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A history of James Bond timekeepers as No Time To Die hits cinemas

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Having been postponed twice since its original release date of April 2020, the 25th James Bond movie, No Time To Die, was finally released at the end of September. Simon de Burton revisits the watches that have become as much a part of Bond’s essential operational equipment as an Aston Martin and a dry martini.

“There was a bulky gold wristwatch on a well-used brown crocodile strap. It was a Girard-Perregaux model designed for people who like gadgets and it had a sweep second-hand and two little windows in the face to tell the day of the month, and the month, and the phase of the moon. The story it now told was 2.30 on June 10 with the moon three-quarters full.”

So wrote Ian Fleming in the opening to his 1957 James Bond novel From Russia With Love, regarded by many as the greatest of all the 007 adventures.

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The Girard-Perregaux was the property of one Donovan Grant, code-name ‘Granit,’ the son of a German weightlifter and a southern Irish waitress who joined the communists in Cold War Russia and worked his way up through the ranks to become the ruthless chief executioner of SMERSH, the Soviet assassination agency.

Like Bond, Fleming had been a naval commander and, like Bond, he appreciated the finer things in life, among which he counted prestigious motor cars — such as the bespoke Bentley he gave Bond for ‘every day use’ and the Aston Martin DBIII which the agent selected from the ‘pool’ at HQ for a thrilling chase across France in the novel Goldfinger.

Then there were the Turkish blend cigarettes, the Dunhill lighters, the Savile Row suits and, of course, the quality wristwatches.

The detailed description of the Girard-Perregaux is designed to tell us as much about the owner as it is about the watch: as Fleming earlier states, it was a typical membership badge of ‘the rich man’s club,’ but there is an intimation that Donovan Grant wore it simply because it looked flash.

By the time From Russia With Love hit the big screen in 1963 Grant’s ostentatious yet innocuous watch had been transformed into a lethal weapon – a timepiece which concealed a garrotting wire intended for use on Bond.

In the event, of course, 007 turned the tables and used it on his attacker with fatal results. (That watch briefly reappears, incidentally, in the 1969 film of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, being handled by George Lazenby).

Yet Fleming, always prepared to extend the bounds of probability but never one to indulge in the fantastical, was far more conservative in his use of gadgets in his books than were the props departments in the films, which is why the most unusual thing Bond’s Rolex Submariner ever did in the novels was to kill an enemy guard when 007 wrapped it around his fist to use as a knuckle duster in chapter 16 of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,’ smashing the crystal in the process.

But when Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 with its ejector seat, rocket launchers and revolving number plates became almost as much a star of the 1964 Goldfinger movie as Sean Connery (who was equipped with a standard Rolex submariner reference 6538 ) the producers of the 007 films quickly realised that gadgets were a big hit with the audience — or the male contingent, at least — and males loved to see cool watches just as much as cool cars.

The result was that ‘Q’ branch was put to work modifying one watch after another as trick timepieces became as integral to the films as outlandish vehicles and superhuman villains.

In Thunderball (1965) Q provides Bond with a Breitling Top Time (sold by Christie’s in 2013 for £103,000) which doubles as a geiger counter and, in Live and Let Die (1973), Roger Moore’s 007 starts out bang up to date by sporting a Pulsar, one of the world’s first commercially-available quartz digital watches.

Q soon re-equips him with a Rolex, however, this time neatly modified with a ‘hyper-intensified magnetic field’ for bullet deflecting and a bezel that doubles as a buzz saw (last sold by Phillips in 2015 for $363,000).

Four years later in The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore wears a Seiko with a built in teleprinter, while Moonraker (1979) sees the same model return as the hiding place for a small quantity of a powerful explosive that 007 detonates via one of the pushpieces on the watch case.

Seiko watches reigned supreme throughout the 1980s doubling up, among other devices, as a radio receiver (For Your Eyes Only, 1981) and a miniature television and homing device (Octopussy, 1983). But it was all change in 1995 when Pierce Brosnan took on the role of 007 in Goldeneye.

By now, the value of placing product in Bond films was truly appreciated, and the world’s favourite secret agent was given a BMW car and an all-new watch – an Omega Seamaster, complete with laser beam cutter and explosive detonator.

In Tomorrow Never Dies, Brosnan’s Seamaster features a bezel-activated detonator, while the watch he wears in The World Is Not Enough boasts an LED torch and a built-in grappling hook.

Die Another Day, meanwhile, introduced a Seamaster equipped with an upgraded detonator and a laser beam.

Omega has held the plum job of official 007 timekeeper ever since and, after Daniel Craig made his Bond debut in Casino Royale back in 2006, the two different Seamaster watches he wore in the film – the Seamaster Planet Ocean from the opening sequences and the Seamaster 300M dive chronometer he receives after becoming ‘licensed to kill’ – became the stars of an Omega-themed auction in Geneva where they fetched CHF 250,250 and CHF 70,800 respectively.

But Bond fans without such impressive sums to spend on their wrist wear shouldn’t despair because, since 2002’s Die Another Day, Omega has produced a range of limited editions to mark each new Bond release. The word ‘limited’ is, of course, relative – and, in most cases, there are so many of these that you should only need to bide your time to be able to pick-up a bargain.

JAMES BOND’S OMEGA ERA WATCHES

2002 DIE ANOTHER DAY

This version of the Seamaster Professional 300M featured a blue dial embossed with the 007 gun logo and had the legend ’40 years of James Bond’ engraved on the back. The bracelet design was also unique to the model. 10,007 were made.

2006 SEAMASTER JAMES BOND LIMITED EDITION.

Fitted with Omega’s now famous Co-Axial movement, this watch had a blue dial based on the spiral of a gun barrel, a 007 logo on the seconds hand and 007 engraved on the case back. Again, 10,007 were made.

2006 SEAMASTER CASINO ROYALE PLANET OCEAN.

This chunky, 45.5 mm watch was fitted with a special rubber strap and the name Casino Royale on the case back. The edition was limited to 5,007 numbered examples. Bond also wore a Seamaster 300M Chronometer in the film – and a limited edition of that was made available, too. A mere 10,007 of them.

2008 QUANTUM OF SOLACE

Another Planet Ocean, this watch featured the name of the movie engraved on the sapphire crystal and a dial patterned to resemble the grip of Bond’s Walther PPK. The 007 logo was also engraved on the case back and on the bracelet clasp. Again, 5,007 were produced. There was also a special edition of the Seamaster 300M with a black bezel and dial – 10,003 were made.

2008 THE JAMES BOND COLLECTOR’S PIECE

This black-dialled commemorative watch featured a red 007 logo on the end of the seconds hand and was supplied in a black leather, silk lined box which hinted at a Bond-like tuxedo. 10,007 produced.

2012 SKYFALL

This 42mm version of the Seamaster Planet Ocean used the Calibre 8507 Co-Axial movement, visible through a transparent case back. The winding rotor carried the name of the film while the 007 gun logo could be seen on the dial at the seven o’clock position. 5,007 available. The film also saw Daniel Craig wear a Seamaster Aqua Terra mid-sized chronometer with a blue dial (from the regular Omega range).

2012 BOND AT 50

Omega naturally had to mark 50 years of Bond films and this watch is based on the Seamaster 300M worn by Brosnan when the brand first began supplying Bond in Goldeneye. Made in two sizes – 41mm and 36 mm – the watch featured a red number 50 on the bezel and the dial was diagonally embossed with 007 logos. The case back gets the classic barrel rifling design and the watches werw available in editions of 11,007 and 3,007 respectively.

2015 SPECTRE

By now, Bond was routinely seen sporting two different Omegas depending on the scene – but for SPECTRE, his watch wardrobe was upped to three models, two of which were recreated as special editions.

The Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m had a blue dial embossed with a repeat pattern of the ‘Bond coat of arms’, which also appears on the tip of the yellow seconds hand. The oscillating weight was based on the rifling of a gun barrel, and 15,007 were made.

The second limited edition was a Seamaster 300 identical to that seen in the film, complete with NATO-style nylon strap based on the one worn by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Thunderball. 7,007 made. The third SPECTRE Omega was a vintage chronograph with a Calibre 321 movement. It appeared only in the closing scene.

2017 THE COMMANDER’S WATCH

Despite there being no new cinema release, Omega still made a limited edition watch. Called ‘The Commander’s Watch’, it commemorated Bond’s Naval rank as well as the 20th, 40th and 50th ‘anniversaries’ of three movies. from the franchise.

Based on a Seamaster Diver 300M, it featured a red and blue bezel and a white dial and cost £3,720. There was also a gold-cased version – but only seven of those were produced, and the price was never revealed.

2019 50 YEARS OHMSS

This Seamaster Diver 300M marked 50 years since the release of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – in which George Lazenby made his sole appearance as 007. This ‘Commander’s’ watch was ‘limited’ to 7,007 examples with black ceramic dials.

The side carried a gold plate engraved with the edition number, and the hour marker at 10 o’clock hid a ’50’ that only became visible in the dark. It costs £5,220, while £36,140 got you both a steel version and a gold one.

2020/2021 NO TIME TO DIE

No sooner had Bond’s watch for No Time To Die been revealed than Covid struck, causing the launch of the film to be postponed. But the model he wears in the film has remained on sale – it’s a titanium cased Seamaster Diver 300m with a ‘vintage’ dial and a choice of a titanium mesh bracelet or a ‘NATO’ style nylon strap.

The case back is engraved with faux military issue numbers and Government property broad arrow. Unlimited and retailing from £6,950, the watch was joined by a special Swatch SKIN Irony created by NTTD costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlab.

Made with gadget man Q in mind, the £174 watch has a plaid leather strap, a transparent dial showing the movement and the letter ‘Q’ at six o’clock.

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