He is the James that needs no introduction. The spy who has been in service to Her Majesty for over 60 years, who has defeated 104 nefarious sorts and still managed to find time to sleep with 52 women (though that’s only the films). And he’s a man who most certainly knows his watches.
Although James Bond first strutted onto the fictional landscape in 1952’s Casino Royale, it wasn’t until the next book Live and Let Die that there’s a mention of a Rolex. However, it isn’t until 1961’s Thunderball that you find out which one, when a CIA operative says to 007: “You’re still wearing that old wristwatch of yours with the big phosphorous numerals”. This description, and the fact that Ian Fleming himself wore one, led fans to believe he was describing an Explorer Ref 1016.
While the model and reference number changed, it wasn’t until 1981 when British novelist John Gardner took up the franchise again that Bond switched horological allegiances and wore a Luminox, presumably because Gardner thought the hard-wearing brand would be perfect for the modern secret agent. However, the Rolex had been returned to its rightful place on Bond’s wrist by 2015’s Anthony-Horowitz penned Trigger Mortis.
Bond Watches On Screen: The Early Years
Connery wearing a Submariner on the set of Dr. No, 1962
On screen, Rolex dominated the early Connery years apart from two small cameos from a Gruen Precision. Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore even got in on the action with her own GMT Master Ref. 6542. In 1965 Bond experimented with a Breitling Top Time, which he used as a Geiger counter, relying on his trusty Sub to tell the time.
That exact Breitling, which was modified with a large water-resistant casing, turned up at a car boot sale in the UK in 2013. Some detective work from the buyer and a confirmation from Breitling itself revealed it to be the prop used in the film; a discovery that earned the lucky boot scavenger £103,875 when Christie’s put it under the hammer that same year.
Connery and his Breitling Top Time in Thunderball, 1965
George Lazenby’s only outing in On her Majesty’s Secret Service was accompanied by both a Submariner Ref. 5513 and a lovely pre-Daytona chronograph Ref. 6238. Then things got a switch up in 1973’s Live and Let Die when Roger Moore arrived on the scene and Q was allowed to add some extra features, including a bezel that doubled as a circular saw; a modification that, according to a 2016 post on the brand’s Instagram feed, is still working.
George Lazenby and his Submariner in OHMSS, 1969
That film also featured a rather novel Pulsar LED from Hamilton, which seems to have been the watch that paved the way for the addition of Seiko into the mix. From 1977 to 1985 when Moore handed his licence to kill over to Timonthy Dalton, Bond wore around eight different iterations from the Japanese brand, including one with a television screen function that was only used to ogle a colleague’s breasts to a rather good-looking Diver 150m.
Roger Moore wearing a Hamilton Pulsar LED while holding a Submariner in Live and Let Die, 1973
This inclusion saw some purists getting sniffy but remember this was the middle of the quartz crisis, not only was the Swiss watch industry on its knees but the reason it was struggling was because smart men about town wanted to wear quartz; Bond is just such a man, so a Seiko made sense.
The Omega Era
Timothy Dalton was the only Bond to wear a TAG Heuer, a Professional Night-Dive Ref. 980.031 to be precise and then, after a hiatus, in 1995, Pierce Brosnan sashayed on to our screens and ushered in the Omega era.
Despite accusations of product placement, it was actually the Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming who chose the Seamaster 300m for Brosnan. “The colour blue really suited Pierce,” she says. “I was dressing him in lots of blue shirts and the blue bezel and dial of the Seamaster matched perfectly. Plus of course, blue suited Commander Bond’s naval background too.
Pierce Brosnan wearing Omega in Goldeneye, 1995
“I had also known contemporaries when I was in my twenties,” she continues, “who were military and naval, and some who worked in the field of energy and electricity, all of whom swore by their Omegas. Therefore, as one of the early tasks in designing the new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, I went to a ‘props and hand props’ meeting and argued for the use of Omega.”
It is a partnership that has lasted 24 years and survived collapsing ice palaces, a hotel flood and a version of Home Alone in the Scottish Highlands.
When Daniel Craig stepped into those blue trunks, he was issued with a Planet Ocean, alongside his Seamaster, which got upgraded to a Planet Ocean 600m for all the water-based shenanigans of Quantum of Solace, while an Aqua Terra was seen in the opening sequence of Spectre.
Daniel Craig wearing Omega in Casino Royale, 2006
And now for a brand-new decade, and the 25th film, comes a Seamaster with a difference. The blue dial is gone and replaced with a more rugged, vintage vibe enhanced by the absolutely amazing aged-brown dial and complementary bezel. Rather than the traditional linked bracelet, this time it is on titanium mesh; a bracelet not seen on a Seamaster since the 1960s.
It’s manly, retro and very 007. Fleming would have approved.
Omega Seamaster Diver 300m 007 Edition
The Five Best James Bond Watches
The Hidden Gem: Gruen Precision
While Rolex got all the column inches, the watch that gets the accolade of being the first Bond watch on screen is a Gruen Precision that can be see peeping out Connery’s cuff in the casino scene at the beginning of Dr No. This dress watch also accompanied him and his dinner suit in From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. Although Gruen, a US brand, went bust in 1977, if you hurry you can pick up the exact timepiece on Chrono24 right now.
The Classic: The Rolex Submariner Refs 6358 and 6538
Star of the first four Bond films in two reference numbers, for many purists this is the quintessential Bond watch. It just tells the time – none of Q’s upgrades here; apparently the faux Nato strap that it is on in Goldfinger is too narrow and legend has it that Rolex either couldn’t or wouldn’t loan a watch, so producer Cubby Broccoli took of his own Rolex and gave it to Connery.
The Interloper: The Seiko Diver 150m
The Bond love affair with Seiko started in 1977, when The Spy Who Loved Me saw Roger Moore strap on a 0674 complete with in-built ticker tape printer. By 1985’s A View to A Kill he had three Seikos on rotation, including the Diver 150m, a chunky little powerhouse, though not technically a diving watch, whose legacy lives on in the Prospex Automatic Divers 200m.
The Modern Classic: Omega Seamaster 300m Quartz Professional
In 1995, we got a new Bond in the form of Mr Remington Steele himself, Pierce Brosnan. It also meant there was a new watch brand in town. Omega so impressed the film’s costume designer Lindy Hemming she was convinced “that Commander Bond, a Naval man, a diver, and a discreet gentleman of the world would wear this tough but sophisticated watch.” It is a classic diving watch and one that, like Mr Brosnan, looks as good today as it did 24 years ago.
The Instant Best-Seller: Omega Seamaster Diver 300m 007 Edition
So, we’ve only seen it on paper and in the trailer (worth rewatching for that motorbike stunt alone), but we’re calling it – the latest Bond watch designed for No Time To Die will be a sell-out. It’s got a lovely vintage military vibe, that dial colour is just gorgeous (blue was getting a bit obvious), it’s the first 007 edition not to be limited and it’s the first time a Seamaster has been given a titanium mesh bracelet since the 1960s. Added to that you get all the superlative co-axial master chronometer tech powering it that you’d expect from Omega. And it’s only £7,390. Get your order in now; no time to wait.