Time for action: TAG Heuer and Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling chooses TAG Heuer as his watch partner, which makes sense given his love of cars, bikes and adventure

Watches & Jewellery 19 Nov 2021

The new TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands 39mm, £2,250

Ryan Gosling is one of those actors who does so much by doing so little. There is a stillness about his performances where he lets the audience do the work – we read his expression, his body language. We speculate about his thoughts. It is the opposite of theatrical, and yet while it is not over-acting, nor is it the opposite.

The fact is, Gosling has perfected the art of being restrained on screen, a quality that is perhaps most evident in Drive, his breakthrough movie of 2011, where he plays a stunt-driver who moonlights as a getaway wheelman: ‘The permafrost-cool hero with no name’, as Peter Bradshaw put it in The Guardian.

That performance, with its motors and silent hero has contributed to a notion that Gosling may well be the heir to Steve McQueen’s mantle as Hollywood’s King of Cool, a factor that no doubt influenced TAG Heuer’s decision to partner with the actor for the launch of its new Carrera timepiece, the TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands (so called because its face is thoroughly decluttered of extraneous details, leaving only hour, minute and seconds hands).

McQueen, of course, famously wore TAG Heuer’s square-faced Monaco watch in Le Mans, the 1971 film about the 24-hour race in which he plays driver Michael Delany, who drives a Porsche 911S off track and a Porsche 917 on it. Substitute Gosling in his grey 1973 Chevy Malibu from Drive, a car that, incidentally, he found for the film in an LA junkyard and worked on himself to get ready for the movie (and that he still possesses), and you get the picture. Like McQueen, Gosling is a motorcycle fan too. He graduated from a boyhood love of his BMX to bikes with engines, and did most of the riding sequences playing Luke, a motorcycle stuntman, in The Place Beyond the Pines himself. The Suzuki DR-Z400 he rode for the part is another vehicle he held on to when shooting finished.

Though his career has taken in all manner of roles, including the jazz piano-playing romantic lead in musical La La Land, and a smart banking trader in The Big Short, Gosling seems to be repeatedly drawn to a broad range of action films. First Man, for example, saw him play astronaut Neil Armstrong in a biopic that charted the physically and psychologically demanding quest for humanity’s first trip to the moon, while both Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines have him as a movie stuntman. He returns to this role in The Fall Guy, which he has just signed up for, a film that will be directed by David Leitch, who is himself a former Hollywood stuntman (he doubled for both Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme before co-directing John Wick and taking the reins fully on Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 and more). And then, in the upcoming The Gray Man, Gosling plays an assassin in what will be his most action-oriented performance to date. His willingness to take on demanding roles makes him a good fit with TAG Heuer, which is famed for making timepieces designed to cope with high-pressure situations.

And so today, Brummell speaks to the man himself about cars, bikes, and his new ambassadorship for TAG Heuer’s Carrera, a watch first launched in 1963 and named after the famous Carrera Panamericana Mexican road race.

Ryan Gosling wears the TAG Heuer Carrera 160 Years Anniversary Limited Edition 39mm, £5,295

You’re often talked about as the heir apparent to Steve McQueen – how do you view the comparison?

I don’t know much about Steve McQueen personally, so I’m not sure. I can relate to his interest in cars and motorcycles, though. When I was kid, a family friend kept his motorcycle in our back yard for a few months. He was trying to hide it from his mother. It didn’t run and I was too young to drive it anyway, but I was content just to sit on it all day. Up until that point, the happiest moments in my life were when I would ride my BMX around my neighbourhood. Those were my first experiences of independence where I wasn’t a passenger anymore, I was the driver. It was a formative experience, so I’ve had a soft spot for vehicles ever since.

According to veteran stunt coordinator Brian Smyj, you did 70 per cent of the motorbike work yourself in The Place Beyond the Pines. Were there any hairy moments?

The director wanted almost every scene/stunt involving the motorcycle to be shot in long single takes, so naturally there were some close calls. I wish I could have done all of it, but I also understand why the insurance company drew the line on me riding my bike in something called the Globe of Death.

Is getting on your bike for a ride something you like to do? What else do you drive?

Most of the time now, I only drive cars that are big enough for two car seats and a Doberman. But I still have my car from Drive and my bike from Pines. I take them out from time to time. Luckily, Eva’s [Mendes, Gosling’s wife] side of the family are car collectors, so I don’t have to be.

The TAG Heuer Carrera is the showcase for their motor racing heritage – their uncluttered clean lines making it the perfect driver’s watch. As a car enthusiast, is that important to you?

Honestly, I don’t know enough about the specifics of a “Driver’s Watch” to answer that. I guess I have more to learn before I can really be called an enthusiast but I do appreciate its timeless design.

Does that tally with your aesthetic as a whole?

It does. I like clean and simple design generally. Growing up, we lived on a pretty tight budget. I gravitated towards things that were simple and timeless so I didn’t have to think about keeping up with trends.

What drew you to TAG Heuer as a brand?

TAG Heuer has quietly and consistently been a classic and iconic pillar of excellence in its field for more than 160 years. Partnering with them was an easy decision and time, in general, is just something I think a lot about now. My kids are growing up fast so I keep an eye on the clock in a way I never used to. Partnering with TAG Heuer also signifies that for me.

TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands 41mm £2,400

TAG Heuer began as Heuer, making dashboard chronographs for automobiles and aircraft before they made wristwatches – is that something that factored into your decision?

When I was working on First Man, the phrase ‘built like a Swiss watch’ kept coming up on my visits to Nasa in reference to their space crafts. That was the gold standard they used. TAG Heuer has been at this for so long and in so many different iterations. They’ve distilled their work down to something that’s emblematic of what great engineering and craftsmanship should be.

How is your time-management, generally?

So many things actively trying to distract you now, it’s easy to lose track of time. It’s actually one of the reasons I wear a watch. I like being reminded that the clock is ticking.

Is there an instance where you’ve missed out on something because you’ve got the timing wrong?

I won’t waste your time listing them. In short, yes.

You’re interested in how cars are put together – even putting the car from Drive together from scratch, bar the transmission– do you take a similar interest in the intricate workings of watches?

Saying I put the Drive car together from scratch is a strong overstatement. I did manage to get it up and running though, which felt like no small miracle. But watches? No. The wrenches are too small. I leave that to the experts.

One of TAG Heuer’s tenets is about pushing the limits of what’s possible – when you’ve spoken about selecting roles, you’ve said you only pick roles that scare you – why is that important?

I’ve said a lot of things over the years. Some of which I actually agree with. I think what I meant was that I didn’t really know how to do it any other way. Since I didn’t go to school for this, all my learning has had to be on the job. In the beginning, I spent most of my time convincing people that I knew what I was doing and the rest of my time trying to convince myself. I was always in, what seemed to be, sink or swim situations. I did my share of sinking; the internet can attest to that. But I got used to working under pressure and kept seeking it out because it’s all I knew.

TAG Heuer Carrera Three Hands, from £2,250; tagheuer.com