Haute Time: James Bond’s watch of choice for the last 17 years has been Omega, ever since Pierce Brosnan wore the Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz in “Goldeneye” in 1995. How has that product placement evolved?
Stephen Urquhart: “For me, the most important aspect of the Bond watch is not, and should not be, the gadget inside of it. At Omega, we’re not a “gadget” brand, per say; over the years Bond has used gadgets in the watches like for cutting ice or engaging a harpoon. When Daniel Craig came on as Bond, however, [film co-producers] Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson wanted to get back a more cool, understated and sophisticated look about Bond that I think is so much a part of Bond’s image and legacy. In “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace” and “Skyfall,” while Craig wore Omega, the watch didn’t serve as much a function as part of their respective plots.”
HT: So the role of the Omega watch will play a noticeably more visible role this time around?
SU: [“Spectre” director] Sam Mendes had many ideas to bring back a role for the Omega watch to play. We had a lot of different options, but Mendes was the one who ultimately made the decision. Craig, however, played an instrumental role because he loved the anti-magnetic watch we brought out in 2013. The gadgets made for the Omega watches have all shared a few directives: nothing too crazy, gimmicky or down-market. You must never forget the upmarket suave approach of James Bond: the car he drives, the food he eats, the clothes he wears, the people he’s with…they’re all beautiful.”
HT: If you were Q designing Bond’s watch gadgets, what would you incorporate? Bond’s driven many a bulletproof car. Perhaps a bulletproof watch?
SU: “On the idea of a bulletproof watch, we’d never make one to sell, of course. But if the producers came to us and said, ‘Listen guys, we want the watch bulletproof in the next movie,’ that would certainly be a consideration. But why not take that idea further since we have this new anti-magnetic movement? Why not make it in such a way that it’s so anti-magnetic that the bullet would divert itself from the watch entirely? It’s so anti-magnetic, it’s like a shield! It’s an idea we honestly had not thought of until this interview.”
HT: But there are obviously some real world practical implications for this, yes?
SU: “Coming back down to earth from fantasy land for a moment, it’s important to remember that we live in a world today where very few people realize the influence of magnetism on the mechanical watch. It’s unbelievable. It’s out there and the big problem is that you cannot see it, hear it or smell it; it’s not so glaringly visible like a watch that’s taken on water with condensation. So, a bulletproof Omega watch is not out of the question, but we’ve got to find a sexy way to do this.”
HT: Ultimately, they’re all Seamasters, so what’s nice is that they’re all in the same family and therefore have a similar sense of style.
SU: “There’s been an evolution that is probably…most Omega watches today, if you look at the DNA, have a reference to the past. With the first Bond watch, you have the helium valve but the way the case is done…the shape, the bezel…it was quite contemporary for its time. It fit into the collection very well but it never sort of inspired other watches; it was more like a one-off piece. What’s happened now with Daniel in the equation we have the Planet Ocean, the Aqua Terra and now the Seamaster 300 I think we are getting into a watch that is maybe more in keeping with the Omega of today—slightly more upmarket now with the Co-Axial movement and latest technology like liquid metal and the master chronometer.”
Mr. Urquhart on pivotal Omega watches from the Bond franchise:
1. “The Seamaster 300M Professional Quartz was introduced in the early 1990s and [Academy Award winning costume designer] Lindy Hemming, who revamped Bond’s image for Goldeneye, was adamant to choose this watch because of the Seamaster name. She was convinced that Bond, being a commander of the royal navy and British armed forces, would wear an Omega Seamaster. Nearly every member of the British armed forces wore a Seamaster in the early 1950s and she wanted the blue color—which back then wasn’t as popular as it is now—because it symbolized Bond. Blue is an important color, it symbolized Bond this English blue and Bond’s upbringing. Lindy saw this watch and it became an unbelievable success in four Bond films [starring Pierce Brosnan]. To this day, people still walk into Omega shops asking for this Bond watch. It’s become as synonymous with Bond as how the Speedmaster is known the world over as the moon watch.”
2. “The Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial was introduced when Daniel Craig was cast as 007, and I was in favor of giving his image what we felt was more in keeping with the new decade: a bit more upmarket and ‘sturdy.’ We had it featured two films. That was the style of watch that drew from the 1950s, inspired by the early Seamasters.”
3. “From Planet Ocean, Craig as Bond went into ‘Skyfall’ with the Seamaster Aqua Terra. The story became a bit more low-key here, so Craig chose for himself the blue Aqua Terra which replaced his Planet Ocean, as reflected by the lifestyle change he experienced in the film toward the end.”
4. “The Seamaster Co-Axial 300M Bond wears in ‘Spectre’ is essentially a replica of the 1950s Seamaster 300. It’s like the younger brother or elder brother of the Planet Ocean. Daniel, who loves his watches…I hate to use the word vintage, but he liked the idea of a watch with a legacy and nostalgia. In ‘Spectre,’ he has the Aqua Terra on his wrist in the beginning, but Q gives him this new 300—a watch Daniel was himself instrumental in featuring in the film because he genuinely loves this watch. The NATO bracelet it’s featured on was what was worn by the armed forces in the early 1950s. About four years ago, I gave him a Seamster 300M from the Omega museum from 1968, the year of his birth.”