Cometh the hour, cometh the man. With the Russian economy suffering from its worst week in recent history, one of the country’s newest citizens, French actor Gérard Depardieu, chose the moment to launch a luxury watch collection.
The collection, designed by Swiss watchmaker Custos, is named “Proud to be Russian”. The timepieces feature a Russian double-headed eagle on the face, with gold trim, and prices start at 15,000 Swiss francs (about £10,000). For Russians, the price will seem significantly more expensive given the dramatic drop in the rouble this year. But at the launch, a cheerful Depardieu told them not to worry.
“Luxury doesn’t depend on the rouble, it depends on the spiritual strength of Russians and I think our spiritual strength will win out and everything will be fine, as long as we are left in peace,” he said.
Depardieu suggested the financial crisis started “after a number of American banks went bankrupt” and said he would watch Vladimir Putin’s press conference on Thursday to hear what the Russian president had to say. Putin personally presented Depardieu with his Russian passport in January last year.
Depardieu has been an outspoken supporter of Putin and on Wednesdayyesterday said western sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the war in east Ukraine were absurd.
“It’s funny to put sanctions on Russia because in Europe nobody can live without Russia. People there don’t understand what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine,” he said.
The French-Russian actor was introduced at the watch launch, held in a five-star hotel next to Red Square, as “watch collector, living legend and free spirit Gérard Depardieu”.
In a promotional video for the event, a wide-eyed Depardieu slammed the table with his fist as he shouted out: “I am proud to be Russian” in heavily accented Russian.
The actor spoke French at the launch, however. He struggled to find the phrase for “good evening” in Russian, fumbling through incorrect versions before muttering: “Je ne sais quoi, bon soir”.
Depardieu was given Russian citizenship after complaining about the high level of taxes in Europe. He later officially registered his residence in Mordovia, a region largely known for its system of prison camps, though he does not spend much time there. He has also struck up a friendship with Chechnya’s ruthless leader Ramzan Kadyrov, after shooting a film with Elizabeth Hurley in the region last year.
Depardieu has also made the headlines for frequent drunken behaviour. In a recent interview he said he sometimes drinks up to 14 bottles of wine a day.
“I have fallen off my motorbike many times and broken many watches,” said the actor at Wednesday’s launch. “And many motorbikes. I don’t really care that much about watches. But then you can’t leave your watches in a safe all the time.”
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