Sunday Morning Showdown: Battle Between Bond Watches From The Movies
In our Sunday Morning Showdown, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. After the excitement of our Speedmaster World Cup, it’s time to get back into the groove of the Sunday Morning Showdowns. And this is quite a special one. For the final SMS of this year, two iconic Omega James Bond wristwatches go head-to-head.
Well, that was a body blow. We waited five years since Spectre for the next Bond outing — but now we have to wait a little while longer. Best things come to those who wait, so in 2021, let’s hope we all share the moment of staring down the barrel of the gun as the screen turns crimson. The good thing about Bond movies is there are plenty to choose from and re-watch. Not sure about everyone reading this, but British television channels tend to replay a 007 classic or two at this time of year. For some reason, that classic ends up being Moonraker (1979).
A short recap, Bond
Yet before we get into our main topic, it’s been a while since our last Sunday Morning Showdown. The Speedmaster World Cup has occupied this space, and we are glad to see many readers lend their vote to their Speedy of choice. We hope you agreed with the eventual winner, the Speedmaster Calibre 321. Try and cast your mind back to the last two Showdowns, and it’s not looking too good for Ben. Jorg’s Breguet Type XXI took a marginal win over the Blancpain Air Command at 51%. But the Tudor Chrono S&G slaughtered the new 2020 Breitling Chronomat with 58% playing 42%. That is Ben’s actual Frecce Tricolori you just slandered.
No Time To Spectre
Like the grainy black and white opening to Casino Royale (2006), Ben is battered and bruised and lying on the bathroom floor. Even so, he still musters the energy to rise, take aim, and let the music play. Jorg, on the other hand, is practicing his evil laugh, stroking a Persian cat, and waiting for the plucky Brit to miss the target once again. But today’s showdown might just be a fair fight as Jorg and Ben are dueling with Omega watches that feature prominently in the two most recent Daniel Craig spy thrillers. In his arsenal, Jorg has the yet unseen No Time To Die (2021) Omega Seamaster Diver 300M in titanium. Ben thinks he has a straight shot with the heritage-infused Seamaster 300 last seen in Spectre (2015).
Grab a martini, cock your Walther PPK, and watch the Showdown unfold. If you think the Bond puns stop here, think again, agent.
Ben — Spectre (2015) Omega Seamaster 300 Master Co-Axial Chronometer
Omega has featured prominently in Bond movies since the Brosnan-era. Adorning Bond’s wrist has been the Seamaster Diver 300M, the Planet Ocean, and Aqua Terra. In 2015, the 24th EON Productions Bond film, Spectre, went a different direction. The then newly reintroduced Seamaster 300 took styling cues from the very first Seamaster 300 ref. CK2913 from 1957. The 300 wasn’t the first Seamaster but instead the inaugural model in the range purpose-built for diving. Dubbing it the “300” was a bold statement as Omega could only rate it to 200 meters. But that was the limitation of the testing equipment rather than the potential performance. When the producers were looking for 007’s next wrist gadget, the Master Co-Axial Chronometer Seamaster 300 made perfect sense.
For the first time, Omega designed Bond’s Seamaster specifically for the silver screen.
But the prop department didn’t simply take an existing Seamaster as it was shown in the Omega catalog. For the first time, Omega designed this watch specifically for the silver screen. Reference 126.96.36.199.01.001 kept the ceramic bezel, but the Liquidmetal™ numerals use a 12-hour scale rather than the traditional 60-minute dive graduations. By turning the bi-directional bezel, the 00 Agent can track the additional time-zone of his elusive target. It also starts to deviate quite a lot from the CK2913 by not having the 12 that usually accompanies the 3, 6, and 9 on the dial. The Omega logo is much larger and occupies this space, seemingly to showcase greater emphasis on the branding to cinema-goers. Lastly, what differentiates this “Spectre” edition from the regular timepiece is the lollipop tip of the central seconds hand.
Bring it back in one (time)piece, 007
Often, the watches that feature in the movies have a standard production façade. You could spy 007 casually wearing an off-the-shelf watch at a high-stakes poker game or launching a dirt bike off a bridge onto a moving train. Alongside these regular versions are prop watches that feature a gadget or too. From the plausible remote detonation button disguised as a helium escape valve (HEV). To the completely implausible grappling hook that shoots from the crown and somehow winches a fully grown agent. In Spectre, when Bond asks what his new watch does, Q responds, “It tells the time.”
As we find out later in the movie, there is a secret gadget that gets Bond out of a tight bind.
And it tells time very well with the co-axial Calibre 8400 with anti-magnetism to at least 15,000 gauss. As we find out later in the movie, there is a secret function that gets Bond out of a tight bind. Turning the bezel and pushing the crown starts a 60-second countdown with the deep-filled laser-engraved indices flashing red. When the countdown ends, the Seamaster detonates and incapacitates his captors. There are even a few seconds for Bond to exclaim “doesn’t time fly” in his typical dry, dark wit. But it does spell the end for the watch — possibly why Q kept it cryptic in his debriefing of the gadget.
Don’t just bring back one (time)piece, 007
So why do I like this particular Bond watch? Coming out only a year after the rejuvenated Seamaster 300 brought greater attention to the range. Bond’s personal Seamaster also cuts down on the extremities of a helium escape valve and crown guards. The design pairs things back to the golden age of espionage with beige lume and broad arrow hands. But what I truly appreciate is how flat the sapphire sits against the bezel. Along with the straight lugs, it’s a no-nonsense construction that blends unobtrusively into Bond’s many excursions.
Jorg, I see you’re pushing untested equipment out into the field with the yet unseen No Time To Die Seamaster Diver 300M. Behavior consistent with a double agent, I presume?
Jorg — No Time To Die (2021) Omega Seamaster Diver 300M “007 Edition”
Would Q let an agent and us non-agents out in the field with untested equipment? Perhaps Q is the double agent around here. Or that METAS put Omega watches through such rigorous testing not even Bond could harm them. I did notice that the Seamaster 300 that Ben is peddling didn’t undergo the same grueling METAS tests. But before I start going for the jugular, let’s get back to the beginning for a second. As pointed out, I have won our last two showdowns, for which gratitude is given to our readers. But I would gladly trade the results to beat a British gentleman in a James Bond showdown. It almost feels like blasphemy, but it will be a win met with a Blofeld sinister grin.
Should Bond’s timepiece be classic Seamaster with heritage charm?
Painting the bigger picture of this showdown is asking the question: Which of the two watches is the Bond watch most in tune with Daniel Craig’s portrayal? Arguably, as he began in Casino Royale, it should be the Seamaster Planet Ocean that accompanied him for the majority of the running time. Craig also sports the Planet Ocean in the two subsequent sequels. The PO is a cutting edge contemporary Omega, but I think Ben and I can agree that Bond’s timepiece should be a more classic Seamaster with heritage charm. I must admit that seeing the Seamaster 300 gracing Bond’s wrist in Spectre seemed like a perfect match. That is, until…
300M “007 Edition” — how strong is it?
The Seamaster Diver 300M “007 Edition” was announced in December 2019. But straight away, I wasn’t immediately convinced. My initial reaction was one of mixed feelings, to be honest. I loved the fact that Omega had returned to the Seamaster Diver 300M as the Bond watch. Especially considering that Omega entered the 007 world with this particular line of divers. Still, I was on the fence about the execution of integrating the Royal Navy background and the use of faux patina to give it that vintage look.
The Seamaster 300 from Spectre avoided the use of military symbols. I mean, as a spy, surely you’d want to hide any connections to the armed forces? That’s one easy way to give away your identity to the prying eyes of henchmen. So if you are using that in your argument Ben, I can only say that I know how you feel. Of course, none of us have actually seen the movie. Apart from seeing Bond using the watch to crack the code of a locked door in the trailer, we don’t know much about the role of the watch in the movie. So he may only wear the watch during open combat where discretion is not necessarily the better part of valor.
Pretty strong it seems
On the other side, there was also a lot that I loved about the watch. What stood out instantly was the use of Grade 2 titanium for the 42mm case and Milanese “shark mesh” bracelet. It looks stunning and makes the watch stand out against all the other watches in the Seamaster Diver 300M collection. On top of that, it fits the military requirements for a lightweight watch.
Next to that, I loved seeing that Omega decided to get rid of the date window. It cleans up the aesthetic perfectly and skips the date indication that is normally situated at 6 o’clock on the Seamaster Diver 300M. To do this, Omega has used their caliber 8806 instead of the caliber 8800 that normally powers the Seamaster Diver 300M. It’s the perfect fit for a Bond watch as a highly anti-magnetic movement is something every secret agent needs.
Another great choice is using a domed sapphire crystal and the introduction of a beautiful dark brown aluminum dial and bezel. These elements, combined with the Milanese bracelet, give the watch a great retro-inspired look. Which brings us to the question: Am I content with the use of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) arrow at the 6 o’clock position? And what about the cream-colored indexes and numerals on the diving scale?
Things just got interesting
The answers to these questions came as soon as I saw the watch for the first time in the metal. Robert-Jan, Gerard, Bert, and I had a chance to see it up close the day after the last Speedy Tuesday event of 2019 — good times that we hope return next year — at the Omega Headquarters in Biel. Both Robert-Jan and Bert had already experienced the new Bond watch, and both explained how good it is.
…the MoD arrow is not intrusive at all.
Whatever reservations I had, they quickly dissipated the second I put the watch on my wrist. This is a perfect example of a watch you need to see in reality as the images do not do the design justice. What stands out immediately is that the MoD arrow is not intrusive at all. And the engraving on the back is a nice detail of the story connecting to that. It does not feel like Bond marketing — the thing I had dreaded the most.
And I absolutely fell in love with the color combination of the dark tropical brown used for the dial and bezel and the cream color used for the indexes and the numerals of the diving scale. It is anything but an attempt to re-create something from the past. Sure, it is inspired by vintage military watches, but it does not look fake. They are simply a perfect match.
Seeing the watch in the metal makes you realize how well executed this watch is. From the brilliant Milanese bracelet to the color combination to the featherweight feel. This is Daniel Craig’s Bond watch without a doubt.
But tell me what you do not like about it Ben, apart from the Helium valve. Because that is what usually pops up with people that don’t like the 300M.
Do you expect me to talk, Jorg?
No HEV-hate here — the regular Seamaster Diver 300M is a truly great watch. Especially in combination with the wavy zirconium dioxide dial that came with the 2018 updates. Yet, certain details of the No Time To Die Diver 300M irked me. I get that this was designed in collaboration with Daniel Craig, who we know has great knowledge and appreciation for horology. But it was one step forward and two steps back with design and material choices for the end result. As you mention, the bezel inlay is made of aluminium in the Diver 300M “007 Edition”. This compares unfavorably even to the Spectre watch that came four years before it.
The ceramic bezel of the Spectre is much less likely to scratch under duress than the aluminium bezel. Also, it’s only a matter of time that tropical color bezel will merge into a single hue due to the exposure of UV. With ceramic and Liquidmetal™ on the Spectre, the bezel will maintain its luster for far longer. Another back step was the protruding domed sapphire Crystal on Jorg’s selection. I said before that one of the defining benefits of the Spectre Seamaster 300 was the sapphire sitting flush against the bezel. It is even a feature on the regular Seamaster Diver 300M. So why on Earth does it need to be domed on the “007 Edition”? It exposes the vulnerable sides of the glass to the strenuous Agent activities.
Jorg: We have stumbled upon one of the most common watch discussions: the head vs. the heart. The things you mention were deliberate choices to bring the story of the watch to life. Sure, a ceramic bezel and a flat sapphire crystal would make it technically a better watch. But the watch is supposed to tell that story inspired by the old military watches from the past. And the chosen execution simply makes it a stronger storyteller.
Are you willing to pay the price?
Even Jorg seems het up on the beige lume and broad arrow logo. Jorg took the wind out of my sails by already mentioning the less-than-inconspicuous symbol that could give away his identity. But honestly, these are inclusions that don’t bother me in the slightest. And actually, I quite like the use of all-brushed titanium so in no way do I consider the “007 Edition” a bad watch — quite the opposite. But when compared to the Seamaster 300 from Spectre, to me it is the clear winner. One of the actual watches from Spectre even hit the auction block with a highly commendable winning bid of £92,500. That’s serious moolah for what essentially resembles any one of the 7,007 limited pieces at £4,750 (or €6,400).
Jorg: If there is one major remark to be made, it’s the limited availability of the Seamaster 300 “Spectre”. As a result, the watch has fallen victim to the hype train with prices of pre-owned pieces quickly approaching €10k. Personally, I think it’s a blessing that Omega decided to make the “007 Edition” a permanent fixture in the collection. As was the case with the previous Omega’s that Bond wore in the movies except for the Seamaster 300 “Spectre”. A faux pas fortunately corrected.
Let’s all go to the movies
Not that the movies themselves are a factor in this vote, but I will just touch on my opinion of Spectre as well as speculate on No Time To Die. The superb opening sequence of Spectre during Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico no doubt inspired Sam Mendes to use seamless camera trickery for the excellent 1917 from last year. While it is not a single take as it appears, the use of screen wipes of characters and objects passing the camera creates the illusion of a continuous shot. Generally, the action in Spectre is pure spectacle. Although I felt Dave Bautista, while physically impressive, is sorely underused as the silent henchman, Hinx. Yet despite the set pieces, the story of Spectre is rather underwhelming.
The Spectre script felt rigid and cliché.
Retconning the Spectre organization in linking all previous storylines seemed misguided. Especially considering the effort EON Productions made to reclaim the rights to use the “Spectre” name. The script also felt rigid in its execution and Bond returning to his womanizing ways clashed with the overall tone of the movie — it undid the hard work the previous filmmakers put in to eschew the clichés of classic Bond traits. Jorg and I spoke a lot about our favorite Daniel Craig 007 outings and agreed wholeheartedly that Casino Royale was the standout.
No Time To Die
I do have high hopes for No Time To Die, just based on the director’s track record. If you haven’t seen the first season of True Detective, I highly endorse that you do. Cary Joji Fukunaga directed each episode and its tour de force in intricate storytelling. Daniel Craig is also joined by Ana de Armas in his final Bond film. Armas was the star of the brilliant Knives Out (2019) also featuring Craig, showcasing a great star pairing. So I cannot judge the watches based on the movies, but even with the slightly bland script of Spectre, the Seamaster 300 is an absolute standout.
Jorg and I share the passion for the franchise, leading us to a temporary ceasefire. But the truce is usurped by our watch of choice. So Jorg, any final words before handing the keys to the Aston Martin for the readers to vote?
A license to kill is also a license not to kill, Ben
Great analysis Ben and I do not have that much to add. Just like you and many of our readers, I can’t wait to see No Time To Die in the movie theaters. It’s been a long wait and I’m ready to find out if Cary Joji Fukunaga has created the masterpiece that presumably is the last Bond film featuring Daniel Craig. But back to the task at hand!
This is probably the only Sunday Morning Showdown where I would be fine with either watch winning. Both the watches are great timepieces! But what remains is the desire to beat an Englishman in this Showdown. So it is time to hand over the keys to the Aston Martin to our readers. Let us know which of the two watches you prefer by voting and posting your comments in the comment section!