Thursday, January 24, 2013

SIHH: 'A Time for Everything,' Including Chaplin's Watch

INDEED, encounters do not just happen by chance.

The latest proof of this adage is that of Carmen Chaplin and Jaeger-LeCoultre one of whose encounters has spawned a film about time and an appearance of an iconic watch at the prestigious Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, Switzerland.

It all went down when the actress-director granddaughter of a chap named Charles Spencer Chaplin gave in passing the master Swiss watchmaker aka Manufacture from the Vallée de Joux to know that she had access to one of its watches, one that was gifted to her grandpa by its government.

You see, old Charlie moved his family to Corsier-sur-Vevey in the 1950s.  By now he’d made an indelible mark on Hollywood and the world. He was a big man. As such, a government would not allow his presence there to go unrecognised as it would for regular folk. No doubt after much deliberation, it was decided that Charlie's welcome present would be a watch. No chocolate or chocolate chip cookies, but a watch. And not just any watch. One made by the biggest, bestest, most motherest of all watch crafters in the whole of the country – Jaeger-LeCoultre. Nothing less would befit a man such as Charlie, understand. It was a Memovox. (See video above of some of the restoration of the watch.)

Carmen Chaplin watches the restoration of a very special watch. Photos by Johann Sauty.

There was a ceremony with all due pomp and circumstance. Of course, the watch was engraved. The message:  Hommage du gouvernement Vaudois à Charlie Chaplin – 6 octobre 1953. For the language-impaired: A tribute from the government of the Canton of Vaud to Charlie Chaplin – October 6th 1953.Charlie lived happily in Switzerland until his death – on Christmas Day 1977. Long before he died he gave that Memovox to his then-teenage son, Michael, the father of Carmen. Michael in turn gave the watch to Patricia, the mother of Carmen, on their wedding day as a sign of their love. “It was a real good-luck charm because they have been in love now for 45 years,” Carmen has said.

What a good story, no? Jaeger-LeCoultre, not a company to pass up an opportunity to collaborate, to promote itself in an organic way and knowing that the SIHH was coming up and what would it display, not to mention its 180th anniversary. With all of these considerations, its people – let’s call them floaters –  floated the idea to watch-lover Carmen that perhaps she would like to direct a film (full creative control, including titling rights for “A Time For Everything”) with the theme of time and, and and, incidentally could she get her hands on her grandfather’s watch, which would be displayed along with some other Jaeger-LeCoultre golden oldies?

Detail of the Memovox.

If so, the Manufacturer, as part of its SIHH program, would honor the man and his watch and screen the film starring the filmmaker, her mother and her daughter. It all went down dating to Monday and continues today and tomorrow, the last day of SIHH.

THIS, folks, is the stuff of encounters.

Visit to learn more about the latest collaboration between Carmen Chaplin and Jaeger-LeCoultre; visit to learn more Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.

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