Hugh Jackman On The Greatest Showman, Montblanc And Being A Dad
It’s not every day you have Hugh Jackman greet you at the door, offer a chair and pour you a glass of water—and not before asking if you’d rather still or sparkling. If only this rather surreal scene were on the patio of the Australian actor’s sprawling wood cabin in New York state’s East Hampton on a beautiful summer day, but it is winter and we’re in Montblanc’s booth at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH). No matter.
Right from our introduction I know this is going to be an encounter I will be replaying in my head for years to come. “Oh, I know who you are,” I say with a nervous laugh as he introduces himself and asks for my name. He then goes on to ask how I am, and our conversation soon leads to us talking about our children. As he animatedly tells me how his 13-year-old daughter, Ava, finds it “not cool” that her classmates now recognise “Dad to be that guy from The Greatest Showman,” I pinch myself to make sure I’m not imagining all this. But, yes, the 50-year-old actor, much taller and leaner than I’d expected, is sitting just a few feet away and we are chatting like old friends.
Jackman has been a regular visitor to SIHH since being named a Montblanc global ambassador in 2014. He’s also been travelling the world to help promote the brand’s leather goods and watches—a job he takes to heart. “I feel very fortunate that I get to do what I love as an actor, as an artist, and that I am able as well to explore this fascinating world of watches and beautiful leather goods; it’s just amazing,” he says.
One of his most memorable journeys with the brand was to a factory in Hamburg where Montblanc’s leather goods are made and repaired. “On one of those visits I saw a man working on a briefcase which was in disrepair, and there was this letter next to it,” Jackman says. “He said, ‘Read the letter,’ so I did, and it was from this woman whose father had died. It was her father’s briefcase and she now wanted to use it as hers. She said in this letter that she had all these memories of her father using this briefcase to go to and from work.
“It was then that I felt this immense pride to be affiliated with this brand. I looked around the room and realised that they don’t just repair things here, it’s so much more than that—it’s about continuity, nostalgia, emotions. It’s this idea that a Montblanc piece isn’t just another thing, it’s really something that we take with us on our journeys, like a companion, and becomes part of our cherished memories. And it’s no different from watches. You wear them on your wrist for most of the day and it reacts to your surroundings—it can fade with time, and get scratches from maybe playing with your kids, dogs, and that mark is a part of your life, so it becomes a part of you really.”
Jackman is wearing a Montblanc 1858 Geosphere watch, one of the brand’s novelties this year. He shows me the watch—with a dramatic pout. “I’m giving you my best Zoolander impression,” he laughs. “In all seriousness though, because the 1858 Geosphere collection’s theme is about exploration, it’s my favourite piece at the moment. That sense of adventure and this pioneering spirit—this is pretty much how I want to live my life. I love being outdoors, and the 1858 line is actually dedicated to the Seven Summits Challenge.
"It’s the holy grail of climbers, and there are people who actually travel to all seven mountains. Mount Everest is one, of course. I feel this collection also reflects what Montblanc is all about and also, increasingly, how people are trying to live their lives. People are really trying to go for it, they’re going for what they want and they’re going for it with passion. They’re really going to live their dreams.”
While Jackman has worked at understanding the intricacies of horology, he admits he’s far from fully comprehending the inner workings of watches.
“It completely boggles my mind, to be honest,” he says. “They look beautiful but they’re also incredibly technical, and the level of precision it requires to make them? Speechless. Watchmakers have the steady hands of a talented surgeon—and having the ability to make something work and have that dedication to perfection inspires me to be a perfectionist myself.”
As I’m prompted to wrap up for the third time, he says, “Thanks for your time, that was precious.” And it was.
See our video interview with Hugh Jackman at SIHH 2019: