Philosophy of Time: Qi Yuwu

by Susanah Cheok

The IWC Portugieser is the Schaffhausen marque’s 2020 breakthrough. The collection preserves IWC’s long-standing core values of quality, precision and innovation, and its ingenious yet needful movements seal the Portugieser’s credibility as a horological force to be reckoned with, much like the newsmaker they introduce, who needs no introduction, really. Here’s how Qi Yuwu, actor, husband, father and not-so-secret home chef, embodies the Portugieser’s genteel yet resilient character, and what passing time, special moments, speeding up, and slowing down mean to him.

IWC’s Portugieser, a watch that has its beginnings in adventurous nautical pursuits, is handsome, elegant, and understated – qualities a woman looks for in a man. But if looks on a person can be deceiving, the graceful aesthetics of the Portugieser certainly belie its hardiness. The tasteful accessory for a stylish, refined man’s wrist is also tough and smart when it needs to be, with movements that take innovation to great heights.

To appreciate the originality of the Portugieser, is to recognise the genius of Kurt Klaus, who is widely acknowledged for the perpetual calendar he invented, first presented in 1985; a kind of revolution in the world of mechanical watches that so eloquently encapsulates the values of IWC. Klaus realised a simple but intelligent construction and the result was the first double moon. Little wonder that the new 2020 Portugieser incarnations have been hailed groundbreaking, a new landmark in the history of innovation at IWC, and a triumph of the human spirit.

To celebrate these achievements is to, like indefatigable actor Qi Yuwu, evolve with time and constantly maintain that wonder and curiosity for new changes and challenges – to roll with the punches, in other words.

Altered Realities

As he contemplates who the real Yuwu is, the prolific and adaptable actor, who has taken on a diverse range of roles, from swordsman, monk, to many other characters in between, philosophises about how life and time are dynamic and so he who chooses to be lithe and agile must also change and not remain static or stagnant.

“Asking me about who I think I am is like asking me to predict the future – the answer is, ‘I don’t know’, because there are no limits to who you can become, and a human being isn’t a constant. In every stage of life, you are influenced by the experiences you go through, the people you meet and the environment you are in. These change you, and life is interesting because it isn’t a predictable constant. Come what may, I am always open to new possibilities. At the same time, I also try my best to spend time with my loved ones,” says the former student at the Guangzhou Physical Education Institute.

Even as he absorbs the personalities that he plays in order to portray them authentically and convincingly, he admits they are none of them the real him. The humble thespian expounds, “The roles I play are very different from the real me when it comes to personality, emotions and the lives they lead. An actor’s job is to understand how each character lives and feels, then perform this interpretation onscreen. Beyond what is written on the script, I add my perspective and attitude into the role I play, portraying the character through my own understanding. I draw the emotions for my performances from many sources; from personal experiences and feelings, to art, music, books and nature, or the stories behind a person and his demeanour.”

Before coming to work in Singapore with MediaCorp, Yuwu won the title of Champion and Mr Personality in the China Round of Star Search Singapore in 1999. The now-PR is married to actress Joanne Peh and they have 2 children.

Self-willed resourcefulness and versatile acting chops aside, the humble heartthrob concedes that some things are inevitable and inescapable, like the passing of time. He hopes to go with the flow, but with none too many regrets. The realist-dreamer in him believes that, “Time is a marvellous thing that is unavoidable. Time might wait for no one but using it effectively doesn’t necessarily mean packing your schedule to the brim. Sometimes, what is perceived as a waste of time could actually be the perfect use of it. I hope to spend my time the way I like it – on the things I’m passionate about and with the people I love because at the end of it all, life is about the journey you experience and not the achievements you accumulate.”

Going Fast, Being Slow

The youthful sage subscribes to both living fast and slow because “I’m impatient by nature. I dislike procrastination and indecisiveness, and am more attuned to a fast pace in both work and life. But I’ve learnt to slow down because it helps me think better. Decision-making moments require a certain degree of detachment to gain perspective. Moving at a slower pace also grounds me and gives me a sense of stability. I pursue a calmer and more serene state of mind for now. But who knows? I might want to pick up the pace as time goes by.”

The devoted husband, father and home chef is a speed demon when it comes to food prep, fitness, or when his patience is tested, but when home with the kids and wife Joanne, he prefers to take things slow, so as to savour the treasured time they have together. “I enjoy all moments of the day; I don’t have a favourite. It all depends on how I spend that time of the day, and who I spend it with. Most of my precious moments are those spent with family and friends, especially my parents. I always wish time could slow down whenever I am with them. I also enjoy my me-time. The time spent alone makes you realise many things. In moments like these, I wish time could stand still,” he says wistfully.

Values of Time

Film work frequently takes Yuwu around the world and away from his wife and children. When Curatedition reached him for the interview, he was filming in Malaysia, and from December to April, he remains in Singapore for work on a drama serial, before he heads for China again for more projects. The ache of long-distance fatherhood, though painful, has taught him an important lesson about how family grounds him and gives him much needed stability. “I can’t be apart from family, and away for work for extended periods of time. It’s clear to me, because I feel unsettled and homesick, whenever I stay abroad for too long. After having children, this feeling has only gotten stronger. After all, material possessions aside, I believe my love for them and the memories we make together will be the legacy I leave behind.”

The famous father who’s not-so-famously known for cooking up a storm in the kitchen has a sentimental memory about a cocktail he learnt to make, called the Saketini, a martini-style sake – stirred, not shaken – that’s both potent and refreshing. And he generously shares the recipe in this story.

Yuwu demystifies that celebrity dads have it easier, when it comes to protecting their brood. The truth for him is that “being a celebrity dad is a double-edged sword. While fame opens some doors in life, we still want our children to have an ordinary childhood. We put in much more effort and thought into this so that they can grow up with values that are not influenced by our status or identity. Hence, we chose not to expose their appearance and identity, so that is often a point of comparison that causes some misunderstandings and stress”.

The former model, now international actor, with an immense body of work, has been described as private, home-loving, definitely hardworking. Evidently, too, time is a cherished commodity for him to do the best he can with. So, what might such a sensitive, sensible soul look for in a timepiece?

“I’ve met the wealthy who adorn practical yet inexpensive watches, and the aspirational who wear expensive watches. It’s all a matter of choice. Once you look beyond the surface and the circumstances, you will be able to see a person’s true style, mindset and character from their choices. Some buy certain watches for their value and rarity, and others in appreciation of the craft. Style isn’t just about the watch you wear, but how you strike an overall balance. There are watches of different functionalities and complications, and priced accordingly. Heirloom quotient and lifestyle are some of my key considerations, but most importantly, I need to appreciate its beauty, heritage and attitude.”


This feature is produced in collaboration with IWC. Artwork by Curatedition, all rights reserved.


Related Links:

IWC Portugieser: An Endless Sea of Dreams

IWC Portugieser: Navigating Through Time

IWC Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Edition “SFTI”: The Ultimate Wingman

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