He’s the world’s most famous secret agent, and the selection of watches on his wrist is at least as varied as the parade of “Bond girls” at his side. Each watch reflects its epoch: from robust mechanical timekeepers, through digital timepieces, to state-of-the-art chronometers. Our timeline presents an overview of 007’s wrist-wear.
James Bond first appeared on the silver screen in 1962 and has remained there ever since, but the Bond character was born 10 years prior to 007’s cinematic debut. Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale, his first novel about the adventures of the charming MI6 agent, while on his honeymoon in 1952. Although Bond immediately showed extraordinarily good taste in automobiles and clothes, his wristwatch wasn’t identified until Fleming’s second novel, Live and Let Die (1954). Bond wears a Rolex in this book, which is not surprising, because Fleming himself wore a Rolex Explorer, Reference 1016, on an extensible Oyster riveted strap. Fleming’s affection for Rolex is apparent in the first James Bond film, where Bond, played by Sean Connery, casually straps on a Rolex Submariner without a date display while hunting the nefarious Dr. No, for whom the movie is named. Reference 6358 has a leather strap here. Film buffs believe that this model was one of Sean Connery’s personal possessions.
James Bond remained faithful to Rolex in his second cinematic adventure, From Russia with Love. The movie shows Connery wearing a Rolex Submariner, Reference 6538, which still shows just the time because Q, the famous master of innovative weaponry, hadn’t yet equipped 007’s watch with any other special capabilities.
Connery again wears Reference 6538 in Goldfinger, where it’s attached to a much-too-narrow textile strap. Pussy Galore, the aviatrix with the politically incorrect name, relies on a classical pilots’ watch: the Rolex GMT Master, Reference 6542.
James Bond wears two watches in Thunderball. He uses his Rolex Submariner to tell the time, but he relies on a modified Breitling Top Time when he needs a Geiger counter. This watch was rediscovered in 2013 at an English flea market, where the authentic prop from the classic flick changed hands for a paltry 25 pounds – and was soon afterwards auctioned for a five-figure sum.
The phrase “You Only Live Twice” is perhaps more appropriate for James Bond than for anyone else. In the movie of that name, the dapper agent battles his archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. No one knows exactly which watch accompanied 007, but some aficionados suspect it was a golden Gruen, which probably came from Connery’s private collection.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service featured a new leading man, but this film would be Australian actor George Lazenby’s only stint as James Bond. As if to recompense him for his short-lived tenure, he has the good fortune in this film to wed the actress Diana Rigg, whom you may remember from the TV show The Avengers. In the movie Bond wore a Rolex Submariner (Ref. 5513) and a Rolex Chronograph (Ref. 6238).
A familiar face returned to the silver screen in Diamonds Are Forever, where Sean Connery, back as Bond, turns his attention not only to girls, but to girls’ best friends. Bond fights the good fight mostly without a watch, although one does make a cameo appearance in one scene. Connoisseurs think it might be the same golden Gruen worn in You Only Live Twice.
Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond, in Live and Let Die, and its follow-up, The Man with the Golden Gun, inaugurated a new era spiced not only with more humor, but also with a Rolex Submariner 5513 equipped with practical additional functions. For the first time, the agent’s watch hosted gadgets added by Q. The watch could be triggered to serve as a circular saw, which comes in handy when handcuffs need to be removed. It also had a built-in magnet to deflect incoming bullets or, when necessary, help to suavely disrobe a lady. In Live and Let Die, Bond wore another watch in the opening sequence, one of the power-hungry Pulsar LED digital watches from Hamilton, which helped usher in the quartz revolution.
East meets West with a bang in The Spy Who Loved Me, in which sparks fly between Bond and Major Anya Amasova. A Rolex GMT Master assures precise timekeeping, while a Seiko 0674 LC functions as a pager: a label-making printer inside the watch ejects strips of paper bearing important messages from the office spymaster M.
Moonraker catapults 007 into outer space, where he’s assisted by a Seiko M354 Memory Bank Calendar, which conceals an explosive secret that blasts the way clear for the agent and his appealing flightmate.
Moore dives into the Aegean Sea for his fifth Bond adventure, For Your Eyes Only. Two Seiko watches join him: the Seiko 7549-7009, above, and the Seiko H357 Duo Display, above right.
The risqué name of the next Bond film, Octopussy, caused a furor in England. In it, Moore’s Bond, with a Seiko TV Watch on his wrist, turns his attention to a young lady who works as one of Q’s assistants. The same year, Connery gave his final performance as Bond in Never Say Never Again. The identity of his watch in this movie remains a mystery.
A View to a Kill finds Bond on the Golden Gate Bridge, where both he and his nemesis Zorin wear Rolexes (Bond’s is a Datejust). In other scenes, Bond wears three Seiko watches, including a Seiko Diver’s 150m.
After Timothy Dalton’s debut as James Bond in The Living Daylights, critics nicknamed this actor “Rambond.” In the movie, Agent 007 wears a TAG Heuer Professional Night-Dive Reference 980.031.
In Dalton’s second and final adventure as James Bond, License to Kill, Bond wears a Rolex Submariner.
Pierce Brosnan wears a quartz version of the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M (Reference 2541.80) when he takes over as James Bond in GoldenEye.
An Omega Seamaster Professional (Reference 2531.80) is again the ticking costar in Tomorrow Never Dies.
The World Is Not Enough for this secret agent, so he escapes its confines aboard a rocket bound for outer space. In his battle against Elektra King and her cohorts, Bond relies on Reference 2561.80 as a radiant light source and as a rescue cable with a grappling hook.
Pierce Brosnan remains faithful to the Omega Seamaster in his fourth adventure. This chronometer saves 007’s life in Die Another Day thanks to an explosive charge in its helium valve that can be detonated via the bezel. A powerful laser in the watch’s crown serves Bond well in his battle against the evildoer Gustav Graves.
James Bond loves variety, so when Daniel Craig debuts as everyone’s favorite secret agent in a big-screen adaptation of Casino Royale, he alternately wears an Omega Seamaster Diver 300M (Ref. 2220.80) and a Seamaster Planet Ocean (Ref. 2900.50.91).
It seems as though Bond needs an exceedingly watertight watch in Quantum of Solace. His Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M (Reference 2201.50) reliably resists pressure at great depths.
James Bond wears several watches in Skyfall, including one that was specially built for this film and which Christie’s auctioned for nearly 200,000 euros in 2012. Bond’s Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M has a titanium case, unlike the serially manufactured version, which is stainless steel. Both are fitted with Caliber 8500. For more information on the Skyfall watch, click here.
In the most recent Bond adventure, Spectre, Daniel Craig returned to the screen, this time wearing an Omega Seamaster 300 Spectre, which alludes to a predecessor from the 1960s. He also sported an Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra in the opening sequence. We cover that watch in detail here.
This article originally appeared in WatchTime magazine.