Photoshoots > Session 70
OVATION MAGAZINE – It’s 8:45 am on a breezy june day when Aldis Hodge arrives at Midtown Manhattan’s Quin Hotel, sans entourage and dressed like he’s just hopped off the back of a Ducati. His low-slung graphic tank, leather jacket, and ripped jeans are certainly appropriate for the weather, but this summer hasn’t exactly been a casual one for the 33-year-old actor.
Hodge has just wrapped the first season of his new Showtime series, City on a Hill, costarring Kevin Bacon and produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and he’s preparing for a full-blown press tour for Brian Banks, a movie in which he plays a high school football player whose life is upended after he’s wrongly accused of a violent crime. After that, it’s three months in Australia to shoot Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, based on the H.G. Wells science-fiction classic. And in typical form, Hodge is in a hurry this morning, too. He has just a few hours to spare for Ovation’s fall casual fashion shoot before he’s off again, this time to record voiceovers.
As a guy with so little time on his hands, Hodge, not surprisingly, likes to keep a close eye on his watch. What is surprising, however, is how serious he is about what he puts on his wrist. He’s a bona fide watch junkie who says he’s lost count of how many timepieces he owns. But he doesn’t just collect watches—he actually knows how to make them.
A self-taught horologist, he even uses his own guilloche machine, a tool developed in the 18th century by Abraham-Louis Breguet, to create intricate designs on a watch face. And when he walks into the Quin’s palatial three-story penthouse, he’s like a kid in a candy store, gushing over a trio of Breguet watches selected for the day’s shoot.
“Let’s see…we’ve got the 5395, the 7337, and the 5527,” says Hodge, rattling off the reference numbers for each watch by memory. It’s the kind of obsessive knowledge you’d expect from any well-heeled collector, but it was a long road to connoisseurship for the North Carolina native. Raised along with his two siblings by a single mother, he knows what it means to struggle to get by. Even in those early days, however, he always had an affinity for the finer details. “I was always scientifically and mechanically inclined,” he says. “As a child, I wanted to be an engineer and a designer. When I was 19, I got into watch design because it was something that I could take with me while I was pursuing my acting career, which I’d already been in for quite some time. I chose watches because it encompasses all of my loves—art, architecture, engineering, and balance.”
“THE THING THAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS WATCH IS IT SHOWS OFF BREGUET’S SIGNATURES—THE CASEWORK, THE PLEATING ON THE SIDE, AND THE COMPLEXITY OF THE DIAL. . . . YOU CAN SPOT IT FROM YARDS AWAY AND AUTOMATICALLY KNOW IT’S A BREGUET.”
When Hodge whips out his portfolio of hand-sketched watch designs, it’s not hyperbole to say they rival concepts you’d see from some of the greatest watchmakers of Switzerland. And the actor knows it—he’s already begun laying the groundwork for his own eponymous watch company. The dials will be branded A. Hodge and engraved with various personal mottos, such as “The wealth of every nation is found in the heart of its foundation.” Of course, unlike every other watchmaker in the centuries-long history of horology, Hodge will have plenty of name recognition before he even sells his first piece. But that’s beside the point. “I honestly don’t care if I don’t sell a watch,” he says. “I just need to make it.” Still, when he takes out his laptop to show off the artificial-reality technology he has developed to help his future customers virtually try on his watches, it’s obvious he’s committed to bringing his project to fruition.
With his career in full swing, Hodge has already proven that he can bring any project he cares about to life—even today’s shoot. Dressed in a Brunello Cucinelli sweater and checkered PT01 pants, he steps in front of the camera and instantly becomes another person, like a shape-shifter who moves seamlessly through many worlds, lighting up the second the lens is pointed in his direction. It’s that mix of charisma and intellect that has carried him to the top. His initial casting conversations with City on a Hill creator Chuck McClean, for instance, didn’t even happen face-to-face but rather over Skype while he was filming Brian Banks in Memphis.
“We talked about the character and the tones and the responsibility I felt needed to be had with handling this subject matter,” Hodge says of those early exchanges. “We’re dealing with racism heavily, and it’s real. I grew up in New York and New Jersey. I have family in Boston. It’s real—the KKK is in New Jersey. The show is set in 1992, but we still live this. That’s what makes Chuck brilliant. There are a lot of great writers, but Chuck will listen. He understood me, and he respected my opinion.”
“I CHOSE WATCHES BECAUSE IT ENCOMPASSES ALL OF MY LOVES—ART, ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEERING, AND BALANCE.”
Brian Banks is a film not only about wrongful imprisonment but also the failures of the American justice system. It’s a theme Hodge will explore again in Clemency, a film due to be released in December that’s based on the true story of Anthony Woods, a man on death row who maintains his innocence while his prison warden (played by Alfre Woodard) struggles to come to terms with the morality of capital punishment. “I’ve been blessed to have opportunities that might start a little bit of a conversation,” Hodge says.
For his next film, however, he’ll have a bit more in common with the lead character (even though he’ll play a supporting role in the movie). The Invisible Man tells the story of a mad inventor with an obsession for optics who develops a way to make himself invisible—a superpower from which he is ultimately unable to recover. Like the protagonist, Hodge clearly has a penchant for creation, but unlike H.G. Wells’s Dr. Griffin, this inventor is hell-bent on making himself anything but invisible.
“This Jaeger-LeCoultre was one of my first nice watches. I was just amazed to be able to have a Reverso in my stable. They are not the only ones that do this mechanism on a case, but they are the ones that glorified and perfected it. I buy watches to teach me about a whole new way of thinking, and this piece taught me about casework.”
“Here we have a different level of craftsmanship—skeleton movements are by far not an easy feat. I love that they took the time to really accentuate the movement, and the tourbillon is, of course, a classic. But to me, the most impressive thing is the peripheral rotor on the back. It’s not an easy thing to make, and it’s made expressly for the effort to glorify the movement on the caseback.”
“This watch has been my love for a long time. It’s simplicity and complexity married together in the most perfect form, and the guilloche work is exceptional. It’s just beautiful—a slice of heaven.”
“This is from Bulgari after they acquired Daniel Roth, and I bought it specifically because of him. I bought it because I was studying primarily depth and composition, as well as legibility and because it has jumping hours with two time zones. Most people see the first one but don’t realize there is a second one right there in the middle. It taught me about spacing.”