“It’s quite a brand.” Justin Hartley wears the Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer by Omega.
Now partnered with Omega, the actor and enthusiast talks white gold Speedmasters and the meaning of collecting.
When it comes to watch companies and celebrity endorsements, the arrangements so often feel like a limp handshake. The watchmaker gets a pretty face and beefy wrist to prop its new timepiece against. And for a price, the star in question brandishes that gleaming new TimeShark 1600m Tourbillon on the red carpet for the world to see. If the watchmaker’s lucky, the celeb wears the watch where paparazzi lurk, away from contractually obligated appearances. But mostly they don’t.
However, with actor Justin Hartley, it just feels different.
Hartley just inked a deal with Omega that promises a parade of that same handshake stuff —the red carpets, commercials, glistening photo sets and taglines. But during a phone interview from his California home, Hartley revealed himself to be more than a reluctant star with wrist space for sale. Hartley is a bonafide watch enthusiast, one of the few who really gets it. One of us.
Hartley wears the Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer by Omega.
You’ll likely recognize Hartley, from his role on the smash-hit drama This Is Us or his turns in other beloved shows, from Smallville to The Young and the Restless. His career has spanned decades to arrive at this sweet spot, where his cachet has drawn in one of the finest watchmakers on earth, Omega.
But that pull, like gravity itself, works both ways. Hartley was first drawn to Omega by way of his father, who enthused about NASA and space exploration and the brave astronauts. That thread led, as it always does, to a most-famous wristwatch, which landed on the moon. There were other heroes, too, that led like conduit to Omega.
“There’s also, in the world that I live in, people that are drawn to the brand that are legends, people who I idolized growing up like [current Omega ambassador] George Clooney,” Hartley says.
Speedmaster Moonwatch Master Chronometer Sedna Gold by Omega.
Other cultural touchstones like James Bond’s famous Seamaster further cemented Hartley’s attraction to Omega. But the final piece of the puzzle for Hartley was “meeting the Omega family,” the people who work for the brand, who toil away after perfection. It’s the people, he says, who make Omega special. Hartley is due to visit the company’s HQ soon, where he’ll see watchmakers piecing together Omegas. His excitement at the prospect is palpable.
“It’s quite a brand,” he finishes.
Our conversation winds from Hartley’s Omega entry point through his current timepiece obsessions (namely the Canopus white gold Speedmaster Professional, which Hartley jokingly considered running off with during a photo shoot) to the people in his professional life who love watches. I wonder aloud why actors and directors seem so drawn to watches, if parallels exist between film and horology?
Hartley wears the Seamaster Diver 300M by Omega. PHOTO COURTESY OF OMEGA
“[With both], you have a bunch of little pieces that are independent of the others. They don’t do much on their own. You have lights, but you need somebody to place them. You have a camera, but you need somebody to operate it. You have pages, but you need words. Once you get words on them, you need someone to say those lines,” Hartley says. “And when you put that all together, there’s just something gorgeous, something beautiful that works seamlessly like a watch.”
When those many smaller pieces mesh and combine to make something beautiful, movies and television can conjure genuine mood within their viewers. A great watch does the same thing, Hartley says, when you’re wearing it or even before you’ve put it on.
“I wake up in the morning sometimes and it’s almost like… what message am I trying to put out there? How do I feel today? Why do I feel like wearing this one as opposed to this one?” he says. “It’s wonderful. And they’re fun, to be honest with you. I mean, it’s dress-up. It’s fun.”
“My wife has an Omega, and now she gets it. Now she wants like two more.” Here, Hartley wears the Constellation 39 mm by Omega. PHOTO COURTESY OF OMEGA
But as any watch nerd will tell you, not everyone in life understands the obsession. That doesn’t stop Hartley from making converts of his family and friends.
“My wife did not get [the watch obsession] at all,” Hartley says, laughing. “But every single person that doesn’t get watches, really, when you give them the watch and let them hold it, you can almost see them immediately go, ‘Oh, I get it.’ So now my wife has an Omega and now she gets it. Now she wants like two more.”
You sense Hartley’s passion for watches as objects of beauty (again, he gushes about that white gold Speedmaster and how it looks paired with a tuxedo), but we talk about how the objects themselves are beside the point. For Hartley, his watches serve as mile markers, and often reminders.
“I think that’s it, right? It’s not about, ‘This is the most expensive, this is the prettiest, this is the best deal.’ For any kind of collecting, really, it’s about ‘why,’ the story behind why you got it.”
Hartley says some of the stories about his watches might even be boring, but none are unimportant in his life. One watch reminds him of a career high point. Another was gifted, a reminder to be grateful and charitable to others. These are lessons Hartley hopes his daughter might pick up from his passion for wrist trinkets that can often seem so frivolous.
“It’s a visual reminder of where you are, where you came from, where you’ve been and hopefully where you’re going. And I think those are the things that my daughter sees as well,” Hartley says. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been wearing a watch and somebody’s like, ‘Oh, I really liked that. What is that?’ And I’ll tell them not only what it is but why I got it or the story behind it. They walk with you through life; they really do.”