When film directors are developing a character, significant time is spent labouring over trifling details. How does the character wear their scarf? Is it Argyle or Gingham? Do they speak with a brogue? Do they walk or shuffle, et cetera, et cetera. It's a labour of love and for the most part, these little details are lost in the cinematic ether, absorbed by only the most dedicated cinephiles. Then, some seemingly small style choice, like an ill-fitted NATO strap on a relatively simplistic Rolex watch is picked up by audiences and immortalised.
It may seem like an inane detail, but to the keen observer or savvy collector, a timepiece's association with a silver screen legend is more than just arcane trivia. It's a new piece to be added to a growing collection or, as it so often turns out, a potentially profitable investment.
1. Rolex Submariner 6538
The Rolex Submariner 6538 has become one of the most sought-after watches for a couple of reasons, but it would probably have been relegated to the annals of Swiss watch history had it not been worn by Sean Connery in the very first Bond film: Dr. No. Displayed on an ill-fitting NATO strap, the 6538 became famous for two distinct features: no date display and an exposed crown. This level of simplicity was soon eschewed by the Swiss horological behemoth in favour of additional features and a more robust build, but none of the newer models could come as close in favour with collectors as the one that was worn by James Bond.
Though the character would go on to wear Omegas exclusively (after a brief stint flirting with Japanese makes, as well as one ill-advised calculator watch – ouch), the old Bond wore Rolexes, and this one fast became the crème de la crème of collectable movie timepieces.
2. Omega Seamaster
In 1995, when Goldeneye was in production, Pierce Brosnan was expected to usher in a new era of James Bond – one with more biffo than the debonair Roger Moore, and, as it turned out, more staying power than Timothy Dalton. To match this moment of 007 turning a new leaf, Omega was enlisted to create the watch for the film, forging a marketing relationship that would continue into the franchise for many years to come (they are still the watch of choice for the legendary secret agent). The Seamaster 300 was selected as a base model, as it matched Bond’s fictional Commander credentials, and was a practical, stylish option that looked as good in an action sequence as it did with a tux, all without being too flashy (the character, as it is written, is stylish, but somewhat frugal). Omega has made several special editions to commemorate particular films, as well as the enduring partnership with Eon Productions, but the Seamaster 300 Co-Axial, in blue, has been a mainstay for fans of both good spy films and good watchmaking for decades.
3. Hamilton Ventura XXL
Perhaps not the most handsome watch to grace the silver screen, the Hamilton Ventura XXL is certainly one of the most recognisable, as the timekeeper for the secret police in charge of keeping extraterrestrials off our streets, the Men In Black. Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the Men In Black franchise spans three films and features a whole lot of whacky gadgetry. While most of the costume department’s work was predetermined in the name of the films, one thing they had to find was a functional watch that fitted their bill.
While perhaps not as famous as their Swiss counterparts, Hamilton has arguably made more watches for films than any other brand. In 1957, the Ventura XXL, made watchmaking history at the time as the first ever released electric battery powered watch, though arguably, this model is more famous for its alien ass-kicking pedigree.
4. Heuer Monaco
Iconic for being the first square-shaped automatic chronograph, the Heuer Monaco was introduced in 1969, in honour of the Monaco Grand Prix. The cause of its true fame, however, can be found in the 1971 film Le Mans. Off all the speed demons to encapsulate the feel of an amazing race, Steve McQueen is perhaps the most distinctive; few have captured the feel of revving an engine and tearing through corners on camera since.
McQueen decided to accessorise his costume in Le Mans with a Heuer Monaco (Now released as a TAG Heuer Monaco). Several stills from the film show the watch sitting proudly on the film star’s wrist, which shot the Heuer Monaco to fame and earned it its place as a piece of cinematic history.