Strong, beautiful and possessing a fierce intelligence, actress and mother of two young sons Rosamund Pike has it all – including one of this year’s horology must-haves: the IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 36. A former Bond Girl (Miranda Frost in 2002’s Die Another Day), Pike’s acting career has run the gamut from costume sagas such as The Libertine, alongside Johnny Depp in 2004, to sci-fi thriller Doom (2005), coming-of-age drama An Education (2009) and the brilliant social statement Made in Dagenham (2010), about the fight for women’s employment rights in 1960s Britain. In 2011, she ticked the comedy box with the Bond spoof Johnny English Reborn and, in 2012, she made the Hollywood blockbuster action film, Jack Reacher, playing opposite Tom Cruise.

Although these have seen her scooping accolades including Empire Awards, British Independent Film Awards and London Film Critics Circle Awards, the film that took her into superstardom was the critically acclaimed 2014 psychological thriller Gone Girl, which brought her nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and a SAG Award. She was cast opposite Ben Affleck and the film was a box office smash, with Pike receiving universal acclaim for her portrayal of Amy Dunne, a woman who goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary.

And expanding her repertoire, Pike has recently become the voice of Lady Penelope in a remake of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1960s cult sci-fi puppet animation series Thunderbirds, as well as appearing in a Massive Attack video for the 2016 single, Voodoo in My Blood.

“I never want people to feel like they’ve got me, like they know what I can do,” Pike explains. “I’d much rather a director came and said, ‘I think you’ve got this in you, I’d like to bring it out’, rather than ‘I love what you did in that movie, can you come and do it again in my film’. I’d like to get more comedy work, I’d like to get to be funny a bit more, but it’s difficult – you do a role like Gone Girl and people don’t immediately think of you for comedies.”

Drop the pilot

With her burgeoning success, it is little surprise that Pike is in big demand as a product ambassador, but when it comes to IWC, she is no ordinary friend of the brand – as with everyone currently reading this magazine, she has been bitten by the watch bug. “Boy, how it sucks you in,” she says with a slight frown and shake of her head. “Complications like perpetual calendars that have been so cleverly engineered they can cope with varying lengths of months and even leap years – the mechanical ingenuity behind that is really mind-blowing.

“Automatic timepieces fascinate me. The fact that moving your wrist puts the rotor into motion and that this alone delivers enough power to be converted via clockwork to accurate timekeeping constantly reminds me of an advertisement IWC created a couple of years back saying, ‘If this watch stops, please call a doctor…’ It’s all about ultimate reliability. And when all the component parts are isolated before they are assembled, they look like something very magical. When you study the finishing on them through a loupe, then you really do see the artistry.”

On the day we meet, Pike is wearing her latest IWC. “It’s one of the pilot’s watches,” she says. “It has a dial very similar to that of the Spitfire, which I love – that beautiful metallic grey of the old planes. I’m not sure if it was specifically made for women – although it’s just 36mm in diameter, it still has a masculine feel. To be honest, I would wear a Big Pilot if I could, it’s probably my favourite watch right now – I love the history of it, I love the simplicity, the numerals and dial layout. But I also love how clean this piece is and the triangle replacing the “12”. And the seconds hand with its smooth motion that reminds me of the Big Pilots watches. You know, I’m not really seduced by diamonds, I prefer masculine watches with their strength and beauty in the engineering.”

Pike bucks the supposed “trend” of women preferring watch style over substance, shunning quartz and digital timekeeping for more traditional methods. “I always wear a watch, I always have. I just hate looking at the time on a phone. Digital never does it for me, never has done, I need to see a physical manifestation of the movement of time.”

Clocking on

Intrigued by Pike’s statement that she has always worn a mechanical watch, we discuss her first timepiece and she laughs as she remembers the Time Tutor watch that will be familiar to all Brits of a certain age. “I remember it so well,” she smiles. “It was one of those ones with a red and blue outer ring with numbers 5, 10, 1/4, 20, 25 and ½ to help you learn the minutes past and the minutes to the hour. I was so pleased to get it, and from that moment on I was never interested in digital watches. Digital was all the rage, but I just found mechanical watches fascinating.

“As a child I was seduced by moonphase watches – I found them simply enchanting and thought it was the most beautiful thing to be able to track the daily passing of the sun and moon. I remember how magical it seemed that I could watch the planets in miniature.”

Her interest in clockwork expands beyond the wrist. “I love clocks – especially Big Ben. I took my little boy down to the South Bank the other day and introduced him to it. We were on our way to the London Aquarium but we sat out for a good half hour and waited for the quarter past to chime. He was very interested and loved that a clock could have a name. He sounds so friendly doesn’t he? ‘Big Ben’, it’s almost like a person.

“The IWC watch that I’m really interested in – which I haven’t seen or heard yet – is the minute repeater. When they write about it they describe this very melodious chime, I can hear it in my head, but I’d love to hear it in the metal. If you are working at home alone, say writing, I think to have an object like that to keep you company, would be charming.” Pike runs through scenarios in her head before continuing with a smile: “It could be distracting I suppose, and you’d probably forget to turn it off in the theatre. But I love the idea that you can have a watch that sings the time to you.”

I tell Pike about my experiences at Schaffhausen, spending time with the Master Watchmakers and watching them assemble and test minute repeaters. “I think I’d love it,” she says. “I was invited to go four years ago, when they were showcasing the Pilot’s collection, but I couldn’t because of work commitments. I am so impressed by artisans and craftsmen – I think we’re all losing the skill of doing anything clever with our hands. You know, I used to play the cello, I used to be very deft with my hands and when I stopped I took up sewing and later knitting because I wanted to keep making things. It feels very good to do something with your hands.”

One-track mind

An established member of the IWC family of friends and ambassadors, Pike says it happened so organically that she can’t remember exactly how the relationship came about. “To be fair,” she says, “I do get invited to quite a lot of things – and I usually say ‘no’. IWC wasn’t a brand that I knew that well, but I read up on the company and the watches and it was a combination between the Pilots’ watches and the history that really had me hooked. I could see that the people who were ambassadors for the brand were supporting them over a number of years, and that interested me. I’m not fickle and not impressed by people who suddenly announce X as their favourite thing, and then a few months later Y is their new favourite thing. I can’t be doing with any of that. Although I’m an actor and I spin lies for a living, I suppose, in real life when I’m not playing a character, I’m not in to becoming a mouthpiece for things I don’t believe in. What’s the point? I have to believe in the products I use and wear.”

Proof of Pike’s single-mindedness and determination can be found in the fact that she was rejected from every drama school she applied to, eventually accepting a place at Wadham College, Oxford to read English Literature. But refusing to be swayed by the opinions of outsiders she kept pushing. During her studies she appeared in several television shows and theatre productions and took a year out of college to gain more experience on stage.

“I just thought: ‘I know this is in me.’ I never had any desire to be famous, I just knew that I was an actor and you can’t eradicate that. I remember thinking: ‘It’s not that you’re wrong to reject me, but you’re wrong because I know that this is who I am.’ It kind of gives you great purpose and you find a different course – it’s not easy and you never get that seal of approval, but you have to fight through that.

“I think it has probably helped me character-wise because it sets you up for the whole bloody business. Acting is coping with rejection and even after you make a film, your film could be completely trashed in the press. So you constantly have to manage expectations.

“It’s all about how you carry on after rejection. People can be very patronising if a young girl says she is an actress – it’s amazing. I remember before I was recognisable, people would say: ‘Oh, how’s that going?’ And I’d look at them and think: ‘What you’re asking is do I make any money? I wouldn’t say it was my job unless I was making a living at it.’ They wouldn’t have talked to a guy like that but if you were a girl…”

So does she see an inequality within the industry itself? “I think there is movement,” she says thoughtfully. “It’s interesting, in the past year I’ve been sent two scripts which have been re-written for a female protagonist, having been originally written for a man.

I think that feminism is the next big thing in cinema actually. Sony is really pushing the female-action-driven film right now. They’re reading the markets and they’re seeing that there’s a big audience of women going to the cinema, and they’re cottoning on. We’ve had a female-female love story this year with Carol and that’s quite groundbreaking. ‘The most romantic film of the year’ – whether people agree with that or not, it’s there emblazoned across the billboards. There’s always something that’s ‘in’ and women are kind of in at the moment.”

In focus

At the start of this article I suggested that Pike “has it all”, but with a young family and a career on an upward trajectory, splitting her time is becoming increasingly difficult. “I’m always trying to do too much – it feels like there’s never enough time. I love it when you can just focus on one thing, like at Christmas to just give in and go into that time when no one else is crashing in and demanding anything. You have to know when to change the pace. After I finish a job, for my own sanity I need to wind down physically, to focus on something small.

“I was watching a documentary about the illustrators that did the Snowman film. Back then their work was pioneering. It’s crazy that they did a whole film in drawings taking hours. The focus involved in doing something like that – I bet you lose hours.”