It’s an exciting year for James Bond fans: not only will Daniel Craig enjoy a third outing as MI6’s most infamous operative in Skyfall this October, but the release also marks 50 years since Bond’s first appearance on the silver screen in Dr. No. As if that's not enough, 50 years of styling the world's best dressed man is now being celebrated with a special exhibition at the Barbican.
In those 50 years, Bond’s look has been defined by sharp suits, Aston Martins, shaken Martinis and a distinctive luxury watch brand: Rolex.
In Ian Fleming’s original novels the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner was the only choice for Agent 007 – and it helped him get out of more than one sticky situation. (In the novel version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, for example, Bond switches his Rolex from his left wrist to the fingers of his right, using the bracelet as a knuckle duster to take down an assailant!)
Interestingly, when Dr No went into production in 1962, they didn’t actually have enough budget to equip Bond with a Rolex Submariner, and had to use a watch straight from the wrist of one of the crew. The Submariner with the large crown, no crown guard, coin-edge bezel and crocodile leather strap worn by Sean Connery in Bond’s first cinematic outing actually belonged to the legendary producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli.
Over the past 50 years Bond has also bonded with a Submariner in From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, License to Kill and The Living Daylights.
The early Submariners with no crown guard that Connery’s Bond originally wore are informally referred to as the “James Bond Rolex” among collectors, while all other editions of the highly lauded men’s divers watch have since become synonymous with the British spy.
Bond creator Ian Fleming never confirmed why his protagonist wore a Rolex, but as a member of British Naval intelligence during World War Two, he would have known of Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf’s proud affiliation with the British armed Forces. When Royal Air Force pilots were captured and made prisoners of war, their Rolexes were confiscated. Wilsdorf instantly raised morale by personally sending 3,000 replacement watches to POW camps, while telling the world that “a British officer's word was his bond.” At this point, of course, he couldn’t have known that Bond would become a famous fictional British officer!
Aside from its reputation on the British front line, a secret agent like Bond would have appreciated a Rolex Submariner for its dependability and durability. Not only do countless militaries and professionals depend on a Submariner in extreme conditions, but most professional divers today will still prefer to use one over any other watch model. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the Sumbariner on sale now still has a strong resemblance to the original model issued in 1954.
Discover more about the James Bond and his iconic style by visiting Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style at the Barbican until September 5th.
The Watch Gallery is an authorised Rolex stockist. Explore Rolex Here.