Style / October 2017

James Bond's Greatest Watches

From seminal mechanical watches to innovative digitals, The Rake examines 007’s finest timepieces.

George Lazenby wears a stainless steel Rolex Chronograph (ref. 6238) as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Service, 1969.

James Bond’s array of amazing cars garner the lion’s share of attention — and slavering male wish-list additions. Sadly, for most of us, a 1963 Aston Martin DB5 will forever remain out of reach. The watches worn by Britain’s most famous fictional super-spy, however, present a far more accessible, affordable means of emulating 007.

Most enviable — and valuable — among the timepieces sported by the cinematic Bond are the Rolex Submariners worn in the earliest films in the franchise. Author Ian Fleming wore a Rolex in real life (a 1016 Explorer I, to be exact), and equipped his literary creation with watches from that same legendary Swiss manufacture. Bond, Fleming wrote in Casino Royale, “could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex,” explaining that “a gentleman’s choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Savile Row suit.” Quite.

Sean Connery wore Submariners in each of his Bond appearances, and the reference 6538 seen in Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball has come to be known as the ‘James Bond Rolex’. (A Breitling Top Time that doubled as a Geiger counter was also used in Thunderball. Not long ago, the original prop watch was purchased by a lucky punter for £25 at a market sale, and subsequently auctioned for more than £100,000.) In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Aussie Bond George Lazenby wore two Rolexes during his one and only outing as 007: a Submariner (ref. 5513) and a Chronograph (ref. 6238).

When Roger Moore took on the role in the 1970s, he continued the Submariner tradition in his first two films, Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun, wearing the same reference — indeed, perhaps the same piece — Lazenby had. Live and Let Die saw Moore begin a trend he’d carry on into the 1980s by mixing things up and wearing the occasional digital watch on his wrist, in this case the Hamilton Pulsar LED. (Let’s not forget, digital watches represented the technological cutting edge in the ’70s, and with early examples carrying formidable price tags, they were status symbols to boot.) Alongside a Rolex GMT Master, Moore wore a Seiko 0674 5009 liquid crystal digital — which boasted a miniature tickertape communicator — in The Spy Who Loved Me.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.