that developed later?
Yeah, it developed later in my life. I was interested in them before [working with Breitling], but I knew nothing really about the culture. I had watches growing up. Someone asked me earlier what my first watch was, and I actually still have it. It had Michael Jordan [on the dial]. He’s dunking and the basketball has Wilson on it. I think I actually got it in a combo pack with Michael Jordan bubblegum. Anyway, I still have it and I took it to this watch guy who is in front of City Hall in Brooklyn and he fixed it. It’s a part of my life.
You served in the United States Marine Corps before attending Juilliard. Did your military service impact how you approach the usage of time in your day-to-day life?
That’s a great question. Yes, I actually remember a very distinct moment while at Juilliard. Juilliard’s a conservatory, so you’re there basically from seven o’clock in the morning until one o’clock the next morning. And I think that when I got out of the military, I was just so aware of all the things that you can do in a day. And it’s hard not to have judgment against civilians that they’re wasting time. I tried to make my life go beyond a reasonable schedule because I felt that I was used to the sensation of being exhausted by the end of the day. I liked it, you know, [the feeling] that I had done a full day. Some of it was being in your 20s and being male and feeling the need to run everywhere. I was always aware that I didn’t want to waste time with things that I didn’t think were meaningful. You also become aware of your own mortality being in the military environment. Suddenly danger and risk of death are more apparent.
How about how time applies to the craft of acting? Does it play a different role in a live performance as opposed to performing on TV or in movies when you have multiple shoots and multiple takes?
Time, now that you say it, is a huge part of it. I’m about to start a movie in August, and for weeks all we’ve been talking about is scheduling. The majority of my day is scheduling something months in advance. So then once you get on set, you have to block out time, but at the same time, you have to keep it in consideration. You’re trying to make the day. If you’re shooting outside from the very beginning of the day, you’re thinking about getting everything that you need to get before the sun goes down. But then at the same time, you can’t be thinking about that, because you don’t want to blow a take because you’re thinking about anything other than what the scene is about. So you have to be free to try something different, new and not worry about that. Let somebody else. But as a responsible collaborator, you’re trying to be a teammate. You have to consider the mechanics of what you’re doing. You’re battling the elements. Right now I’m doing Burn This, and time is a huge part of it. We start at 7:00 p.m. and people have to show up right then to make it. If they don’t, that screws up your rhythm when you have people coming in, so we keep track of how long the show is every night. If it varies by minutes, that’s a problem, you know? It means that we’re finding gaps and spaces that aren’t good for the story, and it hurts the thing overall. I have to make all of my cues. Time affects everything.
Can you discuss how the Breitling relationship began and how working with the Georges Kern has been?
It started when Breitling reached out to me. I had a layman’s understanding of Breitling that they are really nice watches that classy people wore. Not pretentious, not [ostentatious]. So that was my understanding of it. And then it was kind of one of those things that when you come to know more about it, it happened to be a brand that I believed in their philosophy, so I’m happy to be associated with them.
Is there anything specific that you’ve learned about watches or watchmaking since you started working with Breitling? Just something that surprised you or stands out?
The multifunctional purpose of wristwatches, along with their durability is something that I think is pretty great. We were talking about the Breitling Emergency watch earlier, that’s one that I want. I’ve dropped my Breitling a million times on marble and it’s still durable. Also, [Breitling’s] history in aviation, navigation and in emergencies, and how watches were aligned with the industry of the day, such as at the turn of the century with automobiles. It was all an education for me.