James Bond has been associated with name brands long before he was filling up movie screens with product placement.
Author Ian Fleming liked to name-drop real world commercial brands into his stories in order to make them feel more authentic, more of the real world, and fans have come to know these brands by heart.
The literary 007 likes his Vesper martini made with Gordon’s gin; he drives a Bentley (and, ever the brand loyalist, when he totals it in , he immediately goes out and buys another one); he smokes Morland cigarettes, a specially-made blend of Balkan and Turkish tobacco; and on his wrist he wears a Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
Bond cites at one time or another the usefulness of the watch’s stainless steel construction, noting it can always double as a makeshift “knuckle-duster.“ 007 uses his Rolex for just that purpose in Chapter 16 of , wrapping the expensive watch across his fist and smashing it to pieces on the jaw of one of Blofeld’s goons.
That wonderfully, so-very-Fleming moment - the author’s blunt instrument using one of the finest watches in the world to smash a guy’s face in - took such hold of literary Bond fans that to this day the phrase “knuckle-duster” is synonymous to many with a Rolex stainless steel watch. When it came time to put James Bond on the big screen in 1962, legend has it that producer Cubby Broccoli, his offer of product placement roundly rejected by Rolex, affixed his own personal Rolex Submariner to Sean Connery’s wrist, and the actor wore it through Thunderball.
(That's also the film in which Bond employed his first real "gadget" watch, a Breitling Top Time which doubled as a Geiger counter).
1973’s Live And Let Die saw Bond's horological bling really lean into the fantastical; Roger Moore’s Rolex not only deflected bullets and unzipped dresses, but could also handily saw through rope.
Moore's Bond would later abandon the Rolex for more of-the-moment digital quartz watches, and more often than not these would be outfitted with snazzy homing devices, ticker tape messages, etc.
By the end of the '70s, 007’s watch was expected to have a Q Branch-engineered special feature or two in every film. After running through many Rolexes, Seikos and other brands, 007’s producers partnered him with the Swiss watch company Omega, starting a relationship that's lasted for 20 years and counting - perhaps the longest unbroken stretch of brand loyalty the superspy has ever sustained.
Goldeneye was the first film to give dedicated screen time to Omega’s distinctive Seamaster, and across four films, Pierce Brosnan’s watches were never without a showcase moment that unveiled a hidden feature of some kind: laser beams, detonation devices, grappling hooks, etc.
A tricked-out Seamaster had become such a fixture that when Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006, fans wondered how Omega, still a product placement partner, would feature in .
What they got was a second Omega (the sportier 007 sported a sportier Planet Ocean for the sporty first hour of the film), a clunky name-drop in the middle of Bond and Vesper’s initial meeting, and that was about it. Here at in fact, at one point, feature a memorable watch trick very in keeping with 007 tradition.