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The evolution of James Bond’s watches

There is no screen star more iconic than the inimitable James Bond. Spawned from the ingenious mind of Ian Fleming, he’s the man that every guy wants to be, and every women wants to be with.

Bond is a man of style and taste, and throughout all 26 feature films he’s starred in, he’s driven the finest cars, worn the most luxurious suits and checked the time on the finest wristwatches.

Although the original novels remain undeniable classics, it wasn’t until the movie franchise picked up pace that the 00 agent became a true worldwide sensation. It’s the UK’s most successful film franchise ever, and it’s given birth to some of the biggest brand endorsements and partnerships the movie business has ever seen. With watches of course, it’s no different. Here’s an in-depth look at the watches of James Bond.

THE EARLY DAYS (1962 – 1974)

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The opening casino scene in Dr. No, 1962

The only watch brand to be mentioned by Ian Fleming in the novels was Rolex. Albert R. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and the rest of the producers of the first few films honoured this, choosing the famed Swiss watchmakers as the brand of choice for Sean Connery’s Bond throughout his 5 films.

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Connery on the Dr. No set in Jamaica, 1962

The Submariner was the timepiece of choice, and the early watches were without crown guards, giving them a unique character and individuality compared with those of today. In Dr. No, Bond wore a Submariner throughout and it suited him perfectly. Released in 1954, it was becoming a classic already and its rugged nature meant Bond could rely on it whilst on exercise. Its understated design ensured it wouldn’t stand out should he want to blend into a crowd, too.

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Early 60s Rolex Submariner with ‘big crown’ and ‘Bond’ NATO strap (left) and with metal bracelet (right)

Bond wore a Submariner on a brown leather strap in Dr. No, giving it a slightly dressier feel. He later wore one on a striped NATO-style strap in Goldfinger, which was famously ill-fitting, still baffling enthusiasts to this day.

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Connery pairing the Submariner with a ‘Dr No’ Turnbull & Asser shirt

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Film still from ‘Goldfinger’ showing the Submariner on a rather ill-fitting fabric strap

A NEW ERA (1977 – 1989)

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Whilst the Rolex tradition was kept alive in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore wore Seiko timepieces for the majority of his tenure as the venerable spy. This is a move that purists scoff at today, but some interesting timepieces were used nonetheless. The period also marked the beginning of watches being used as gadgets, with interesting complications including a buzz-saw and lasers.

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Throughout the 70s and 80s, the quartz craze swept throughout the watch industry, threatening to kill off the fine art of mechanical movements. Just like his outfits, Roger Moore’s Bond kept up with the trends, and thus digital watch innovators Seiko was used.

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Seiko Ref. 0674 5009 from 1977

THE PRESENT (1995 – … )

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Film still from Skyfall, 2012

Although the traditionalists would argue that Fleming intended Bond to wear a Rolex, for many, Omega is what Bond would have intended for himself. Ever since Goldeneye in 1995, James Bond has worn an Omega timepiece, and it seems like a perfect fit.

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Bond wearing an Omega Planet Ocean in a promotional still from Skyfall, 2012

Sleek and sophisticated, Omega are a brand associated with incredible quality, craftsmanship, and above all, reliability. Bond is a man constantly on the move, so only a durable timepiece will do – although design is of course important too. He has worn a variation of the Seamaster since Goldeneye, when Brosnan’s Bond favoured a Seamaster 300M with a blue face and matching bezel. His watch featured a number of Q-Branch enhancements such as a remote bomb detonator and a powerful laser beam that could cut through solid steel.

Daniel Craig’s Bond has preferred to keep it simple so far, and as such his watches lack the deadly modifications, although they remain equally as stylish. He favours a Seamaster Planet Ocean with a black face and bezel, which is a fine choice indeed, as his rugged, masculine character complements its chunkier proportions and slightly larger case size.

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Left: Omega Seamaster Professional from 1997 // Right: Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean from 2012

For the latest film in the series, Spectre, Omega unveiled a new Bond watch: the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra James Bond.

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The Aqua Terra is dressier than the Planet Ocean, with a slimmer overall silhouette and a more elegant design. The Bond edition features a striking blue-patterned dial with yellow accents and secondhand, and it’s powered by Omega’s brand new Master Co-Axial calibre 8507 movement, meaning it’s resistant to magnetic fields greater than 15,007 gauss.

As we get closer to the film’s release in October, we’re bound to see more releases. Watch this space, gentlemen.

Further Reading