James Bond is known for wearing sports watches like the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster with everything, from polos and camp shirts to suits and black tie. From a traditional perspective, such watches should be worn only with sportswear and not with dressier outfits. The practice of wearing a sports or professional watch with a suit is common now, but just because a watch is expensive and well-made doesn’t mean it goes well with all fine clothing. For dressy outfits, the dress watch exists.
A dress watch is simpler, lighter and overall more elegant than a sports or professional watch. Typically the case is thinner, the bezel is narrower, the crown is smaller and the dial is simler, though it can have complications.A sub-seconds dial is the more common detail they have, something that goes back to pocket watches. Often it has a leather (calf or exotic) strap rather than a metal bracelet.
Though we remember Sean Connery’s Rolex Submariner in the four Bond films, in most of Connery’s Bond films he also occasionally wears with his suits or black tie a gold dress watch. This watch has a white or champagne dial and a black leather strap. It may not be as iconic as the Rolex Submariner, but it goes much better with the dressier clothing. Though Connery occasionally commits the faux pas of wearing his Rolex diving watch with his suits, he only wears his Rolex once with black tie, with the white dinner jacket in Goldfinger‘s opening scene. However, Bond has an excuse in this case: he had just been diving!
Sean Connery wears a dress watch in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. While the watch looks the same in screen in all five films, it may not be the same watch in every film. The make and model of the watch has never been positively identified. Dell Deaton of James Bond Watches believes that he has identified this watch as a Gruen Precision 510, with a sub-seconds dial and Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12, but there are no photos available that can confirm this.
A photo taken of Sean Connery in 1962 or 1963 (above) shows him wearing what is most likely the dress watch he wears in his early Bond films. The case is likely 32-34 mm case, usual for men’s watches of the era. It’s a very thin watch, signifying it’s a typical manual wind rather than an automatic. The bezel is very narrow, making the dial look large for a watch of its size. It has Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9 and 12 and dagger indices for the rest of the hours. It has a subseconds dial, which cuts off the top of the 6. The hands are alpha-shaped. Connery wears the watch on a black leather strap.
This watch is extremely similar to the Gruen, but the lugs are shaped differently and the numbers and indices are further from the edge of the dial than they are on the oft-stated Gruen. Longines and Universal Genève made watches that more closely resemble this watch, but I cannot confirm that either brand made this watch as there were many watchmakers active at the time who made very similar watches.
Photos taken of Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot by Terry O’Neill in either 1967 or 1968 show Connery wearing a different gold watch, and it might be what he wears in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. This watch is very similar to the earlier watch above, but the dial has simple stick indices, no subseconds dial and an ordinary second hand. The crown is smaller. The lugs are straight without much or any taper. Connery wears it on a black crocodile strap.
This watch design was very common in the 1950s and 1960s, with it being offered by countless watchmakers throughout the world, including Rolex and Bond’s later watchmaker Omega. Other notable watchmakers such as Patek Philippe, International Watch Co., Ulysse Nardin and Longines also made watches of this design in the 1950s and 1960s.
Connery’s dress watches were probably his own watches, based on them appearing in the photos taken throughout the 1960s when he is not in costume. The dress watches were not likely intended to have any meaning to the James Bond character, but nevertheless because he wears them so frequently in the Bond films they are de facto Bond watches. He wears them whenever Cubby Broccoli’s Rolex was not available to replace it or not necessary for the scene. They are frequently hidden under Connery’s wrist, judging by how often they pop out in stills taken on the sets.
After Sean Connery left the role, James Bond doesn’t again wear a dress watch until Roger Moore wears a two-tone Seiko undercover as James St. John Smythe in A View to a Kill. More recently, Daniel Craig’s Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra in some scenes of Skyfall is a sports watch, but its simple style means it can work with a suit in a pinch. It’s an elegant sports watch but a little clunky as a dress watch.
I do not plan to write more on James Bond’s watches because there is already a wealth of material available written by people more knowledgeable than myself.