Hooked on Classics
Charlie Chaplin provides a poignant link between the worlds of film and horology for one of Jaeger-lecoultre’s brand ambassadors, writes Emilie Yabut-razon
Without restoration, old movies would be doomed to disappear,” Carmen Chaplin, the granddaughter of one of the greats of 20th-century filmmaking, Charlie Chaplin, told the gathering at a Jaeger-lecoultre auction during the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. It was her first trip to the festival as an ambassador for the watch brand, which is involved in a project to restore classic Chinese films and preserve them for posterity in ultra-highdefinition digital form. “I’m a fan of old movies, and restoration allows us to see films such as my grandfather’s in their full glory,” the actress and director said.
Since the project began in 2011, Jaegerlecoultre has helped restore 10 films using the latest digital technology, including the 1947 classics The Spring River Flows East and Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and
Moon, both starring Bai Yang and Tao Jin and acknowledged as among the greatest 20th-century Chinese films. A more recent beneficiary of the project is Hong Kong director Derek Yee Tung-shing’s awardwinning 1993 film Endless Love, starring Anita Yuen, Lau Ching-wan and Carina Lau.
As well as connecting Carmen to the history of film, her comic-genius grandfather provides a link between the brand ambassador and the heritage of Jaegerlecoultre. In 1953, when Charlie moved his family from the US to settle in Switzerland, the government welcomed him with a gift to honour his talent and contribution to filmmaking. The canton of Vaud presented him with a Jaeger-lecoultre Memovox. “It’s the only watch I know he owned,” Carmen said. Her grandfather had handed it down to her father, who in turn would give it to one of her brothers, she said.
Before becoming an ambassador for Jaeger-lecoultre, Carmen was invited to contribute to the brand’s 180th anniversary celebrations in 2013 by writing and directing a short film, A Time for Everything. The project involved three generations of women from her family—carmen, her mother and
her daughter—and symbolised the passing of ideas from one generation to the next. The movie also drew together Jaeger-lecoultre’s rich heritage as a watchmaker and its commitment to the world of cinema.
Charlie Chaplin is not Carmen’s only famous relative. She comes from an illustrious family of artists, which includes Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’neill. Her father and sister are both actors, and her mother and maternal grandfather are painters. Coming from such a creative gene pool, it’s no wonder Carmen’s interest turned towards film at an early age. “I have always loved watching films, and getting to act in a film when you are working with a talented director is thrilling,” she said during the Shanghai festival. “It’s always wonderful to see new films from different countries and cultures that I wouldn’t necessarily get to see… it is very inspiring. Also, as a casual dresser I enjoy getting dressed up for the red carpet wearing beautiful watches from the brand.”
Carmen has been a familiar face on the silver screen since 1993, when she appeared in French director André Téchiné’s My
Favourite Season, starring Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil. Her filmography since then includes roles with Ewan Mcgregor in Philippe Rousselot’s 1997 drama The Serpent’s
Kiss and with Eva Mendez in the 2002 comedy All About the Benjamins.
The 2012 short film Tryst in Paname, starring her sister Dolores, was Carmen’s directorial debut. She is currently working on her first feature film as director, Bombay
Nights, which will be shot in India. “I am excited at the prospect of directing a feature film and of finishing the screenplay I am writing,” she said. “Directing is such a complete experience for me as I love every stage of it. It’s so inspiring when I get to collaborate with talented artists, whether it’s the art department, music composers or the actors.” Carmen finds every aspect of life inspiring. “I strive to be present here and now, and appreciate what every day brings… I just wish I could write down stories as fast as I imagine them.”
“RESTORATION ALLOWS US TO SEE FILMS SUCH AS MY GRANDFATHER’S IN THEIR FULL GLORY”
BRIGHT TALENT Actress and director Carmen Chaplin is Jaeger-lecoultre’s latest brand ambassador
MAKEOVER MISSION From left: Since 2011, Jaeger-lecoultre has been supporting the restoration of classic Chinese films; Chaplin at a shoot; Jaegerlecoultre’s Rendez-vous Moon was auctioned to fund the restoration project