Integrity, dedication and boundless curiosity – Jake Gyllenhaal is said to embody all those qualities as the new face of the Santos de Cartier timepiece. And rightly so, for the man indeed has a pioneering spirit.
Gyllenhaal is regarded as one of the most adventurous actors of his generation. His roles span a wide spectrum: from troubled teenager in 2001 cult hit Donnie Darko to Brokeback Mountain’s conflicted, repressed sheep herder.
According to him, the latter remains as a favourite. Speaking to Star2.com via email, the 37-year-old says that the fearlessness of the film’s two characters was a lesson for everyone, especially when it came out in 2005.
While Gyllenhaal received an Oscar nomination and won a Bafta for Brokeback Mountain, he also looks fondly on his more recent work – a 2017 biographical drama of a man who loses his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing.
“I think of Jeff Bauman, who I played in Stronger. I admire him because of his inexplicable strength and his sense of humour in the face of enormous tragedy,” Gyllenhaal states.
With his production company Nine Stories, he is on the way to becoming a filmmaker of note as well – from sourcing material to developing it from the ground up and collaborating with bold storytellers.
Regarding the foray into directing, Gyllenhaal points out that he sees it as merely a natural progression to growing up, and not at all – as some would assume – a move forward from acting.
“I think it takes maturity and a knowledge of oneself to be able to actually tell a story, to be at the helm of a project. I believe it takes a while to cultivate the ability to actually direct a film, so it feels like the natural movement as a human, for me, not as an actor.”
His other notable works include 2014’s Nightcrawler, which he also produced. Playing an investigative crime journalist who will stop at nothing to get the story, he received a Bafta, Golden Globe, SAG, Critics’ Choice and Independent Spirit Award nomination for it.
Within that same year, Gyllenhaal made his Broadway debut in Constellations and musical theatre debut in Little Shop Of Horrors. It was his first stage performance since 2002, when he starred in the revival of This Is Our Youth on London’s West End.
So how does he juggle it all? Gyllenhaal is constantly surrounded by the people who really matter. His family and friends are the ones who have played a big role in keeping him from careening off course.
“I always spend time with them, doing what they do, and that helps me pace myself. You can get overwhelmed by the work that you do and consumed with it, but when you look outward, like my mom would say, it’s like taking a breath,” he explains.
When it comes to his role as the latest watch ambassador for Cartier, Gyllenhaal says that it began when the luxury brand approached him and communicated the idea of creating an advertisement to convey a “bold and fearless” message.
“They were looking for someone who they believe personified those qualities in their spirit and in their work. They knew that I was someone who loved the process of artistic collaboration … and so the journey began.
“Moreover, when we first spoke about the Santos watch, the ways in which it was invented, how it was created out of a great collaboration, it all seemed kismet,” Gyllenhaal relates.
The Santos de Cartier timepiece is reportedly the first purpose-made wristwatch, designed by Louis Cartier for his friend Alberto Santos-Dumont, the Brazilian adventurer who mastered, unaided, heavier-than-air powered flight in 1906.
It originally went on sale in 1911 and has remained a mainstay of Cartier’s watches. Receiving a bold update in the late 1970s, the design is seen as perennially innovative – in face of changing times.
Gyllenhaal however, would like to think of it as a celebration of two great minds coming together. The watch, he notes, represents the spirit of mutual respect between Cartier and Santos-Dumont.
“The Santos is a collaboration of art and science really, a collaboration of form and function. I think we can have an inspired idea about something, but I think in order for it to last, it has to be built on something solid, a foundation that can be proven, a solvable equation.”
Retaining its original square shape, this year’s model pays homage to classical Parisian geometry, while the screws, visible along the bezel and metal strap links, acknowledge the imposing steel structures of the period.
As it is, Gyllenhaal believes that watches will always remain as an essential accessory. He says men don’t generally have a lot options when it comes to expressing themselves fashion-wise.
“I also think that there’s something about the watch that represents being a grown up. When you see a man with a watch, I think it immediately projects a sense of maturity, particularly a watch that’s crafted like the Santos,” he enthuses.
As Cartier’s newly appointed face, Gyllenhaal also stars in a short film highlighting Santos-Dumont’s intrepid, thrill-seeking legacy. Told in 60 seconds, it captures the excitement of adventure and the historic, almost mystical pursuit of take-off.