James Bond 007 Rolex Watches - As Worn on Screen

If I asked, which wristwatch would you associate with James Bond 007, the majority would probably answer either Rolex or Omega, depending on whether you were brought up with the earlier or later films which span over a period of fifty years. Rolex is the only brand identified as James Bond’s choice of watch in Ian Fleming’s 14 novels.

As to what model of Rolex it was, there are differing opinions about this by people who have a lot more knowledge of Rolex watches than myself, and, as this article is about the wristwatches worn by James Bond in the films and not by the literary Bond, I shall leave this particular debate to them. (If you would like further reading on this please click on the links at the end of this article). All I can say for certain on the matter is the most detailed evidence about the Rolex worn by Bond comes from Fleming’s eleventh book “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” published in 1963, in his description of “big luminous numerals” that Bond sees when he takes “a lazy midnight glance at his chronometer” – “a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding bracelet.” In chapter 16 of OHMSS, Bond switches his watch to his right hand and loops the band around his fist so that the heavy metal and crystal watchcase sits atop his middle knuckles. The metal watch bracelet is clutched in his palm.

“He softly retrieved his gloves from the bathroom, put on the goggles so that they rested in his hair above the forehead, tied the dark-red handkerchief tightly across his nose, schnapps into hip pocket and, finally, Gillette through the fingers of the left hand and the Rolex transferred to his right, the bracelet clasped in the palm of his hand and round the fingers so that the face of the watch lay across his middle knuckles.” Just minutes later Bond makes use of this improvised "Q" device when he kills a guard by punching him so hard that the Rolex's crystal shatters against his jaw. "The man's face hit the table top with a thud, bounced up, and half turned towards Bond. Bond's right flashed out and the face of the Rolex disintegrated against the man's jaw".

Ian Fleming owned a Rolex Explorer I, model 1016 with a black dial, case number 596851, and a 7206 stainless steel bracelet and it may be this watch that he gave 007, though again, some will disagree with this. James Bond would require a watch that was both tough and reliable, and without being too flashy that it would get him noticed, making the Rolex the ideal choice. Rolex's reputation for toughness and use in harsh environments such as deep sea diving prompted Fleming to believe it suited Bonds tough image.

Rolex as a brand has changed a lot since the late 1950s when Fleming chose one for Bond to wear. At that time, Rolex was known as a uniquely well made, durable and "waterproof" watch that cost somewhat more than other watches. Now, decades later, many inexpensive watches meet the functional needs of durability, accuracy, and water-resistance that people used to turn to Rolex for. In this time, Rolex has shifted from being a technically superior, but only modestly well known make of watch, to being the publicly perceived "leader of the pack" in the luxury watch market.

Rolex is not the only watch worn on screen by James Bond, but it has appeared in the films more often than any other brand, a total of eleven times in fact. Seiko and Omega also made a number of appearances, plus cameo roles by other brands, and I shall detail these in later hubs. The star of this article is the Rolex watch and I shall deal with their starring roles chronologically.

James Bond: The Legacy
James Bond: The Legacy

James Bond: women want him, and men want to be him. It's hard to do justice to such a mythic character, but documentary producers Cork and Scivally manage just that with this volume, a tasty feast for any 007 aficionado. An oversized book with more than 550 illustrations, it's essentially a lengthy love letter to one of the greatest film franchises of all time.

 

Dr. No and From Russia With Love

The first big screening of a 007 film was Dr. No in 1962 with Sean Connery as James Bond, the gentleman secret agent with a licence to kill. In the book “James Bond – The Legacy” by John Cork and Bruce Scivally, they observe that the costume department took great care in Bond’s appearance. They had to ensure that he projected the right look, he didn’t just wear clothes, they had to promote the Bond style. This was extended to his perceived lifestyle and his accessories. Bond would not drink just champagne, it would be Dom Perignon, and “he could not just wear a watch, it needed to be a Rolex”.

Being the first Bond film the producers had no prior success to build on so when Rolex were approached to provide a watch for the production they declined. The film’s budget ($1.2million in 1961 compared to $230million in 2008 for Quantum of Solace) did not allow for the purchase of one, and the story goes that when production started it was realized that Sean Connery wasn't wearing the correct watch so Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli gave him his Rolex to use during filming. Elsewhere I have read that was the Director Terence Young that stepped in and saved the day by lending Connery his own Rolex. I find it hard to believe that production would start without the correct watch when so much care was placed on other details and suspect that the truth lies somewhere between. It is my guess that when Rolex refused to provide a watch, either the Producer or the director lent Connery their watch before production started, and I would go for Albert “Cubby” Broccoli as there seems to be more writings putting him forward as the lender than there are for Terence Young.

The Rolex was a Submariner on a black crocodile or alligator strap. Some believe the Submariner to be model number 6538a but as Donald Grant explains in his post (see link (2) at the end of this article), there are reasons why this cannot be known for certain.

In From Russia With Love, released in 1963, there is no change with Sean Connery wearing the same model, probably the same Rolex, as he wore in Dr No.

James Bond Watches Price Guide 2011
James Bond Watches Price Guide 2011

the "James Bond Watches Price Guide" provides readers with exact sales price amounts for specific, legitimately-completed transactions related to all confirmed Ian Fleming and Eon Productions 007-film James Bond watch models.

Breitling. Hamilton. Omega. Rolex. Seiko. TAG Heuer. They're all here. From a variety of sources. Pick a model: The Guide will show you how much it’s sold for in the past, how often, and most likely sources. Pick a price: Guide numbers will suggest something in almost any range, from $25 to $25,000-and-up.

 

Goldfinger and Thunderball

A slight change to the watch this time, or rather to the watch strap. The Rolex Submariner stays the same but this time is paired up with an 18mm black and grey cloth NATO/Ministry of Defence type strap instead of the Alligator skin strap, a possible reflection by the film costume department to Commander Bond’s Naval history. Some have speculated that the Rolex that Sean Connery wears in the 1964 film Goldfinger, and later in Thunderball, was an early military Submariner. I would side with Donald Grants reasoning against it being the Military version, “When you look at close-ups of Connery’s Submariner, you can clearly see that the 18mm strap is attached with spring bars between 20mm lugs as evidenced by holes in the lugs. A military Submariner would have filled lug holes.” The reason for the use of such straps by the military is that they are non-reflective and should the need arise, could be quickly cut off.

The same Rolex was used in Thunderball, released in 1965, but James Bond also wore a Breitling Top Time watch, complete with Geiger counter – the first of 007’s gadget watches. I shall write about this watch in another Hub article.

Vintage Rolex Sports Models: A Complete Visual Reference & Unauthorized History
Vintage Rolex Sports Models: A Complete Visual Reference & Unauthorized History

This comprehensive and detailed reference guide to Rolex sports model watches is an indispensable asset to watch collectors and dealers. The only work of its kind, it covers the history of the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Explorer, GMT-Master, Turn-O-Graph, Milgauss, and Cosmograph watches, from 1952 to 1990. The history of more than a hundred and forty vintage models is described in detail, with the watches shown in chronological order. Color photographs illustrate every watch model, with hundreds of diagrams providing clear and useful information about the development of each model.

 
The Best of Time Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History (Schiffer Book for Collectors)
The Best of Time Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History (Schiffer Book for Collectors)

The watches produced by Rolex over the last 100 years are celebrated in this lavishly illustrated classic, now in a revised and expanded third edition. Over 30 newly discovered wristwatches are included in this volume, along with new information and a revised value guide. In addition there are detailed looks at some of Rolex's legendary movements. Dowling and Hess, both acknowledged Rolex authorities, have captured the watches' beauty in color photography and present the most thorough and extensive history written of the company.

 

You Only Live Twice

Released in 1964, this was the last James Bond novel published during Ian Fleming’s lifetime. The film premiered in 1967 and this was to be Sean Connery’s last appearance as 007 for another four years. With regard to the watch that Bond wears in this production there is nothing much to say, as there are no clear shots of it in the film to provide enough information to be able to identify it. No one can say with any confidence what make or model the watch is; but it is assumed by some again be a Rolex Submariner.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Sean Connery had decided that his Bond days were over and the “licence to kill” passed to George Lazenby. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, released in 1969,did not fair as well as the previous three Bond films, but it still grossed $87,400,000 at the box office; not a bad return on a film budget of $7,000,000. Lazenby sports two different Rolex watches in this production, the Rolex Submariner model reference 5513, and the Daytona Model reference 6238. The Submariner was the main watch that he wore, but whilst going undercover as Sir Hilary Bray Baronet he wore the Daytona. The Submariner was possibly the Rolex that Lazenby is reported to have personally purchased in his effort to secure the role of Bond. He apparently also obtained one of Connery’s suits because he wanted the part so badly.This was the first time that James Bond wore a Submariner with a metal riveted bracelet. In addition, the watchcase differed from previous models; where they had no crown guards (were shoulderless), this one has.

Because the Daytona 6238 precedes the 6239, the first Rolex Chronograph to officially be called a Daytona, it is often referred to as the pre-Daytona. Originally the 6239 only had Chronograph printed on the dial; it was only later that Daytona was added. The only other differences between the two are; the tachometric scale which is printed on the outer edge of the dial on the 6238, whereas it is engraved on the bezel of the 6239; and there is some difference in the dial coloration. Personally, I think that the Daytona 6238 is the most aesthetically pleasing Rolex in any of 007 productions and is probably the most important watch to have been featured in the series of films.


Once Eon Productions had the film in the can, the wardrobe department sold some of the costumes and accessories, and the Rolex Daytona was purchased by the production accountant. On the 16 December 2003, the watch was auctioned in London by Christie's in a sale entitled "Film and Entertainment Including the John Mollo Collection". The sale price was estimated at $8,715 - $12,201 (£5,000 - £7,000) but actually realised $39,936 including buyers premium (£22,319).

The following is the auction catalogue description:

Illustration from Christie's Auction cataogue.
Illustration from Christie's Auction cataogue.

George Lazenby/On Her Majesty's Secret Service, 1969
A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch, 1960s, signed Rolex, Chronograph, case no. 1206613, ref. 6238, the brushed silvered dial with applied baton numerals, luminous steel hands, subsiduary dials for running seconds, elapsed minutes and hours, sweep centre seconds operated by two round buttons in the band, steel three-part case with plain inclined bezel and screwed back and screw down winder, Rolex steel bracelet [not original to the dial], diameter of dial -- 1 3/8in. (35mm.), with BUCHERER case -- purchased for and worn by George Lazenby as James Bond in the 1969 United Artists/Eon film On Her Majesty's Secret Service; accompanied by a black and white press still of Lazenby as James Bond wearing the watch -- 8x10in. (20.3x25.4cm.), and an invoice from Bucherer of Switzerland to Eon Productions dated 23rd October, 1968 (3)

After the death of the original Christie’s buyer, the watch became the property of his daughter, who, not being a big James Bond fan (yes I know, hard to believe), sold the pre-Daytona to a colleague of Matthew Blain whom Matthew then purchased it from. The watch has now been placed for sale on the open market at an undisclosed price by Matthew Blain Inc. See end of article for link (3) to Matthew Blain Inc website.

Diamonds Are Forever

Sean Connery was persuaded to return as James bond, for what was to be his last appearance in the role, for the 1971 release of Diamonds Are Forever. Unfortunately the cinematography affords very little information about the watch that he wore but it is believed to be a Rolex Submariner.

 

Live and Let Die

Roger Moore became the new James Bond in Live and Let Die, released in 1973, and wore what is probably the most memorable of all the watches worn by the British agent.

In 2002 The Rolex in this film was voted favorite 007 gadget in a poll carried out by Dixons, the electrical store chain. No doubt the modification of the Rolex in the form of a powerful electromagnet appealed to men and boosted the votes, when Bond uses it to entertaining effect by unzipping the dress of the voluptuous Italian secret agent, Miss Caruso! When she remarks on his delicate touch, 007 responds with “Sheer Magnetism, Darling.”

Q branch, not content with just adding a powerful electromagnet supposedly capable of diverting the path of a bullet, they also created a spinning bezel which converted the Rolex into a buzz-saw. This enabled our hero to cut Solitaire and himself free of their ropes which restrained them, and escape from being lowered into a pool of sharks.

To indicate that the electromagnet had been activated the indices, which had been cut out by the props department, turned red. To show both the electromagnet and the buzz-saw features, separate Rolex Submariners were modified. Two Submariners used in Live and Let Die have been auctioned by Christies. The first came up for sale in 1998, and the second was auctioned in 2001, and again in 2011. Below is the listing from the auction catalogue:

Christies – South Kensington, London,17 September 1998

Lot 130 / Sale 8120: JAMES BOND, 1973

Lot Description

Live and Let Die, 1973

James Bond’s specially adapted Rolex wristwatch, converted from a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner wristwatch, ref: 5513, case no. 2912634, 1972, the black dial with pierced numerals, mercedes hands, movement now lacking due to customization, rotating black bezel within five minute indications and saw-tooth edge, protected screw down crown and screw back, stainless steel Oyster bracelet with deployant clasp — made for Roger Moore as James Bond in the 1973 United Artists / Eon film Live and Let Die.

Estimate £4,000 – £6,000 ($6,736 – $10,104)

Price realized £21,850 ($36,795)

The second Submariner differed in that the indices were untouched (not perforated), and the case number was 2683776. It was sold by Christies in 2001 for $41,992 (£26,523) (the final price vary in different reports, but I believe this is the final price plus buyer's commission) and the production drawings by Syd Cain, the FILM’S art director, sold at the same auction for £7,233 ($11,453). In November the same Rolex, this time lotted together with the production drawings, were once again sold by Christies, in Geneva, for $243,959.

Below is the listing from the 2011 auction catalogue (it is nearly identical to the 2001 description):

James Bond's specially adapted Rolex wristwatch converted from a stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner wristwatch
Signed Rolex, Oyster Perpetual, 660ft=200m, Submariner, Ref. 5513, case no. 2'683'776, manufactured in 1972 and then converted
Movement removed to allow customization, black dial, luminous baton and dot numerals, luminous mercedes-style hands, tonneau-shaped case with calibrated rotating black bezel with saw-tooth edge, modified screw back, the inside case back signed Roger Moore 007, screw down crown, stainless steel Rolex Oyster expandable bracelet with deployant clasp stamped 7-72, a small hole in the end links used to attach an invisible wire to unzip Miss Caruso's dress, case and dial signed
39 mm. diam.

Notes also accompanied the listing detailing two signed photographs and the production drawings which were including in the sale. To read these notes click on link 5 at the foot of this article.

As with all films, if you look long and hard enough you will see continuity and factual errors, and Live and Let Die is no exception, and include some which are specific to Bond’s Rolex Submariner:

  • Throughout the film, James’s watch was seen with an Oyster bracelet except for the speedboat scene when it changed to a Jubilee bracelet.
  • James was asked to confirm if the serial number read out from the back of the watch was correct or false. The Submariner does not have a serial number on the back.

OK, so you have to be a Rolex enthusiast to notice these mistakes, and I cannot take credit for spotting them, but there are other mistakes which more people could have spotted:

  • For some unexplained reason, having shown that the magnetic field is activated by pulling on the watch stem, Bond later activates it by turning the watch bezel on two separate occasions.
  • Earlier I wrote that the magnetic field was ‘supposedly capable of diverting the path of a bullet’. I say supposedly because generally bullets consist of copper over lead, both non-magnetic metals; and the idea that any magnetic field would deflect a steel-jacketed or armor piercing bullet is in the realms of fantasy.
  • Having demonstrated the magnetic power of the Rolex by making M’s teaspoon fly away from his cup, every metal object in the room that was not fixed down should also have flown through the air and attached itself to the watch.

The Man With the Golden Gun

Roger Moore returned in the 1974 release of The Man with the Golden Gun. Again he is seen wearing the Rolex Submariner 5513, but it lacks any form of gadgetry. Another Rolex that appeared in the film and well worth mentioning here, even though it was not modelled by Bond, is the watch worn by his enemy Scaramanga, an 18ct gold Rolex Cellini King Midas. This watch has the look of a designer inspired timepiece with its simple, yet sleek lines, and unfussy face. The apparent simplicity of the Rolex belies the complexity of Scaramanga’s character, portrayed by Christopher Lee.

For the next six films, Roger Moore, as Bond 007, wears a Seiko.


Living Daylights

Some will claim that when Timothy Dalton took over the role of James Bond in “The Living Daylights” (1987) he wore a Rolex Submariner, but I am persuaded by Dell Deaton reasoning (see link (4) at the end of this article) that the watch worn by 007 was not a rolex but was in fact two different Tag Heuer watches.

Omega Seamaster james bond 007 Limited Edition
Omega Seamaster james bond 007 Limited Edition

Licence to Kill

Licence to Kill was released in 1989. In what was to be Dalton’s second and final appearance as James Bond, he sports a Rolex Submariner 16800, a watch that has more in common with the Rolex’s of today than those worn by Dalton’s predecessors.

Dalton’s 16800 is a full stainless steel model and has an upgraded depth rating of 1,000 feet. The most notable design update is the addition of a date window with a magnifying bubble on the sapphire crystal.

Licence to Kill is the last Bond film to feature a Rolex. Years of legal battles ensued over film rights before Bond returned in Goldeneye in 1995, sporting… an Omega!

Most film viewers will just see a watch on 007’s wrist, and some may recognize it as a Rolex. Those with a bit of knowledge of Rolex watches will see a Submariner or the Pre-Daytona, whilst the collector will not only want to know the model number, but will also want to know which mechanism was used, is it straight watch or have there been modifications etc.

I have tried to strike a happy medium with my article and hope that I have succeeded. I guess I will only be able to tell from any comments that you may care to leave, and hopefully voting it 'up' and ‘interesting’ by clicking the buttons below.

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Comments 3 comments

Colin Martyn profile image

Colin Martyn 4 years ago

Well worth a read. Not only have I learned something about vintage watches, I was also taken on a whirlwind tour of some classic Bond films I hadn't seen in years! Keep up the fine article writing. Voted up.


Derek Slark profile image

Derek Slark 4 years ago Author

Thanks for taking the time to read my article and for the encouraging comment Colin. Hope I've sparked an interest in vintage watches.


MYWIKISTEP 4 years ago

A lot about specific Watches here.

Not that I am a fan of watches or James - Bond. Interesting though.....

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