If you've ever read a couple of Ian Fleming's Bond novels of the 1950s, you may have noticed that he equipped 007 with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch. He didn't give much more information than that, and this topic has been oft-discussed on various wristwatch forums. I made mention of this briefly on one of my fan fiction posts elsewhere here.
Anyway, let's flashback to sometime in the '70s. I was eight years old and my Dad took my brother and I to a James Bond double-bill at some cinema off Sydney Road in Brunswick one summer afternoon. The double-bill was "Live And Let Die" (1973) and "The Man With The Golden Gun" (1974), both directed by Guy Hamilton and both starring Roger Moore as Bond.
(Okay, "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack has just kicked in on my iPod headphones. The best Bond theme music never used. Have a listen to the instrumental section after Shara Nelson's brilliant voice.)
So the first film gets to the scene where Bond and Solitaire (Jane Seymour) are tied up over a pool of sharks and Mr Big has just cut a few slits into Bond's forearm.
Image screencap taken from "Live And Let Die" (1973). Property of EON Productions/ Danjac ('cos I really, really don't need to get sued right now.)
Bond's arm is bleeding steadily, the maneaters circle below, their dorsal fins pierce the water's surface. And then Bond twists the bezel of his watch and the entire watch case begins spinning like a buzz saw and cuts the ropes around his wrists.
And I thought "WOW!!!"
A few months (or was it a year?) later and I'm sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's surgery. I pick up a copy of Reader's Digest and flick through it and land on this page;
Picture courtesy of Rolex. Taken from Jake's outstanding http://rolexblog.blogspot.com/
"Jeeper's, it's the watch from that James Bond film!"*, I thought to myself.
Years later, as I got more interested in wristwatches, I realised that Bond's Rolex in the movies was the Submariner diver's model, not the GMT Master as shown in this classic ad.
Rolex had brilliant marketing throughout the '70s and '80s with magazine ads like this one that appeared in publications like TIME and National Geographic.
Moving forward through the Eighties and Nineties and, as much as I wanted to get myself a Rolex Submariner...
...their soaring prices always kept them out of my reach.
And then we got to the mid-Nineties and Pierce Brosnan was cast as Bond for "Goldeneye" (Dir: Martin Campbell, 1995). Depending on which version of the story you believe, his watch was chosen by Barbara Broccoli, the Producer of the Bond films, because she thought it looked elegant, or Lindy Hemming, the film's costume designer, who decided that Bond in the '90s needed a more Eurocentric and modern-designed wristwatch.
Either way, he was equipped with the recently released Omega Seamaster Professional 300m. It was the quartz (battery-powered) version, model number 2541.80.00.
This watch was already doing respectable business since it was released in 1993, but after the release of "Goldeneye" (Bond's second re-boot, btw, but that's probably another post), sales of this model went through the roof. Omega quickly brought out an automatic version.
SLIGHT DIGRESSION; For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of wristwatches, there are basically three types of wristwatch movements, or ebauches in use.
Hand-wound movements require just that, the wearer needs to manually wind the watch to keep it running.
(Picture courtesy of www.watchmakingblog.com)
The above is a Unitas 6497 calibre, first designed in the 1950s for use in pocket watches, but since adopted for larger-sized wristwatches.
Then, pretty much perfected in the late 1950s, was the automatic or self-winding movement such as this;
Picture courtesy of http://www.watchpart.co.uk
This is the rock-solid ETA 2824-2 and it's used by a great many watch companies. That half-disc sitting along the bottom of the movement is the rotor. In a nutshell, it's connected to the mainspring of the watch and this is what powers the movement. As the wearer moves his arm, the rotor turns, thus tightening the mainspring. The watch starts ticking and the ticking of the watch loosens the mainspring. And the beauty of it all is that this dance goes on all day and all night long, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For years on end. Properly looked after and regularly serviced, a mechanical wristwatch will last you 50-60 years or more. Probably more than that. I see enough pocket watches that were made in the late 1800s, so a wristwatch that's made from better alloys using advances in micro-engineering should last as long.
And then there is the quartz movement. By the mid to late 1970s, Japan's production of cheap, battery-powered watch movements threatened to kill the Swiss watch industry. A great many Swiss brands switched over to producing these accurate, mass-produced movements and it appeared that the art of the mechanical Swiss-made watch was coming to an end.
It was Swatch who came to the rescue. Producing an even cheaper battery-operated watch movement in Switzerland, this company helped this almost 200-year old industry slowly claw its way back from the brink of extinction. And while I can appreciate the precision of a battery-operated watch, I prefer mechanical because of the intricate and tight tolerances that go into their production.
Back to what this post was originally about...eventually. Still with me? You're doin' great, by the way.
So I saved my money for over a year and bought myself an Omega Seamaster Professional 300m, just like the one Pierce Brosnan wore during his tenure as James Bond.
Yes, I'm a marketing guy's dream. Up to a point, anyway.
And now, the typecast portion of this post, which I started writing on Typewriter Day.
That's the helium escape valve. You'll really only ever have to use it if you're working in a diving bell or spending a few days in a decompression chamber.
The case shoulders protect the winding crown nicely. The bracelet is a very intricate design and it does tend to give this watch a dressier appearance overall. The hour markers and hands are coated with a substance called SuperLuminova, which glows in the dark. This is a pre-requisite for any diver's watch. The bezel (that ring on the outside of the case with the 10, 20, 30, 40, etc numbers on it) is unidirectional and only turns anti-clockwise. Let's say you are about to go scuba diving and you have 40 minutes of air in your tanks. You would rotate the bezel and line up the triangle on it with the minute hand on the watch. When the minute hand ticks around to the 40 minute mark on the bezel, you had better be back on the surface. These days, a dive watch such as this is really only used as a back-up in case your dive computer malfunctions, is broken against coral or the battery dies while you're under. Back in the '50s and '60s, when scuba diving became a popular recreational activity, this type of watch was the main method for timing a dive.
The bracelet is sturdy and the clasp stays closed when it's supposed to.
It was a long trip, but this one has a history. These Seamasters were, and still are, a very popular seller and they deserve their place as a modern classic in Omega's range.
Thanks for reading, all!
* I didn't really say "Jeepers" when I saw that Rolex ad in the Reader's Digest, but I wanted to paint a Norman Rockwellesque picture of a time when I was but an innocent 8 year-old kid...with a jones for a Rolex wristwatch.