What Makes Me Tick: Mr Jason Wong

Link Copied


What Makes Me Tick: Mr Jason Wong

Words by Mr Alex Doak

19 May 2023

“On day one of shooting, the first thing I say to my costume designer is, ‘I’m choosing my watch’. It’s the first thing I think about when I’m cast in a role.”

The 37-year-old second-generation Singaporean-Malay British actor is serious about his watches, and he “gets” them with an informed passion that belies the product placement-dominated industry he inhabits.

The first actor of Asian descent to play a serious arc on the BBC’s Silent Witness, Wong also appeared in Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), a plum role he commemorated by purchasing himself a gold Rolex Datejust, made in his birth year of 1986. Here in 2023, his star finds itself truly in the ascendant. He starred in the surprise hit Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves earlier this year.

On the day we talk, he’s pumped from promoting his latest, The Covenant, in which he plays comms man to Mr Jake Gyllenhaal’s US army sergeant. Set in Afghanistan, the film has the king of bloke flicks, Mr Guy Ritchie, at the helm. But Wong seems positively humbled to have played a part in something critics are hailing as a surprisingly worthy – sensitive, even – entry to the burgeoning Hollywood genre of Middle East war movies.

“On day one of shooting, the first thing I say to my costume designer is, ‘I’m choosing my watch’”

“I’ve finally seen it in the cinema setting where it deserves to be watched,” he says from his home in west London, where he grew up. “Normally, all you can focus on is the stuff that didn’t make the cut, but not with The Covenant. I came out thinking, ‘Shit! This is really good.’

“There’s none of the cheesy dad one-liners you might expect and, for the first time, it’s a war film that isn’t focused on the great white saviour narrative. It’s all about Dar [Salim]’s Afghan interpreter character, rather than Jake’s sergeant.”

Wong got his way with The Covenant’s costume department. He wears a rugged number from the British brand Elliot Brown, which recently supplied the first military watch to be approved by Nato for more than 10 years.

It is Wong’s third appearance on the trot in a Ritchie film (“I dunno, I guess it’s because I bring wine to his trailer”) and it’s hot on the heels of his highest-profile cinematic role yet, as the undead baddy Dralas in Dungeons & Dragons (no watch there, for obvious reasons). Which doesn’t mean you can’t catch him on streaming services, as another assassin in the cult teen spy series Alex Rider on Amazon Prime Video, as well as season three of the acclaimed Mr Bruce Lee martial arts concept, Warrior.

Wong’s time has clearly come, but what about the actual time? From where did his passion for its keeping, craft and creation spring? “Casio’s calculator watch,” he deadpans. “No, seriously. That’s where my passion began. I think I might have stolen mine from my cousin, but it led to my collecting Swatches, Casio Baby-Gs, other fun gadget watches.”

“I feel when my watch is travelling with me it collects the memories I make... One day, I’ll pass it on and that person will hopefully create new ones on their journey”

The seed was planted from childhood, but when it truly germinated for Wong was when his uncle started to go places in London’s ever-upward oriental restaurant scene in the 1990s. “I always watched him with admiration,” Wong says. “He was the man about town, running two very successful joints in Maida Vale and he always wore this yellow-gold Rolex Datejust.”

Milestone birthdays came, work picked up and Wong’s collection snowballed accordingly: a TAG Heuer Formula 1 for his 18th, then a self-rewarded Omega Seamaster (“Not as obvious as a Submariner, right?”), followed by that 1986 Datejust.

As well as a knockabout Elliot Brown of his own, there’s also a suitably widescreen Cartier Tank Divan in letterbox proportions occupying Mr Wong’s dresser, for dressier occasions. “Despite being made for ladies, I just loved the shape,” he says. “A wristwatch is the one piece of jewellery every man can wear. Plus, it’s the mechanics squeezed inside such a tiny space, which always, with a quick shake, spring to life and keep on working. It reflects and relates so keenly with my busy schedule.

“I feel when my watch is travelling with me it collects the memories I make. I look at my watch and it’s the one stable thing in my life that connects me to those experiences, both good and bad.

“One day, I’ll pass it on and that person will hopefully create new ones on their journey.”


The watch I’d save for best

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classic Large Hand-Wound 45mm x 27mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch, Ref. No. Q3858520

“I would have liked to have chosen MR PORTER’s London limited edition of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Art Deco icon, because I’m London through and through, baby!” Wong says. “Unsurprisingly, this piece hasn’t hung around long, so it’s the core steel piece instead. So classy and in keeping with the Reverso’s origins; ie, still with that metal case back you can bring forward-facing, so you can bash it about a bit. Not that I would.”


The one watch for life

Bamford Watch Department B347 Commando Automatic Chronograph 41.5mm Carbon Fibre and Rubber Watch, Ref. No. B347 -CF-GRY-BLK

“This reminded me of the Omega Speedmaster, with all its uncompromising utility, but then there’s that forged-carbon case, which looks so cool in concert with the khaki-green dial. Definitely a watch to have by your side, wherever life goes.”


The watch I’d wear every day

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon Automatic 42.5mm Stainless Steel Watch, Ref. No 6000V/110A-B544

“I know, I know, but come on. If you were able to wear this every day, wouldn’t you? Pure beauty and a heart-tug with every glance.”

What makes us tick