Brought to you by the Watch Gallery
More than any other films, the Bond movies taught Hollywood about how influential brand name products could be. Not only could they get money from companies to include their products, but you could also use them for characterisation, using people’s association with those goodies to let us know a little about who those characters are.
That’s certainly true of 007, whose association with the likes of Aston Martin and Rolex, has helped assure that for over 50 years he has been an icon of cool. However, on the watch front, legend says that it all started by accident.
During the filming of Dr. No, Sean Connery and producer Cubby Broccoli knew how important it was to create the right image for the character – the right drink, the right car, the right women and the right watch. However, as no one knew how well the film would do (and product placement wasn’t the industry it is now) they hadn’t managed to get help from any luxury watch manufacturer and they didn’t have the budget to buy a high-end watch. As a result, Broccoli took his own Rolex Submariner off his wrist and handed it to the star to wear. And it should have been a Rolex, as that’s what Ian Fleming had said the spy wore.
While some have wondered if the story is apocryphal, there’s good evidence that it wasn’t, as Bond’s Dr. No watch was the Submariner 6538, which Rolex stopped making a few years before the movie hits cinemas. However, very quickly after that, Rolex realised the benefit of being associated with 007, and co-operated with ensuring Connery had other 6538’s, with different straps, in the next three films. As a result, the 6538 is one of the most collectible watches in the world, and is often simply called The Bond Submariner.
That almost accidental association started a relationship been Bond and the Submariner that ran through 11 of the movies, with different iterations of the watch showing up on the wrist of George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton – although product placement ensured the likes of Seiko also got a look in.
However, things changed for Bond when Pierce Brosnan took over and in a decision taken between the costume department and those making deals with luxury product makers, 007 switched his allegiance from Rolex to the Omega Seamaster. It has been great for Omega, which has sold an awful lot of watches on the back of the deal, which has now lasted through all the Daniel Craig movies. However, it shows quite how iconic the association between Rolex and Bond is, that in the popular imagination that’s still what he wears.
It’s helped ensure that Rolex Submariner 6538, made in the 1950s, can still easily fetch £40,000-£80,000, and sometimes significantly more, even if they aren’t ones that look the same as any of the Bonds wore. A screen-worn Bond Rolex meanwhile easily doubles the value. Indeed, a 1973 Rolex 5513, specially made by the watch company for Roger Moore to wear in 1973’s Live And Let Die, is one of the most expensive Rolex’s ever sold at auction, fetching $450,000. To put that in context, Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre from the original Star Wars trilogy only made $240,000 when it was last sold.
Few ‘movie props’ are as iconic as James Bond’s Rolex’s, particularly the classic 6538, and it has ensured that even now, the Submariner is THE watch many people want, and it’s one of the reason Rolex still makes them.