Talking to Desmond Tan, ZENITH's Friend of the Brand

Desmond Tan—who is friend of the brand, ZENITH—takes a time out to talk to us
Published: 12 July 2023
Desmond Tan seen here in the ZENITH Pilot Big Date Flyback.

Since its start in 1865, ZENITH has gone on to become the first vertically integrated Swiss watch manufacture in the world. Apart from its in-house innovation and manufactured movements, the brand is also known for its association with extraordinary figures, who dreamt big and achieved the impossible.

One such friend of ZENITH is the actor Desmond Tan, whose current favourite timepiece is the Pilot Big Date Flyback in stainless steel. We speak with the ZENITH ambassador about punctuality, rituals and the path taken to get into a role.

ESQUIRE SINGAPORE: Thanks for taking time to talk to us. First off, are you a punctual person?

DESMOND TAN: Well, I must admit, I've had my fair share of "rubber band time" moments in the past. Moments when I might have pushed the boundaries of punctuality. But, hey, that's the nature of the dreamy creative mind sometimes, right?

As I grow older (and wiser), I've come to appreciate the importance of punctuality. Time is a precious resource and being on time shows respect for both your time as well as others. I've learned to value punctuality. Especially now that I'm part of the ZENITH family where time is truly of the essence.

Having acted in both English and Mandarin dramas; are there nuances in playing roles meant for different demographics?

Absolutely! Language carries its own unique flavour. When you switch between English and Mandarin roles, there are indeed nuances to consider. The cultural context, the way emotions are being expressed and even the comedic timing can differ.

It's like switching gears and adapting to a different rhythm. But that's what makes it exciting! It allows me to explore different aspects of my craft and connect with diverse audiences. I truly embrace the challenge with open arms.

You’ve cast your lot with acting back then but if you weren’t a thespian, what would you be doing now? Will it be in the realty game?

Ah, the tantalising "what if" scenario! Well, if I weren't gracing the TV screen, I'd probably be exploring the realm of entrepreneurship. Perhaps I'd venture into the realty game, as you mentioned. Maybe even start my own business in the pet industry... who knows?

The world is full of possibilities. I've always believed in reaching for the stars, no matter the path I choose. Whether it's acting or something else, I'm always ready to seize the opportunity and make it shine!

Do you get free time for yourself?

I've been craving a lot of these blissful moments of free time. Work has been overwhelming in recent months; I'm looking forward for a break to let my soul breathe a little. A quick reminder to everyone: "Amidst the chaos and weariness, don't forget to pause, inhale deeply and let your soul breathe"

So, what do you do in your free time? Watch TV? Read?

I hardly have time to follow through with any shows due to my busy schedule. So, I watch a lot of movies like cinematic masterpieces as well as indie gems. And when it comes to reading, I just realised that I've not been reading for years now. I will set it as a priority to get back into my books after my current acting project.

Do you ever think about your legacy? You’ve talked before about making an impact in Asia, not just Singapore; how is that going?

While I'm young at heart, I do occasionally ponder about the grand tapestry of life and the legacy that I want to leave behind. As for making an impact in Asia, it's an ongoing journey. I strive to create characters and tell stories that resonate with audiences all over the world. Whether it's through film, screens or even my fashion ventures, I want to represent Singapore as an inspiring creative who constantly reaches for greater heights as I dive deeper into my inner self.

I'm fortunate to have had opportunities to work on projects that reached audiences beyond the shores of Singapore and I'm grateful for the support and love I've received throughout my career. I believe that by continuing to push boundaries, collaborating with different talents and exploring diverse narratives, I can play my part in leaving a lasting impact on the Asian entertainment industry. So, watch out, world, because I'm just getting started!

Desmond Tan, seen here in the ZENITH Pilot Big Date Flyback and holding a paper plane.

What are some of the ways you get into your roles?

Well, each role is a unique adventure and I approach it with a mix of curiosity with tons of research coupled with a sprinkle of imagination. I dive deep into understanding the character's background, motivations and emotional journey; I embrace their quirks, mannerisms, thought processes and even their speech patterns. I draw inspiration from personal experiences, observations, and the wonderful people I meet along the way. And of course, I love exploring the different physicality and mindset required for each role. It's a joyous process of discovery, and it keeps me on my toes as an actor. As cliché, as it might sound, it's a constant learning process as an actor. 100% truth!

What is a question that you wish the media would have asked you?

"If you were to win a million-dollar lucky draw, what would you want to do with it? Shoot a movie or..."

As much as I love movie making, I also have a deep love for animals and I have a dream of building an animal shelter. I wish to create a sanctuary where animals in distress can find love, care, and a second chance at a happy life. I envision a place that provides physical and emotional well-being, with dedicated staff and volunteers showering the animals with love and attention. It would also serve as an educational centre, promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare. I wish to work towards a world where every animal has a loving home and a wagging tail or a purr of contentment! Any readers who share the same vision with a spare million dollars, you know who to contact!

Do you have any rituals or superstitions that you employ before performing live?

I do have a few quirky habits that help me get in the zone. I use different fragrances for different characters and I'll wear the fragrance when I'm driving to work.

Also, before the cam rolls, I would like to find a quiet corner to gather my thoughts and take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is essential. It's my way of centring myself and focusing my energy. It's all about finding that little boost of confidence and creating the right frame of the character's mindset before the camera starts rolling.

As an actor and a public figure, is it hard to maintain some secrets for your self when the cameras aren’t rolling? 

The dance between privacy and public life is something I get better at over the past years—honestly, it's still a work in progress! In this digital age, indeed, maintaining secrets can sometimes be a challenge. However, everyone deserves a certain level of privacy, including public figures. It's about finding a balance between sharing parts of my life with my amazing fans and keeping some aspects sacred. At the end of the day, it's important to have a sense of self outside of the spotlight, to nurture relationships, and to enjoy those quiet moments that make us who we are. So, yes, it can be tricky but I'm learning to navigate it with grace.

Given that ZENITH means the "apex of success", what's your zenith moment in your life?

I recently spoke to a dear mentor of mine whom I haven't met for years and the first question he asked was, "How is the sweet taste of success? Enjoying it?" That immediately brought a big smile to my face. It was a simple yet deep question. 

My mentor guided me to breakthroughs in my performance that led me to my first Best Actor Award and my career has been growing incredibly well since then. Looking back, it has been indeed many years of success as an actor and a human being. I believe success is a journey rather than a destination.

From receiving accolades for my performances to witnessing the impact my work has had on audiences, those moments have been exhilarating and humbling. However, I also believe that success isn't solely defined by external recognition or material accomplishments. It's about personal growth, pushing boundaries, and staying true to my passion for acting. Every project I take on, every character I bring to life, is an opportunity for me to strive for that apex of success.

But let's not forget that success is also a multifaceted concept. It's not just about individual achievements; it's about the collective journey and the people who supported me along the way. I am incredibly grateful for the love and encouragement from my fans, the unwavering support of my family and friends, and the incredible team I work with. Their belief in me and their dedication to our shared vision has been instrumental in all successes I've experienced.

While I have encountered moments that could be considered as a glimpse of that apex of success, I continue to chase after new horizons and challenge myself to reach even greater heights. After all, the zenith is a destination that keeps evolving, and I'm thrilled to see where this exhilarating journey takes me next!

The ZENITH Pilot Big Date Flyback.

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