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. and Ulysse Nardin also made watches of this design in the 1950s and 1960s. Longines did as well.
Connery’s dress watches were likely his own watch, 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 more knowledgeable people than myself.
I think that this is a good example of a “rule” that is no longer a rule.
Men’s fashion changes, and what was considered essential at one point falls away into the past, such as how every man “had” to wear a hat for decades.
I used to always wear a dress watch with my suits, but for years I’ve worn my black face and bezel/metal bracelet dive watch. To me, it doesn’t look like a sports watch at all – the colours and design look elegant and masculine. When I think of “sports watches” I think of clunkier, larger watches with plastic or rubber in them.
I’m not alone in thinking this, as I often gets compliments on my watch. In fact, I was trying on a beautiful light grey pick-and-pick suit last week and I got chatting to a very lovely, and exceptionally stylish, women from NYC who was in Toronto visiting a friend. She advised me to get the sleeves taken up a half inch because “You should really show off that watch”.
A dive watch now seems perfectly acceptable to wear with a suit now, as long as it isn’t over-designed. Is this a case of the real world catching up with Bond or Bond influencing the real world? I think that it’s the latter.
As modern sports watches have become clunkier and use plastic and rubber in addition to or instead of steel, the classic sports watches like the Submariner do indeed look very elegant. It is certainly acceptable to wear a Submariner with a suit now, perhaps because in comparison the Submariner is now a rather elegant sports watch. But it’s like wearing rubber-soled shoes with a suit. Most people do it now, but a dressier leather sole is still ideal.
Shouldn’t use a sports watch at all. Bond should use whatever the SAS or Special Boat Service wear.
Bond was never part of the SAS and he is no longer part of the Special Boat Service. Bond should wear whatever watch fits his needs for his mission.
I still don’t understand where we think Bond was a member of SBS ? I never read that in any of Fleming ‘s work?
The film James Bond’s backstory was updated when Daniel Craig became Bond. The official James Bond website said he was a member of SBS.
The SBS their roots in No.30 Commando which Fleming helped to set out during WW2.
Therefore it’s no leap of imagination for Fleming’s bond to have actually served with No.30 Commando during WW2. With DC’s Bond they just have an updated equivalent.
As I much as I appreciate the elegance of a dress watch, I think the versatility of a diving watch makes it a much better investment. Bond had shown over countless years that a metal wristband can blend seamlessly with formal wear, so I’ve never considered it something worth worrying about.
I agree with Flashheart that the rule is no longer to apply. I do agree however that a rubber strap should not be used, but I also would argue that a Nato strap is also a unacceptable alternative if you really want to debate the merits of dress watch vs. sports.
I agree with Matt. I have a vintage 1962 Omega Seamaster, which looks much different from the current crop of Seamasters. It is a classic dress watch and looks great with a suit.
I was glad to see Bond wearing the Aqua Terra in Skyfall. It was a huge improvement over the huge Planet Ocean. I have read that Craig himself lobbied to ditch the clunky Planet Ocean in favor of the slightly more refined aqua Terra. That may or may not be true, but it was a welcome change.
I have a 1949 Omega and honestly I find that my Rolex or Breitling fits the look that the newer more modern suits evoke via tailoring. I’m not talking the extremes of fashion either. While I don’t deny it’s a fantastic looking watch I do view it as a matter of “po-ta-to vs. po-tat-o.”
I do agree that a diving watch shouldn’t be worn with black tie, but I find it works very well with a suit. In today’s modern society people wear suits much less often than they used to and the inclusion of a diving watch makes the suit look more casual and therefore makes the wearer look more comfortable. What I’m saying is that it makes it look less like “I HAD to wear this suit!” To “I get to wear a suit!”
I wear a steel band dive watch with my suits everyday but my dad hates that and reminds me only dress watches should be worn with suits. I do get the feeling that its an older belief that hasn’t really hung around all that well.
I agree 100% with your dad. The ‘older beliefs’ are often the best.
I have been looking to purchase the omega seamaster worn by pierce in tomorrow never dies but when I saw it looked kind of small I asked the seller if this was the women’s size he replied no. Aren’t different sizes of the watch if so which is the one that pierce uses?
There are three sizes, and the one you want is the large 41mm. If it looks small it could be the mid-size, or you may just be used to the larger watches that are common now.
I don’t think the rule has applied generally for at least 40 years, and Connery (and Broccoli, whose Submariner Connery reportedly was wearing) helped bury it in Dr. No. However, the no-date SS Sub looks particularly subdued, and, in my opinion, works with a suit far more than other sports watches, such as the two-tone Subs, the GMT, most if Roger’s Seiko’s, or any of the Seamasters.
Of course, Fleming wrote that Bond wore an unidentified Rolex. Fleming himself wore an Explorer. The Skyfall Aqua Terra is a good choice, and closest in spirit to Fleming’s Explorer without actually turning down Omega’s money and going with the Rolex.
To answer the question above, Pierce wore a 41mm Seamaster. The link Matt posted above references the two models he wore (the first was a quartz movement, the others were automatic). Omega made a 36 mm version. Prince William, I believe, wears this version.
The Gruen looks good, though I am surprised its strap is not leather, and small on Connery’s wrist. Very traditional and classy, fabric strap excepted.
I find that today some people are wearing watches that are way too big with their suits. GQ, for all its preaching of super-slim suits, actually had a primer on wristwatches, a couple years back, saying that men should stay away from the new, oversized watches. Personally, in today’s world, I wear between 40-42mm, no larger, and I have a nice dress watch that works really well with just about anything because it’s a little bigger (not oversized) than traditional. I liked the Bond wardrobe in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace but, like you, I find that Daniel Craig’s watches were not elegant enough to be worn with a suit. Despite their simplicity, I think the costume people could have done better.
I agree that a 40-42 mm watch is good for today’s world. Perhaps down to 37 mm or so for slim dress watches. Th Seamaster Craig and Pierce wore from 1995 to 2006 (casino scenes) was 41 mm. The Planet Ocean is bigger at 44 mm and thicker (but still not clownish like some even larger watches). It is a very nice dive watch, but it does look clunky with the suits in QoS and Skyfall. It doesn’t help that the watch is in every scene, obstrusively placed so Omega gets their money’s worth. By contrast, Dalton’s Sub in L2K was noticeable without being obtrusive, sliding in and out from under his shirt cuff like a real person’s watch would do and should do with a well tailored shirt.
Actually, Planet Ocean watches from Quantum of Solace and Skyfall are 42 mm:
The one from Casino Royale is bigger at 45.5 mm:
Interesting statement, but i don’t have a dress watch. I own two time pieces; an omega seamaster aquaterra quartz and a golden mido commander, and i wear them with both suits and casual outfits; however, what i do is wearing the watch which i think looks better with the main colors on the outfit,in my personal taste the silver omega looks great with navys, grays and blacks, and the golden mido with browns, tan and cream, i don’t know if im doing it right, i just feel is the way they look better, a golden watch, for me, looks bad with a gray or navy suit, it just looks missmatched. Said this, Matt is there any rule on this subject? I mean, in what color should the jewelry (watch, cufflinks) be depending on the suit color?
There really aren’t any rules for jewellery colour.
The only real rule is that cufflink metal and watch should match… and preferably belt buckle too. (Wedding rings – for those who wear them – are a regrettable exception).