Grappling hook. Geiger counter. Buzz saw.
James Bond’s watches always had a few tricks up their case.
But his best timepieces were more about style than gadgetry.
So with Daniel Craig announcing his return to the franchise and Omega’s nearly simultaneous release of the Bond-inspired Seamaster Diver 300M “Commander's Watch” Limited Edition, we thought now would be a good time to look back at all the different timepieces that have called 007’s wrist home.
Commander Bond (see what Omega did there?) has gone through a lot of wrist candy in 55 years. In point of fact, the Bond of author Ian Fleming’s books was a Rolex man, as Fleming himself was. And indeed, the brand most watch nerds associate with the spy is Rolex. On the other hand, ask most casual moviegoers and — if they’re aware of it at all — they’ll tell you Bond wears Omega.
The truth is that Bond was (surprise) never monogamous with timepieces.
The very first Bond watch was the golden Gruen Sean Connery briefly wore in the first three films (said to be Connery’s personal timepiece). It later reappeared in You Only Live Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
The Submariner Big Crown 6538 shared 007’s wrist time in those same early films, including the the iconic scene in Goldfinger (‘64) where Bond lights a cigarette and checks the time on his Sub, this time mounted on the famously ill-fitting striped strap.
James Bond watches 2 (2 images)
1973 saw Roger Moore’s entry as Bond in Live and Let Die. It also saw the entry of “gadget” watches for the spy. The Hamilton Pulsar LED digital he quietly checks while his bedmate sleeps at the beginning of the film was the first LED watch I ever saw. The day after I saw the movie, I went to my local small town jewelers and asked to see “quartz watches.” The analog pieces they showed me were nowhere near as cool as the red digital Pulsar on Bond’s wrist.
I left the store dejected. Did no one in America’s heartland understand the appeal of a glow-in-the-dark digital watch!? On the other hand, that single appearance probably did as much as anything to promote the all-too-brief era of LED digital quartz watches.
Brief, because it turned out the things ate batteries like moviegoers eat popcorn. It quickly became clear the LED watch was just a gadget, even for the suave Mr. Bond. When he visited HQ to get briefed on his next mission, Q Branch once again outfitted the spy with a tried-and-true Rolex Submariner 5513. This one was specially equipped with a motorized spinning saw-tooth bezel. A much better gadget, and one that comes in handy late in the movie. The movie prop, which was non-functioning as a timepiece, sold at auction for $365,000 a couple years ago.
A long list of Seikos, mostly digital LCDs, monopolized Mr. Bond’s timekeeping from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me through five more films, culminating with A View to a Kill in 1985. These featured teletype printouts, plastique explosives and cameras.
Along the way, there was a single appearance each by Breitling and TAG Heuer. Bond used a Breitling Top Time, modified by Q Branch to contain a Geiger counter, to find stolen nuclear weapons in Thunderball (‘65). Years later, Timothy Dalton’s Bond wore two slightly different TAG Heuer dive watches in The Living Daylights (‘87).
Bond returned to the venerable Rolex Submariner for Dalton’s second — and final — stint in Licence to Kill (‘89). Alas, it was also Rolex’s final appearance on the wrist of the spy.
After that somewhat dark episode (perennial Bond sidekick Felix Leiter was partially eaten by a shark), 1995’s Goldeneye ushered in the modern Bond watch era, when Omega got the nod, along with Pierce Brosnan. And Omega has tightly clasped Bond’s wrist ever since.
Brosnan’s Bond always wore Seamasters, usually with interesting gadgets built in: automobile remote controls, lasers, grappling hooks. But when Daniel Craig debuted as Bond in Casino Royale, two things happened. The Seamasters became Planet Oceans. And Bond watches became watches again.
Gone was the era of a watch as secret weapon. And watch geeks rejoiced when the Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial was reintroduced with Spectre in 2015. It amounted to a return to the classic diver a 1960s Commander Bond might have worn during his time with the British Royal Navy (Her Majesty issued both Rolex and Omega timepieces).
And now we have the Commander's Watch, a limited edition Seamaster Diver 300M. Though not associated with a particular film, the piece is obviously dedicated to 007, named for his military rank and complete with the 007/pistol logo on the tail of the bright red seconds hand. The watch is driven by Omega’s Co-Axial Chronometer movement and is kitted in the red, white, blue and grey of the British Royal Navy, a handsome piece indeed.
Not unlike the debonair spy himself.