Looking Back at 60 Years of James Bond and His Fondness for Watches

From Sean Connery’s Rolex “Big Crown” to Daniel Craig’s OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300M.

Watches
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There are few things that Ian Fleming’s fictional intelligence officer takes seriously — his cars, pistol, choice of drink, suits, femme fatales, and of course, his wristwatch.

Now on to the 25th installment of the movie franchise, spanning close to 60 years with the first title Dr. No from 1962, No Time to Die will be Daniel Craig’s fifth venture as the secret agent. Plagued by numerous delays, No Time to Die has been a testing film for Bond fans having originally been slated to release in November 2019, then moved to February 2020, then to April 2020, then again to November 2020, once more to April 2021, and now finally to its confirmed October 2021 date.

Now, just in time for its release next month, we decided to celebrate the film’s release by looking back at some of the watches that have made an appearance over the last 60 years of Bond. While Craig and the previous Bond actor — Pierce Brosnan — have heavily represented OMEGA watches, the role of 007 has long been associated with a history of collectible watches from Rolex as well. Even if the actual models are not as tricked out as the ones that appear in the films, with explosive devices, lasers, saws, grappling hooks, and god forbid, high-powered magnets, many of them do boast a level of functionality for your everyday missions — high accuracy, powerful lume, amazing water resistance, anti-magnetic properties, diving bezels, and hefty stainless steel construction.

With the help of our friends over at Watchfinder & Co., join us as we look over some of the more memorable watches of James Bond along with the interesting facts behind them.

Sean Connery and the Rolex Submariner 6538 “Big Crown”

The first reference to a specific Bond watch was made in Ian Fleming’s second book, Live and Let Die in 1954. It was a Rolex. Fleming himself also wore a Rolex, more specifically an Explorer I. So it was not really a surprise when Sean Connery sported a Rolex in the very first Bond film Dr. No. It is said that the watch that was worn by Connery actually belonged to the film’s producer, Albert R. Broccoli, and was loaned to the actor for filming. Opposing rumors claim that the watch was in fact part of Sean Connery’s personal watch collection and he brought it on set for use during filming. Regardless, the watch in question was an early Rolex Submariner 6538, also known as the “Big Crown” due to its very prominent winding crown.

First produced by Rolex in 1955, and only manufactured for 4 years, this watch has become known as the James Bond Submariner. The highly collectible 6538 was also worn by Connery in From Russia with Love and Goldfinger from 1964. Today, fine examples of this Submariner sell for over $550,000 USD at auction. The Submariner wasn’t the only Rolex to be feature in these early Bond titles; Goldfinger’s Pussy Galore (played by Honor Blackman) can be seen sporting a Rolex GMT Master Reference 6542 in the film.

George Lazenby and the Rolex 6238 “Pre-Daytona”

Following on from the Connery era, Lazenby took over the role of Bond (albeit briefly) in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. And with the new Bond, came a new watch. This time, instead of the Submariner, Bond opted for a 6238 Rolex Chronograph. The piece, favored in motorsports, is often described as a kind of “Pre-Daytona” as it has all the features of the enigmatic reference except the tachymeter bezel (a measure often used by drivers to calculate speed and units per hour). Bond’s 6238 is the only one of its kind – it was redesigned at the request of the producers to incorporate a red seconds hand which acted as Bond’s built-in compass.

Roger Moore and the Rolex 5513 Submariner

It wasn’t until the early ’70s that the Q Branch really started going to town on Bond’s watches. In the 1973 film Live And Let Die Moore wears a significantly modified Rolex Submariner 5513 which contains a high-powered magnet and its very own circular saw, where the rotating bezel doubles up as the blade. Off-screen, the 5513 is often described as the ultimate tool watch – possessing nothing more, and nothing less, than exactly what is needed.

With its time-only mechanism, no date, a rotating bezel (which allows the timing of dives), and a locking bracelet clasp, it is an ideal dive watch in its purest form. It’s worth noting that it wasn’t all Swiss watches for Roger Moore’s Bond though; he was also seen sporting a Hamilton Pulsar in the opening scenes of Live and Let Die (before swapping to the famous Rolex), a Seiko 0674 LC (which also functioned as a message printing pager) in The Spy Who Loved Me and a Seiko M534 Memory Bank throughout Moonraker, which Q equips with explosives and a remote detonator.

Timothy Dalton and the Rolex Submariner 16610

Timothy Dalton took over the role of 007 in 1987 serving up a darker, grittier Bond – truer to the original character portrayed in Fleming’s novels. In The Living Daylights Dalton is seen wearing a TAG Heuer Professional Night-Dive 980.031. The watch enjoyed approximately 10 seconds of screen time and it was the first and last time that Bond was seen wearing a TAG Heuer.

In Dalton’s second 007 film, License to Kill, we see Bond return to the Rolex brand wearing the newly introduced Rolex 16610. Produced until 2010, the 16610 was made from 904L surgical grade stainless steel (more resistant to corrosion and saltwater damage) and, for the first time, utilized white gold for the hands and markers, meaning it wouldn’t rust or patina over time.

Pierce Brosnan and the OMEGA Seamaster

Goldeneye marked the first Bond film to feature an OMEGA on 007’s wrist – specifically an OMEGA Seamaster 300M Quartz Professional 2541.80.00 with a full-size stainless steel case, blue face, blue bezel and stainless steel bracelet. Lindy Hemming, the Oscar-winning costume designer, responsible for selecting 007’s watch for the film said she felt that Commander Bond “a naval man, a diver and a discreet gentleman of the world” would only wear the Seamaster with a blue dial.

But it wasn’t just Bond sporting a Seamaster in that film. Bond’s friend turned foe 006 Agent Alec Trevelyan (played by Sean Bean) is also seen wearing a Seamaster with a black leather strap. In fact, towards the end of the film, Trevelyan comments on the fact that Bond is wearing a newer model than him. Sticking with the OMEGA, Brosnan goes on to wear a Seamaster Professional 2531.80 Chronometer in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. In these films we see Q add everything from lasers and grappling hooks to torches and detonating devices to the tricked-out watch.

Daniel Craig and the OMEGA Seamaster 300, Planet Ocean and Aqua Terra 150M

Daniel Craig took up the mantle of Bond in 2006 in Casino Royale. Craig’s Bond is introduced to the audience as a brand new 007 under the command of MI6 chief M (Judi Dench). With no gadgets or gizmos this new Bond sports a Seamaster Diver 300M (Ref. 2220.80.00) and a Planet Ocean 600M (Ref. 2900.50.91) in his first outing as the 00 agent.

The Seamaster Diver was 41mm with a blue face and a blue bezel on a stainless steel bracelet. By comparison, the Seamaster Planet Ocean had a steel case, black dial, black bezel and a black rubber strap. In Quantum of Solace, 007 wears another Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M (Ref. 2201.50.00) this time with a smaller case and a steel bracelet. This trend continues in Skyfall with Bond wearing yet another Planet Ocean 600M (Ref. 232.30.42.21.01.001), this time in titanium, and a somewhat dressier Aqua Terra (231.10.39.21.03.001).

Breaking from the new, Daniel Craig can actually be seen wearing a vintage 1965 Omega Chronograph in the closing scene of Skyfall as he drives away in his Aston Martin DB5 (of the very same year). Craig’s fourth outing as Bond in the 2015 film Spectre features an Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Chronometer (Ref. 231.10.42.21.03.003) and the Omega Seamaster 300 Spectre Limited Edition (Ref. 233.32.41.21.01.001). Notably, the Seamaster 300 finally marked Craig’s first tricked-out watch as Bond. It was designed exclusively for the film and featured a stainless steel case, a black and grey striped NATO strap (reminiscent of Bond’s original NATO strap worn in Goldfinger and Thunderball), and came packed with explosives.

In the forthcoming No Time to Die films, fans will spot three OMEGA watches. Bond sports the lightweight Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition (Ref. 210.90.42.20.01.001), new agent Nomi (Lashana Lynch) wears a 38mm Seamaster Aqua Terra with a black dial and black NATO strap, and Moneypenny (played by Naomie Harris) is wearing a 27.4mm De Ville Prestige on a hunter-green leather strap.

For more watch news, here’s your last chance to bid on one of the very first Rolex Submariners.

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