James Marsden is a bit of a throwback. He’ll take an old pickup truck radio over an iPod. He misses film in the digital age. He likes a well made espresso and a nice face scrubber. He’s into art and design. And he knows his stuff. If he’s into something, he deep dives. He won’t just think a watch looks great. He’ll be able to tell you how it’s made. The when. The where. The mechanics of it. He’s a true nerd when it comes to the stuff he loves. And he loves a lot of great stuff. Here, we got him to break down his dream list.
IWC BIG PILOT 43MM
“I’m very much a watch guy. I can get just as excited about a $40 Casio, as I can about a 10k luxury timepiece. Every year I look forward to the press releases detailing all the new wrist candy coming out of Europe. This year at Watches and Wonders, there were several home runs, but one particular piece hit it out of the park for me. The IWC Big Pilot 43mm. You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch more synonymous with its brand than the Big Pilot. They have been pioneering some of the finest aviation watches since the ’30s, and over the decades the dimensions of the large case (at times over 50mm) have changed very little. And for good reason. After all it is called the “Big Pilot”. And though it’s been extremely popular since the 46mm reference 5002 was introduced in 2002, a lot of people just couldn’t wear it due to its substantial size.
At first glance, this new addition doesn’t look too different from its predecessor, but on closer look, you’ll see they’ve answered my prayers by shaving 3mm off the case! The size is now perfect for anyone with slimmer wrists like myself. Any smaller, you wouldn’t really be able to call it a Big Pilot. Another cool change, which makes it historically more similar to its ancestor, was the removal of the date window and power reserve indicator on the dial. You now have this classic, subtly cool uninterrupted dial in a much more wearable size without compromising the aviation DNA specific to its heritage. Add to that a new sapphire case back showing off that nice 82100 in-house movement with a 60-hour power reserve and the new versatile easX-CHANGE strap/bracelet system—and the Big Pilot 43mm is absolutely hitting all the right notes. I have been lucky to be an IWC friend of the brand for some time now, and I really personally just love this piece.”
ASTON MARTIN DB4 ZAGATO CONTINUATION
“Make no mistake! I cannot afford this car. Most people can’t. Even if you could, I’m pretty sure they’re all spoken for—as there were only 19 of them made. BUT, the idea behind continuation cars (creating a replica to exact original specifications and authorized by the original manufacturer) is one that hopefully will fuel something I’ve been wanting to see happen for a long time. Most new cars are boring to look at, boring to drive, and all look the same. They’re safe! But they’re boring and numb.
Gone are the days of the automotive ‘50s and ‘60s where the sheetmetal was sculpted to have actual sex appeal. But there’s a cool trend going on these days which explores basic concepts my son and I have been wanting to see happen for years. Which is: why can’t we take the tech innovation and safety features of modern cars and transplant them into the much cooler body designs of the ‘50s and ‘60s? This has been going on for a little while now with restomods, which are essentially what I’ve described.
This Aston does not have that tech I’m describing or safety features, that I’m aware of, but I do hope we start to see more of these—and examples that can be mass produced!! We should all be able to find an affordable, safe car that is good to our planet, and has bluetooth and Apple Play and all that. But do we absolutely have to sacrifice style to achieve that? I wish an automotive manufacturer would come out with an all-electric Jaguar E-type, arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever built, with all the safety features and eco-friendly tech—while keeping the insane beauty of the original body design. I’m not sure how we do this, and there’s probably a reason why we haven’t yet. But please, someone figure it out already!”
“Ed is the man. Fellow Oklahoman and one of the most prolific and celebrated contemporary artists of our time, Ed’s works range from clever word paintings to inspired (and often deadpan) photography like his book Every Building on the Sunset Strip—a 27-foot long accordion-folded documentation of, well, every building on the Sunset strip. He has an incredible ability to inject a very specific and individualized wry sense of humor into his works, sometimes by using only a single word.
Back in the ’60s he painted words like “OOF” “SMASH” “HONK” and “Boss”, and they’ve since become some of the most coveted pieces of contemporary art today. You just look at some of his word paintings and find yourself laughing, and you don’t really know why. “Some Pretty Eyes and Some Electric Bills”; “Safe and Effective Medication”; “Brave Men Run in My Family”; “Gal Chews Same Piece of Gum Since 1960”. He has an unbelievable ability to bring life and new meanings to words or phrases using irony and wit, and sometimes just inexplicably moves me.
To me, Ed’s style feels like someone handing you a piece of paper with one simple word on it, and then elbowing you and giving you a wry wink to make you feel like only you and him are in on the joke. I love him. And I feel personally close to him as I feel like we both left Oklahoma at the same time in our lives to head west and see for ourselves what all the lights and the fuss of the West Coast was all about. He is my all time favorite artist and is still making amazing works today.”
ROCKET ESPRESSO APPARTAMENTO MACHINE
“Coffee has become as essential as water to most of us. I found this espresso machine after searching for something that looks good, but is also relatively easy to use for all the coffee drinks that get consumed at my place. It’s not a dual boiler (for brewing and steaming at same time with best efficiency), but that would cost a whole lot more. It does have a heat-exchanger, which pretty much does the same thing for less money and still has plenty of steam wand power for micro-foaming nerds like myself who want to pour little hearts or leaves into their lattes. Pretty reasonably-sized footprint for most kitchens. Highly recommend.”
EVERY GUITAR BILL COLLINGS MAKES!
“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 and have loved and respected the challenges of mastering this instrument (I have not come close) for most of my life. I also learned about the great differences in levels of craftsmanship—like I do with any hobby I get myself into.
Collings guitars, based in Austin, Texas, was founded by Bill Collings the year I was born in 1973. Since then, he has made some of the most exquisite and sought-after instruments I’ve ever seen. From insanely beautiful arch-tops, to his perfectly crafted herringbone dreadnoughts (the D2H), and jumbo slope-shouldered dreadnoughts (CJ Sunburst)—Bill Collings took that X-bracing that made all those pre-war acoustics sound so good and worked it into a more modern acoustic guitar with finishes and detail that are unrivaled. They are heirloom guitars. Awesome pieces!”
AESOP HAND CREAM
“Get the blue one. Smells great, and God knows our hands need the extra moisture and care so they don’t turn into a set of shriveled turkey claws from all the hand washing. Aesop is environmentally friendly and is included on PETA’s “cruelty-free” list.”
VINTAGE PENTAX 67 MEDIUM FORMAT FILM CAMERA
“Photography has always been a passion of mine since my first serious camera—Leica M6—I purchased back in 1999 to document behind the scenes of the first X-Men movie. I immersed myself in the science of photography and learned the relationship between aperture and shutter speed and film speed and learned to look for quality of light, not just light. The digital revolution saw digital cameras replace our beloved film cameras, and of course now we use our phones for most of our photo taking. But if you want a full-on old school, mechanical film SLR experience, this beast of a camera creates amazing images with super shallow depth of field. Load it up with Tri-X, find a spot with plenty of light (or mount it on a tripod for slow shutter speeds) and fire away.”
1972 CHEVY C-10 CHEYENNE
“As necessary in Texas as a taco for breakfast, the pickup truck is just part of the culture in the Lone Star state. I was lucky to get this long bed C-10 from a friend who was looking to sell it for something newer, and had to get it. They’re time capsules and a daily reminder of an analog world that I dearly miss. No touch screens here and I couldn’t be happier about that.”
POUL KJAERHOLM OUL KJAERHOLM PK-80 DAYBED
“I have always wanted to find a great example of one of these for my home. And while I’ve been hunting for the right one with perfectly patina’d brown saddle leather, the prices of these original Poul Kjaerholm works of art have skyrocketed. They are not cheap! But, if you love them, and have the means to invest in one, I doubt you’ll ever lose your money long term. Sometimes mid-century modern furniture can be too austere and cold. And while this Bauhaus designed daybed is definitely minimalist, it adds real warmth to a room without taking all the attention away from the rest of your living space. I’ve always loved Poul Kjaerholm’s designs, as they are simple and beautiful and incredibly well made. If anybody knows of where I can find a nice one for less than the price of a BMW 3 series, let me know!”
STEEL CASEMENT WINDOWS
“I’ve been wanting to install full stainless steel casement windows in my home for a long time now. I’ve been seeing them for years in historic New York City lofts; there’s a beautiful, simple, old world charm to them. They’re strong as hell and really low profile which allows for so much more light to flood into the house.”
HANRO NIGHT AND DAY ROBE
“We have gotten to be experts at lounging around the house this past year. I wore a white t-shirt, boxers and a robe for probably 80% of 2020. This knit robe is made in Switzerland and is so comfortable and lightweight and wearable all day long. I know we are wanting to get OUT of the house these days, but for the inevitable stay at home zoom call days, you won’t regret having one of these to throw on.”
TOOLETRIES BODY SCRUBBER
“I love this thing. It’s made of 100% antimicrobial silicone and gives your skin a nice massage while it cleans. Just load it up with some body wash and scrub away. Gentle enough to use on your face. Easy to clean. Doesn’t get gross like sponges, and it’s even got a handy little suction cup attached to it so you can just stick it to the shower glass. If you really wanna go crazy, get the shower bundle that comes with a mirror, razor and toothbrush holder. There’s even a silicone beer can holder if you need a little buzz to help you hit the high notes singing in the shower.”
“I’m a big Formula 1 racing fan, and I remember the first Grand Prix race back after Covid hit. Some of the teams (Ferrari and McLaren) were wearing the U-mask. I thought: if F1 teams were using it, the technology has to be good. It is a fully replaceable 5-layer filter with a self-sanitizing Biolayer that slips inside a (really comfortable) mask that’s made of 100% regenerated nylon. The replaceable filter lasts 200 hours. I know, we’re sick of wearing them. But if you want one good one to last you a long while, get this one. Made in Italy and super comfortable.”
CHECK OUT JAMES
As Tim Templeton in Pixar’s The Boss Baby: Family Business
As Tom in Sonic the Hedgehog 2
As Steve Wood in the final season of Netflix’s Dead to Me
As Prince Edward in Disenchanted
As Stu Redman in CBS’ Stephen King series The Stand
As Teddy Flood in HBO’s Emmy-winning Westworld
As Phil Crane in Hulu’s miniseries Mrs. America
As Cyclops in the original X-Men movies
As Jack Lime in Anchorman 2
As JFK in Lee Daniel’s The Butler
As Lon Hammond in Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook