Recently, at WatchTime New York, we had the opportunity to talk one-on-one in an exclusive interview with actor Sung Kang of The Fast and Furious Franchise fame, among a host of other action movies. An auto enthusiast and drift racer, the American-born (Georgia) Korean actor just unveiled a watch in cooperation with Perrelet — the Turbine Sung Kang — that has discreet but definitive Sung Kang design influences.
A novice in the watch world, Kang admits that he is not a collector of watches — or of cars, for that matter. “I collect things that have a narrative. If you and I went on an adventure and the watch on one of our wrists played an important role, then that watch would have sentimental value and it wouldn’t matter if it was an inexpensive Timex, that would be what I would keep.”
In fact, he says the sentimental aspect of creating the Perrelet Turbine Sung Kang came into play when he gave thought to what he wanted his design to be. “The turbine element of the watch, always moving, fits my passion for cars and the brand executives also like the same types of cars as I do, so the synergies are good. But I really wanted something that would make you think of driving, history, being in the garage; I wanted something that when you wear it you have a sense of nostalgia. I don’t mean to be chauvinistic but I wanted something masculine that has a feeling of James Dean or Steve McQueen and I wanted a look that would last forever that you could pass down to the next generation.”
To that end, Sung Kang brought back a very useful design element of decades ago in driving watches, where the 12:00 is offset so that when driving, the time is more easily readable. “The offset 12 is a subtle thing, but it has an element of the past that I love.” He also added red, the color of the RPMs on the dashboard, and yellow, and a car-lover’s color, to the bottom dial so that as the upper turbines move, the color comes through. The Turbine Sung Kang is crafted in stainless steel with black PVD coating and black rubber strap for a real “blacktop” racing appeal.
Kang says his love of cars started very early in life. “When I was a little boy, I had a neighbor who was always out working in his garage on a ‘63 Impala, a white convertible with a white interior, and he would let this little boy come over and hang out with him. I would watch what he was doing and ask questions. That was my sanctuary; I could be there anytime I needed to get away, anytime, and that stayed with me. As I got older, I wanted to give that back to someone else,” says Kang, referring to his charity, Project Underdog.
“For me, the biggest accomplishment in my entire life really comes from my childhood and that neighbor next door. It’s the Project Underdog charity, wherein I work with three inner-city kids to completely rebuild a car over a summer. Then we auction it off and all the money is used for their college educations,” explains Kang. In fact, he feels that working in a garage is a wholesome and fulfilling experience. “You learn so much from something like this. Not just how to build a car, but also that your word counts, you learn about integrity. You can cheat when you’re building a car — I call them the bondo warriors — or you can do it right. We do it right, and it is a great learning experience.”
Kang says he also brings in a host of his friends to meet the kids and act as mentors, as well. He has had clothing designers, car designers, racers and others get involved in the Underdog project, where he works side-by-side with the students and industry veterans to restore the vehicle. The project is backed by Shell, featuring Pennzoil, and SEMA (the largest automotive after-market union). Kang says Mike Spagnola, SEVA VP of OEM & Product Development programs, was instrumental in bringing Project Underdog to life. The first car that was rebuilt in the charity program was a 1972 Ford Maverick.
Kang says he developed the name, Project Underdog, based on the Maverick car. “I always think to myself, ‘if I were a car, I would be a Maverick.’ When I worked The Fast and the Furious, they lined up all sorts of cars for us to drive and I drove a ‘71 Ford Maverick, and I learned the history of it. It was built in Brazil between 1973 and 1979; it’s their muscle car and they are very proud of it. I like it because it is not really a Mustang and it is not really a Pinto; it’s sort of in the middle. You don’t know what to do with it; and that’s a lot like me in Hollywood, they look at me and they don’t know what to do with me. I think the Maverick is the ultimate underdog car, so I named the project Underdog, and call it U3 for short for underdog and the number of kids we work with each year.”
Now that Kang has moved to New York to take on the role of a lawyer in the Starz television series Power, now in its fourth season, he is looking to replicate the California-based Project Underdog in New York—working with NY schools.
As to the Perrelet Turbine Sung Kang: just 350 pieces will ever be made. Each of the 44mm watches house the P321 in-house mechanical automatic caliber and offers three hands and date at 6:00. The watch features an automatic winding system with ball bearing-mounted oscillating weight and anti-shock system (Incabloc) on the balance wheel. It is deftly brings together the wide worlds of automobiles, racing and watches, as well as Sung Kang. It retails for an extremely affordable $4,988.