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Luke Evans: Bulgari’s man of the moment

Hollywood has long known that in order to tell a good story, you need a great actor. And now that “storytelling” has become another vehicle for brand messaging – “leveraging brand equity through content”, to use the marketing speak – well let’s just say some luxury houses have been on their game rather longer than others.

Take Bulgari. Founded in Rome in 1881 by Sotirios Boulgaris, by the Fifties the business was itself a byword for an Italian economic boom period forever known – thanks in part to the city’s Cinecittà studios – as La Dolce Vita. In 1962, Elizabeth Taylor famously wore real Bulgari jewels on the set of Cleopatra. And during both her marriages to Richard Burton, the couple regularly exchanged its pieces, putting the jewellery brand on the map.

Fast forward 50 years, and Luke Evans, another fine Welsh actor equally fastidious about his sprezzatura, is in the opulent first floor suite of Bulgari’s London flagship store, being photographed for Telegraph Time in Ferragamo and Kilgour threads, paired with a slew of the latest Bulgari timepieces. These include Octo and Roma versions of the Finissimo tourbillon – the world’s thinnest – and new blacked-out (or “Ultranero”) versions of the Octo. A fixture of the style columns and a regular attendee at fashion events such as London Collections: Men, Evans evidently identifies easily with Bulgari’s particular brand of Italian swagger. “Bulgari really stands out,” he says.

“There’s the age of the brand, for a start, and the legacy of the Bulgari family and its association with Rome, which is one of my favourite cities. “And for six decades there’s been these beautiful, glamorous actresses who’ve worn their diamonds, and now they have branched out into these incredible watches, things that I can identify with.” When we speak, Evans is sporting an Octo Ultranero. He tells me it’s similar to the piece he fell for three years ago when he ran into Stephane Gerschel, Bulgari international communications director, at Harvey Weinstein’s BAFTAs after-party. He walked away with the watch: “Very happily placed handcuffs,” as Evans laughingly puts it.

“The watch had just launched,” recalls Gerschel. “And Luke said he liked it, so I gave it to him. It was very spontaneous on my side, but at the same time I think he really embodies the right person for Bulgari.” No wonder. Today, the 37-year-old actor boasts the sort of Hollywood CV his 27-year-old self could scarcely have imagined.

A decade ago he was a stage performer with a strong résumé in musical theatre. Tiring of that, he booked himself a ticket to LA where, as they say in those parts, he “took meetings” until he had established himself in the movie business. Since then, Evans has become the sort of all-seasons actor able to segue between dystopian thrillers (High-Rise), revisionist horror (Dracula Untold), mythic romps (The Hobbit and Clash of the Titans), and the Fast & Furious franchise.

This autumn Evans’ A-list credentials have been further underscored with a leading role in the blockbuster book adaptation, The Girl on the Train, in which he stars opposite Emily Blunt. “There were quite a few things I wasn’t aware of when I came into this business,” Evans says. “One of them was the travel; I had no idea that I would be doing this much flying.” And the other? “The fashion connection. These are completely different industries, but I remember going to my first fashion show in Milan, which is how I started to build my awareness of brands and the ones that looked good on me.” That awareness was something Gerschel quickly noted, too.

“We are an Italian brand, and the Italian man has facial hair, takes pride in his body, is suave… I was looking for a man’s man, basically, and I thought Luke was the perfect candidate.” The bond runs deeper, too. Since signing on as a full-time ambassador, Bulgari has introduced Evans to Save the Children, and he’s currently working on youth empowerment projects in his native south Wales and in Mumbai. “I may be 37, but I can still think like a teenager,” says the actor, who grew up the only child of a builder and a cleaner in Aberbargoed, near Pontypool. “I understand what it feels like, and that’s what I want to target.”

For Bulgari, the arrangement is entirely reciprocal. “Are actors better communicators? Absolutely,” Gerschel says. “Since the Fifties we’ve worked with hundreds of movie stars – we feed on their aura, but they also feed themselves on the life of the brands. And I think, with Luke specifically, he really gets in to every story and every detail. He is Mr Bulgari.”