The man is Robert Downey Jr. His watch is the Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique. The price of said piece? A cool $560,000. The event is monumental: he and a handful of his fellow Avengers are being knighted as Hollywood royalty in front of the legendary Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. The cement, meanwhile? The cement is – oh, cripes – it’s wet. When it comes time for the group to leave their handprints, Downey dips his hands into the goo. Which is what is supposed to happen, until the cement gets greedy and starts making for his arm – and the more-than-half-a-million-dollar watch strapped to it.
But Jeanne Yang, Hollywood’s go-to watch stylist (as well as an in-demand regular celebrity stylist) wasn’t worried: the Greubel Forsey was chosen for a reason: it had a plastic wristband and sapphire protecting both sides of the case. “We had to quickly rinse it off,” Yang tells me over the phone, but in the end the piece was untouched. “[The watch] was totally fine,” she says. “It didn't get hurt or anything.”
Yang’s day job involves styling celebs like Downey, Keanu Reeves, Christian Bale, Jason Momoa (she was the one working with Fendi to find a pink fabric for the suit-matching scrunchie Aquaman wore to the Oscars), and Alexander Skarsgard. Increasingly, as men invest more of their time and money into finding the perfect watch, finishing off a look means finding the right timepiece, and Yang’s skill in that realm lies in finding the right balance between person, event, and timepiece. And while Yang notes that she’s a stylist first, she's always held a bone-deep belief that her work is not truly done until there is a watch in the mix. To Yang, the watch is many things: “It’s the salt and pepper,” she says. “You know when you go have a meal and you feel like it's really great, it's beautiful but it's missing one thing?” Or try this: “It's that little bit of punctuation. If you've ever read anything that's not been punctuated, how are you supposed to read a piece unless there's a period or an exclamation point? Or even more simply put: “A man's arm looks bare sometimes without it,” Yang says.
Yang says her appreciation for timepieces “was just something that I eventually became known for.” One of those name-making occasions was the 2010 Golden Globes, when Downey, who won the award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for his titular role in Sherlock Holmes that night, wore a vintage Harry Winston watch strapped over his sleeve. The move – made famous by Gianna Agnelli, the immaculately dressed late head of Fiat who style-obsessed men obsess over – was not a hard sell for Downey on. “He's like, “That sounds amazing,’” Yang recalls.
Attention to those little details helps Yang stand out from the pack. She’s happy to strap a Cartier or Rolex onto a client, but really makes her mark with more under-the-radar brands like Urwerk, Greubel Forsey, and De Bethune – a trio of brands that make bonkers watches that look teleported from the future. Those latter pieces are also, coincidentally, a great match for Downey, who plays the tech-enabled superhero Iron Man. This skill – pairing an actor with clothes and a watch that work with the movie he’s promoting – is Yang’s bread and butter. When Momoa was on his Aquaman press tour, Yang looked for apparel that was “water-themed,” she says. Christian Bale, on the other hand, is “under the radar, super chill,” Yang says. The perfect watch? The Drive De Cartier. (Not to mention the off-the-charts synergy a driving watch has with Bale’s upcoming movie Ford v Ferrari.)
Sometimes Yang’s art lies not in picking the right watch but about making sure whatever watch she’s chosen pop. For someone like Alexander Skarsgard – who has ”not Human Being body,” Yang says, but “Movie Star body” – she has custom shirts made. Naturally, they have a watch-friendly twist: she instructs movie-star-favorite Beverly Hills shirtmaker Anto to make the sleeves the right arm of Skarsgard’s shirts and suits a quarter- to a half-inch wider than the left, to give the watch room to breathe. Other stylists, she’s heard, will resort to rubber-banding a sleeve to hold it up above a watch.
Despite her profession, Yang doesn’t identify as a huge watch nerd. Still, her collection got an early jump start at 13 when her mom passed down a Rolex. Yang was about to go off to a boarding school where everyone was wealthier…and, well, whiter. “I was a young Asian girl going into what [my mom] thought was a very patrician older…” She trails off and then offers up a roundabout but crystal-clear explanation: “It was where Caroline Kennedy went to school.”
That Rolex offered a clarifying moment for Yang. While in the school gym, she took the watch off to play volleyball and blithely left it on the bleachers. “And the coolest girl in school, who is like Ms. Chic wearing Givenchy and Prada, said, “Oh, I have one of those at home, too, you should really be careful with it,’” Yang says. “And I thought, ‘I've been knighted.’ I realised this is what my mom wanted me to feel like.” The moment, Yang says, helped her understand the importance of style, and all that could be said through a watch. “Obviously, now that's why it's conveyed so much importance to me for a look because it is something that gives you immediate acceptance into a club.” Today, that club just so happens to be Hollywood.