Whether you are just watch geek, or thinking of adding a Bond watch to your home collection, I hope you find this list informative & entertaining. If nothing else, you will see a lot of pretty picture of nice watches.
I have covered every watch worn by James Bond, in every film, as well as some supplementary trivia. And at the end give my personal opinion on what I think the 1 true definitive “Bond watch” is.
Writer, Bond creator, and cigarette-stem aficionado, Ian Fleming was a man of discerning tastes. He loved finding the zenith of quality in all facets of life, and then diving into the minutia of their technical specifications.
When it came to choosing a watch for himself, he no doubt spent a great deal of effort surveying what was available at the time. And for that he chose the classiest, best performing sports watch on the market, the Rolex Explorer.
Fleming never directly calls out the specific model of any watch that Bond wears. However, in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming does state that Bond wears a Rolex, and goes on to describe its big luminous numerals, of which only the Explorer model had. And it makes sense that Fleming would give his own personal luxury watch to the fictional character based on his own idealized self.
As a world traveler & adventurer of the 50’s, Ian Fleming no doubt was aware of the Englishman Sir Edmund Hillary, who was famously the first man to successfully summit Mt. Everest, and wore a Rolex Explorer on those expeditions. Bond’s own parents were written to have perished in a mountaineering accident.
For James Bond’s first on screen appearance he is fitted with a Rolex Submariner 6538 on a black leather strap. The Submariner is similar in spirit to Fleming’s Explorer, in that they are both luxury Rolex sports watches. However the Submariner’s added 200m water resistance and rotating bezel for diving make it a better fit for running around Jamaica. This is a timeless watch, and therefore very collectible (read “expensive”) on the vintage watch market.
No Gadgets in this film, But Connery does use his iridium luminescent dial to test his Geiger Counter when searching for traces of radioactivity in the boat of his missing MI6 contact, Pleydell Smith.
Here we have the return of the Rolex Submariner 6538, this time on what looks like a dark brown alligator strap, which is a nice way to dress up a sports watch. This is the 2nd appearance of this watch, and we will see it recurring throughout much of the Bond series. Which is impressive because according to most forums, Rolex never paid for the product placement like Seiko & Omega did later on.
I am noticing in these pictures Connery seems to like to wear his watches tight and above the wrist bone which looks uncomfortable to me. I don’t know if that was the style of the time or personal preference.
In Goldfinger, we get the most prominent display of the recurring Rolex Submariner. As Bond smoothly uses a cigarette lighter to check the time left on his cocaine flavored banana bomb-fuse. This time the watch is on a waterproof NATO strap in the colors of Navy, Olive, & Burgundy. This color configuration has since come to be known as the “Bond” and would later be emulated for the film Spectre with a simpler Grey on Black color scheme.
There are 2 watches in Thunderball, the 1st being our familiar Submariner. Watch enthusiasts can go on and on about what a technical, and design, achievement the Submariner was for the day, so I will spare you that here.
One thing to note about the Submariner though, is how it set the standard for the Bond series forever. The majority of Bond watches in years come (from TAG, Seiko, & Omega) would primarily be diver watches with rotating bezels. As opposed to say dress watches, which would be a perfectly fitting choice for a guy in a tuxedo.
Maybe it’s the heritage of Bond being a Naval Commander, or just a subtle suggestion that, under the tailored suit, is a sports watch for a man of action.
Finally! we come to the 1st Gadget watch. The 1st watch issued from Q branch. AND the 1st Non-Submariner watch. Could we interpret this to mean that James Bond’s own personal watch was the Rolex Submariner, and that every subsequent watch he wears was issued by Q Branch? Good question self.
The “Top Time” is a really good-looking watch, with Panda (or inverted Panda I guess) chronograph dial. Major Boothroyd fitted the watch with both a Geiger Counter, and a weird stainless-steel cowl seen pictured
The watch worn in You Only Live Twice is an unknown golden watch with a white dial, on a dark leather band. Since this watch only peaks out slightly for a moment it is impossible to identify, but various forums rumor it to be a, “Gruen Precision” for reasons too lengthy to go into here.
This watch factors into a wider bit of conspiracy, as it can be seen peeking out of Sean Connery’s cuff in previous films & in behind-the-scenes photos, but is never seen in close up. My guess is that this is just Connery’s personal watch that the wardrobe department missed on certain shooting days over the years. But until someone calls up Sean Connery and asks, we will never know for sure.
(Seen below, mystery watches in Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia With Love, & You Only Live Twice.)
Two watches appear in this vastly under-rated film by one-time Bond actor George Lazenby. The 1st watch we see is our familiar Rolex Submariner. However, it has an updated reference number and movement. Also, we now see it for the first time on it’s standard stainless-steel oyster bracelet. The newer model has also lost the red pip triangle, and gained crown guards on the right side.
Lazenby famously bought his own Rolex Submariner to wear to his Bond audition (As well as implied that he stole Sean Connery’s actual suit from the dry cleaner in the documentary Becoming Bond) but we do not know if the watch seen on screen is his personal watch or not. Somebody get Lazenby on the phone!
In this scene, Lazenby smoothly removes his Submariner and folds the bracelet into a stand to keep his eye on the time. That move always stuck with me, and I still mimic it to this day.
Oh how I love this watch! This is the Bond watch I would love to have on my wrist if they weren’t exceedingly rare, and cost as much as a small house. There is something in the balance between the features of a sports watch with the size and symmetry of a dress watch. That sort of silvery bronzy dial that, depending on the lighting, can look white, silver or gold. And that fragile shock of red in the seconds hand arrow. Love it.
Even if the Pre-Daytona 6238 had never been in a Bond film it is still a sought after time piece for its beauty, rarity and for being the predecessor to the Rolex Daytona, which is one of the most popular chronographs ever made.
Let’s have one more dial shot closeup just for good measure.
We never get a good look at Bond’s watch in Diamonds Are Forever thanks to Connery’s baggy 70’s suits, so we can’t be certain of what he wears. But what we CAN be certain of, is that Sean Connery has very hairy knuckles.
Live and Let Die is an important milestone for Bond watches in 2 regards. The first being that this is the 1st time that Bond gets a PROPER watch gadget, in a franchise known for its cool watch gadgets. Remember prior to this the only watch gadget we see is way back in Thunderball’s Geiger counter watch, which has no physical manifestation on screen.
Milestone number 2 for the franchise is that we now officially enter a brave new world of bonkers digital watches for the next decade.
1st watch on deck is our old friend Rolex Submariner, now being worn by the 3 Bonds in a row. But Q has upgraded this watch with a bezel that spins like a rotary saw to cut though ropes. It is also equipped with a magnetic field generator for stealing spoons from old men.
The next watch, which I really enjoy, is the 70’s-futurism-fantastic LED watch, the Hamilton Pulsar.
This is the same “Light Emitting Diode” (LED) technology that would eventually evolve into our modern low energy light bulbs almost 50 years later. Thank you, Q!
The time was set by removing a small hidden magnet from the bracelet clasp, and pressing it to the back of the watch. Space age light-bright technology at its finest.
Here we have the return of the trusty Rolex Submariner. Same reference, same bracelet. No gadgets. Moving on.
The Spy Who Loved Me had a few Bond watch milestones as well. We got the 1st LCD watch, the technology that would someday evolve into the modern HDTV (Again, thank you Q Branch). The other big first for this movie is that, so far as we can prove, this is the 1st paid product placement of a watch in the Bond franchise.
Although this is not as egregious a product placement to me as Bond drinking Heineken beer, a Bond of that era would want the best technology available. And don’t forget digital watches at the time, were similar to Apple watches now. They were tiny computers you wore on your wrist, powered by a current run through a quartz crystal grown in a lab, and were more accurate than any Swiss watch on the planet.
Another personal favorite of mine, the Seiko M354 was an impressive piece of tech for the time. Known as the, “memory bank” it came pre-loaded with calendars from 1930 to 2009. So with 79 years of calendars programmed in, you could have rocked this watch until after Quantum of Solace was released.
People forget the first Seiko watches were top of the line, with stainless steel cases and glass crystals which is why many of these watches still exist today. As the technology became more common, people started shoving them into cheaper plastic cases and plastic “crystals” that didn’t last long, and people began to see digital watches as low rent. But I have been noticing a resurgence of kids and teens going digital again, particularly gold versions.
As with almost all of these Seiko’s, the M354 came in both gold plating and stainless steel. The stock watch did not come with the stainless-steel bracelet seen in the movie however. So if you’d like a screen accurate version, you will have to find a 5 link bracelet from another Digital Seiko watch which isn’t too hard to do.
The first watch in For Your Eyes Only is another watch that I think still holds up really well, in a kind of retro cool way. It also showcases some of the more pragmatic Bond gadgets. For one, the H357 is fitted with a scrolling text display at the dial top so that Q can send messages to Bond the field (Q Branch invented text messaging! Who knew?).
It also has a two-way voice communicator which……. kind of eliminates the need for text messages…. I guess. The speaker is used in one of the most cringe worthy Bond movie moments, when Roger Moore receives a call from Margret Thatcher, and then hands his watch to a talking Parrot……..which then begins to flirt with her (British audience chuckles discretely).
This is the 1st (but not last) Analogue-Digital watch combo, which is known to digital watch enthusiasts as, “Ana-Digi” and has a cult following.
The real watch sold in stores did not have the front mounted metal speaker grill, as the film version did. The speaker grill was pulled off of another common Seiko model, so theoretically with some patience and super glue you could recreate a screen accurate version of this watch at home.
The second watch worn by Sir Roger Moore in For Your Eyes Only is often overlooked. During the scene when Bond goes deep-sea diving he wears Seiko 7549-7009 which apparently is referred to as, “Gold Tuna”. No doubt referring to the squat wide case with gold trim.
It is only shown briefly in a few scenes, and has no on-screen gadget. Not a bad looking watch but if you’re going to invest in a classic Seiko Diver’s watch I would lean towards the one worn in A View to A Kill which we will get to shortly.
OK this is hands down my favorite Bond Seiko, if not one of my favorite Bond watches. On screen, Sir Roger Moore uses the Q Branch radar-ish feature to track the homing beacon he has placed on an atomic bomb. It plays well into a suspenseful sequence of the movie, and is a believable gadget depicted via a little red blip on the upper left radial dial.
Off-screen, this was just a well designed, cool looking, waterproof digital sports watch. It was a chronograph, a timer, an alarm, it had a back-light for dark situations, and was a true digital successor to the Rolex Submariner with its black plastic bezel.
Unfortunately, it is now very expensive watch among watch collectors. The black plastic bezel often dinged, scuffed, or broke over the years driving down minty supply. If anyone out there with a 3D printer wants to make a few bucks on eBay producing copies of these bezels, I’m giving out this idea for free.
Famous game designer Hideo Kojima, of the Metal Gear Solid series, has said that one of his biggest inspirations for his game series are the Bond films. Octopussy’s G757 was clearly an inspiration as he revamped it for the main hero of the game, “Snake” in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Seiko, being a Japanese company where Kojima is all but worshiped, went so far as to manufacture a limited release of these watches for about $375.
On a side note. If you are a smart watch owner out there and are willing to look in more, dubious sources, you can find G757 skins out there.
Octopussy is probably the best Bond movie for digital watches. In addition to the G757 we also get a glimpse into the future when Bond pays Major Boothroyd a visit down in Q-Branch where he demos the Seiko T001-5019 LCD TV Watch.
While Bond dismissively uses this amazing new technology to sexually harass co-workers, the T001 is an important piece of horological history as the world’s 1st TV watch to be sold retail.
Sold at $495 in 1983, that translates to $1,254 in 2018. By comparison a stainless-steel Apple Watch today costs only about $700. However, Seiko did give us the ability to watch TV on our wrists back in 1983! What’s the holdup Apple!?!?
The picture quality of the actual T001 was a grainy greenish grey, and was nowhere near as high def as it appeared in Octopussy by means of cinematic visual trickery.
An original advertisement for the Seiko T001-5019. In the references below I have included a link to the original NY Times review of the watch, which is fun reading.
In the year of 1983, through a series of odd legal loopholes, the world was blessed with 2 Bond films (starring 2 different Bonds).
At the age of 53, Sean Connery ambles back into the Bond role with the Director of Empire Strikes Back at the helm. What could go wrong? To put this into context, imagine Michael Keaton releasing a Batman film the same year Justice League came out.
For his big comeback, Connery is wearing an unknown watch with black PVD powder coating. It is also seen on 2 different bracelets, a 5-link bracelet, and a bracelet with horizontal slats. If anyone has any insights as to what this watch might be please drop me a comment below.
What is noteworthy about this anonymous watch though, is that it is the 1st instance of watch laser as a Bond gadget. Take that EON!
A View To A Kill really amps up the Seiko product placement by featuring 3 different watches. The first of which is the Beautiful Seiko 7A28.
The Seiko 7A series is an expensive collector’s watch for reasons outside of Bond. The 7A has the honor of being the world’s first quartz chronograph. There is a great write up on the history of the 7A’s by “Worn & Wound” which I have linked at the bottom of the page.
It may not look like the same watch, but Seiko also reached out to famous Italian car designer Giorgetto Giugiaro to redesign a futuristic case for the 7A series to put on the characters of Ripley & Bishop in 1986’s Aliens. Giugiaro is also the same car designer of the Lotus Esprit S1 scuba car from The Spy Who Loved Me. So, there you go, your 2 degrees of separation between Bond and Aliens. You’ll be the coolest kid at the party with that factoid.
The next watch we see is the beefy Seiko H558 which is the world’s 1st Ana-Digi diver’s watch, as evidenced by the small LCD window displaying the day & date at the top of the dial. It only shows up briefly as Roger Moore is chasing Grace Jones up the Eiffel Tower, and it totally clashes with his tuxedo.
Fun fact, the H558 watch is referred to by collectors as the “Arnie” because it was a favorite watch of Arnold Schwarzenegger to wear on & off set, and was seen in both Commando and Predator. So, there’s your party fact for 2 degrees of separation between James Bond and Conan. One at a time ladies!
The final watch from A View To A Kill is the unimpressive Seiko 6923. This watch is barely seen on screen and is basically a cheap knock off of the Rolex President watch. Moving on.
Out of the Moore era and into the Dalton dynasty, we have another Bond watch milestone, the 1st TAG Heuer.
Hard to find and overpriced these days (considering it’s a battery powered quartz movement), you don’t often find them in good condition because the black PVD tends to scratch and flake off over the years.
The “Professional Diver” series was an important watch line in TAG’s history when they were on rocky ground financially. It sold for $200 in 1987, which translates to about $445 in 2018.
The TAG is a pretty cool looking stealth-y, recon-y, looking watch. Much like the Seiko I wish TAG Heuer would issue a $500 re-release. Maybe if we can get a hashtag trending like #007TAGReissue or something? ….Maybe not.
With Timothy Dalton’s final film, we get the return of the Rolex Submariner. Not much to say here other that this is the 4th Bond to wear the Submariner, and final time a Sub would appear in a Bond film to date.
In 1995 the Broccoli family hires Pierce Brosnan, who basically looks like a watch model, to take up the role just as they are accepting one of the biggest product placement deals in Bond history from Swiss watch maker Omega.
Most fans delight in the fact that the handsome watch is also returning chock-a-block full of new gadgets in each film. Such as in Goldeneye, which features a laser emitting pip, capable of cutting through steel. As well as a remote explosive timer, which presumably you set by rotating the bezel and then activating by pressing the helium escape valve.
This first iteration of the watch is actually a battery powered quartz movement which is really shocking to me. All future iterations of this model were automatic self-winding watches.
Movie villain 006 examines Bond’s “newer model” watch and disarms the bomb.
I used to really dislike the 5-link Seamaster bracelet, but it has grown on me. I can see this becoming a classic collector watch in the future and you can pick them up pretty cheap right now. The Seamaster 300m also comes with a hidden expandable clasp, which can quickly deploy without the use of tools to give you an extra inch or so, to fit over top of your scuba gear. Coupled with a functioning Helium escape valve, make no mistake, this is a functional diver’s tool.
That fact that Omega tried to pass off a quartz watch in the first Brosnan film Goldeneye, with such luxury branding and expensive marketing is surprising. My guess is that the film chose the watch at the last minute, strictly based on looks, and Omega was quick to fit the new model with an automatic movement retroactively in subsequent films.
For Pierce’s 3rd film we get the return of the exact same watch down to the movement number. Nothing changes here except for the gadgets.
Gadgets equipped by Q-branch this time include an emergency LED light up dial for seeing around the inside of your inflatable avalanche-coat-bubble. As well as a Batman like grappling hook. Not bad.
Brosnan really seemed to enjoy being a male watch model (sorry watch “ambassador”) for Omega, and did ad campaigns both as “Bond” and as “Pierce” as seen above.
There is actually a pretty clever watch gadget usage early in this film, where Bond removes the helium escape valve which functions as a C4 detonator, which he can then trigger remotely when the watch bezel is turned to a certain position.
Other than that, this movie causes me pain to speak about so I won’t say anything more. Let’s just look at some pretty watch pictures instead.
In 2006 Daniel Craig bursts onto the silver screen like a parkour chase through drywall. In his intense pre-title chase sequence, he wears the watch we would come to associate most with the Daniel Craig Bond, the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600m (Or just “Planet Ocean” colloquially).
This watch is continually updated with slight tweaks to the bezel, fonts, case backs, and dimensions. However, the Planet Ocean always maintains an aesthetic baseline throughout each iteration film-to-film, with things such as the date window, the 6-9-12 indices, and the two arrow hands and the distinctive contoured lug horns.
For Casino Royale the Planet Ocean is fitted with a handsome grooved black rubber strap, which was an exclusive release for the film. If you are looking to purchase one of these, beware. Watch forums are full of complaints about these expensive OEM straps from Omega becoming brittle and breaking over time, so don’t waste your money and instead get a replica knock-off from eBay as they are cheaper and higher quality.
Later in the film Bond acquires a different Omega, the Seamaster 300m. This is the same watch Pierce Brosnan always carried, but in an updated reference. There is a line in the film from Vesper who comments on how beautiful the watch is, which is pretty clumsy product placement, and the first time a watch is actually called out by name on screen.
Craig plays an inexperienced Bond, and only acquires Pierce Brosnan’s former Seamaster 300m later in the film, as if to suggest that Daniel Craig had to earn the mantle from his predecessor. Which is weird to me because The Planet Ocean is a superior watch, and Craig is a superior Bond. If anything they should have reversed that. Ending the film with Craig becoming his own Bond with his own unique watch.
There are no gadgets in the Craig era until we get to Spectre. Probably because the zeitgeist of the time was for hyper-realism in the wake of Jason Bourne and Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. But to be honest the movies are so good you don’t really miss the downplay of Q Branch.
In Quantum of Solace we get the Craig Planet Ocean with an updated reference and appearing for the first time on the stainless steel Omega bracelet, which looks really nice. It resembles the bracelet of the Rolex Submariner 3-link but with slightly smoother contour.
Skyfall features a new Planet Ocean that is definitely in my top 5 Bond watches so we are getting a few extra pictures. Omega continued to tweak the reference over the years, and really dialed it in perfectly here.
Updates include a gun metal grey ceramic bezel, improved font on the numeral indices, just a flash of color on the orange tip of the seconds hand, & the “Seamaster” logo. The biggest update came with one of Omega’s nicest movements to date, the Co-Axial 8500.
To view the movement, Omega added a sapphire crystal case back window, which did add a little thickness to the watch, but so worth it. The fact that Omega was able to put a display case back on a functional diver’s watch up to 600m is a wonder. There is just something sexy about great engineering.
If I ever get shot off of a moving train, over a bridge, into the ocean, and wash up on a shore with a scorpion for a drinking buddy….I hope I at least have a watch this cool when it happens.
The 2nd watch to appear in Skyfall is the Aqua Terra, which is among the dressiest watches Bond has ever worn, as the character usually leans towards sportier/techier watches.
If any Omega experts out there know why the reference numbers of their watches suddenly jumped to 14 digit serial numbers please let me know in the comments. It makes it near impossible to discuss specific model numbers in a series.
The Aqua Terra returns for its 2nd Bond film with a few tweaks. The dial is slightly different, the watch is slightly larger, and it now has an upgraded bracelet with a polished stainless-steel center link.
Before we get to the final watch of Spectre, I’d like to mention there is also a fleeting image an unknown watch that has yet to be identified. The white dial chronograph, on a dark leather strap, appears in a brief flash during the final scenes of the film, where James Bond drives the DB5 off into the sunset with Madeleine Swan.
And the final watch of Spectre is this is very cool Omega Seamaster 300. It’s a pretty cool piece, sporting features that watch geeks love such as the vintage tinted lume (a yellowing effect that you will find on vintage watches). It also has the 3-6-9 numeral indices, which is perhaps an insider call back to Ian Fleming’s original Bond watch the Rolex Explorer. And it also has grey & black striped NATO strap which is a nice update to the one seen 51 years prior in Dr. No.
On screen the Seamaster 300 gives Bond fans the 1st watch gadget in 13 years. The last time we have seen a watch gadget was in Die Another Day.
The gadget is a pragmatic spy tool, a time bomb, which is activated by rotating the bezel and then pressing in the watch stem. There is a cool effect where all the lume turns deep red to indicate it is armed, and then all hands swing round to align, and begins a 60 second countdown.
The Seamaster 300 is currently listed at $7,500. This is about $1,000 more than the Planet Ocean, so personally I would rather own the PO which I find better looking anyway. But it is a fantastic watch to have in a collection.
The Definitive Bond Watch
So as promised, I’m now going to offer my totally subjective opinion on what I think is the 1 true definitive Bond watch.
On one hand, Omega has 20 years and 8 films (with more on the way) of Bond watches, and has seeded itself well into the franchise. Encompassing almost a third of the total Bond watches, with 11 out 36 total being Omegas.
However, much like the many appearance of Seiko, Omega is a paid sponsorship.
You could also make a strong argument that the Rolex Explorer is the 1 true Bond watch, as that is the watch chosen by the creator Ian Fleming himself to wear in real life. AND it is the only watch ever giving to the Bond character, by the creator himself, in the novels. Which is pretty definitive.
But when it comes down to my pick for the 1 true Bond watch. I gotta give it to the Rolex Submariner.
The Submariner is worn by 4/6 Bonds off & on, over the course of 27 years. It recurs in 8 different films even as trends have changed over the years. It’s a sort of horological baseline, a home note, to which the Bond watch must always return in theme.
And though Fleming never wrote about the Submariner. It is still a Rolex sports watch similar in spirit. Additionally, Fleming was present on the sets of early movies where Connery wore the Submariner, and it’s possible he would have had input on such details.
The Rolex Submariner has timeless look. You can pick up a 60 year old vintage Submariner for $100K, or walk into a Rolex boutique tomorrow and pick up a brand new one, and it will look almost identical.
Much like the Bond, it has class, without being pretentious. You can wear it in a tuxedo, or deep-sea diving, which speaks to the aquatic origins of Naval commander James Bond.
So that’s it folks! Thank you for reading, if you noticed any omissions or inaccuracies, please drop me a note in the comments. Of course, there are still a lot of ancillary Bond watches for supporting cast, ad campaigns and special editions associated with movies, perhaps we will tackle that in a future post if there is interest.
Shout out to internet-watch-sleuth Dell Deaton at www.JamesBondWatches.com for doing much of the research on many of these watches over the years.
Further reading on Bond watch history http://www.rolexmagazine.com/2008/11/list-of-all-watches-worn-in-james-bond.html
Wound & Worn History of the Seiko 7A’s http://wornandwound.com/seiko-7a28-pt-2-quiet-beauty/
Hodinkee History of the TAG Heuer Diver https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/heuer-diver-professional-deserves-more-credit
Origional New York Times article on the Seiko TV Watch http://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/13/business/a-tv-wristwatch-is-introduced-by-seiko.html
Digital Watch Library http://www.digital-watch.com/DWL
James Bond Omega’s official site https://www.omegawatches.com/planet-omega/cinema/james-bond/