In this exclusive interview with Tatler Hong Kong, South Korean actor Kim Woo-bin gets candid about being Jaeger-LeCoultre's new ambassador and what's next for him, following a four-year hiatus from the entertainment industry
Kim Woo-bin marks his comeback with an appearance at The Sound Maker exhibition in Seoul, as Jaeger-LeCoultre's new brand ambassador. The exhibition features a curated selection of the earliest and most historically significant of the Maison's chiming masterworks in addition to documents and archives in public display for the first time.
The South Korean actor has recently just returned from a hiatus following treatment and recovery from nasopharyngeal cancer. He rose to fame following his role as Choi Do-young in the hit Korean drama, The Heirs, which propelled the "second lead" syndrome among K-drama watchers. Since then, he cemented his status as one of the best actors of his generation after numerous acclaimed TV roles and box-office movies of various genres.
His presence at The Sound Marker exhibition marks Kim's first official engagement as the maison's ambassador. Talking about his comeback to the spotlight for the first time, Kim shares his thoughts and feelings in an exclusive interview with Tatler Hong Kong below.
Many are eagerly waiting to see you again on the screen. What can we look forward to?
I have a new film titled Alien (Alien + People), directed by Choi Dong-hoon. Alien is a sci-fi film with a bizarre story. The movie is about an ancient tribe from the Goryeo Dynasty and the people from the present year who encounter the appearance of a time gate that connects the past and the present. They meet in search of a legendary sword. I'm so nervous but also thrilled because I worked on it for a long time. I hope you enjoy it.
Has there been something that has inspired you recently?
Everything is an inspiration. But I think it’s people that inspire me the most. By meeting people, I come to go through a lot of emotions and thoughts. Also, I do get a lot of inspiration by observing other people when preparing for a character that I have to play.
Have you developed or learned any new skills recently?
This is not exactly a skill but I have come to love observing nature. Before, I didn’t even know or care what kind of trees are in my house. But now, when I come across a tree that I have never seen before, I would look it up on the app. And I even have my list of favourite flowers and trees and of which blooming season I would wait for with excitement. Learning and enjoying nature like this brings me a lot of joy.
Is there any advice you would like to share with your fans?
I think I used to live only for the future. I had run relentlessly with such a focus only to achieve a better version of myself and my goals for the future. Because of that, I missed the fun and joy of living in the moment. That's why I’m trying to concentrate on the "now", being fully in the present and feeling gratitude and happiness in my daily life.
How do you feel about being the new ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre?
I’m so glad to be able to build a relationship with Jaeger-LeCoultre. I was well aware of Jaeger-LeCoultre because I like watches and I’ve been interested in the brand for a while. Jaeger-LeCoultre always fascinated me with its uniqueness and classic elements. I think its continuous efforts to develop its technical skills and its exquisiteness, as well as its 180-year history is what makes the brand wonderful.
To you, what makes Jaeger-LeCoultre different from other watch brands?
Being an actor is a career that requires collaboration among many people because both energy and effort are needed to complete something. Every time I work on a project, I try to keep discussing different opinions with directors, actors, and staff.
As far as I know, even in the process of completing one Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece, many watchmakers get together at the manufacture in Vallee de Joux to collaborate and communicate with each other. This means such wonderful timepieces cannot be created without a collaborative mindset. To me, this makes Jaeger-LeCoultre very special. The mindset of “creating together,” I think, will be the best value that Jaeger-LeCoultre and I can share.
Watch is just as personal as jewellery. What’s your take on that?
Watch is the one that you are always with. It’s like a friend to be with you always, as well as the alter ego reflecting who I am.
What's the meaning of time for you? What is your most precious time of the day?
I think time is the story of every individual person. Time tells a story with different meanings and values depending on what you do and with whom you do it. I cherish time by myself, which I use to complete myself. Recently, I’ve been trying to take more time to think alone and focus on myself while taking walks. I spend the time to decide what I need to do first in my to-do list, as well as to recharge myself.
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Which Jaeger-LeCoultre watch do you wear often and why?
It’s Reverso. Reverso is unique in that its appearance differs between the face and the back because the dial case swivels. In that regard, I think it has something in common with a person’s life. Every person’s life has a twist, a turning point, and a new outlook.
What’s your most memorable memory with Jaeger-LeCoultre?
It's when I attended the opening of The Sound Maker exhibition in Seoul. Everything about the exhibition was impressive—from the beautiful archives of chiming watches, historical documents, and groundbreaking watchmaking tools, it's a true celebration of 150 years of history. But most particularly, the sound sculpture artwork by the Swiss artist, Zimoun was spectacular. I really appreciate how it made me experience two things—the feeling of seeing the sunlight reflected on the waves and the sound of the wind.
Speaking of The Sound Maker exhibition in Seoul, can you tell us more about that?
It was a great experience to walk through the heritage of JLC and meet all the historical pieces. There, I had a special session with the watchmaker, who presented the mechanism of the sound-making process. It was amazing to see hundreds of parts and components that make the movement in order that would ultimately present the time and the chime at the same time.
Which Jaeger-LeCoultre watch is your favourite from the exhibition?
It's very difficult for me to choose only one watch since there are simply too many! But if you insist, I would say the first-minute repeater Reverso. It's my all-time favourite model because it showcases the spirit of JLC—going beyond the challenge in a beautiful design that shines through 90 years since its invention.