Sean Connery Put the Rolex Submariner on the Map

The legendary Scottish actor, who passed away this weekend at 90, will forever be remembered as the first — and best — James Bond.

sean connery james bond rolex
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There's possibly no scene more iconic in 20th-century cinema than the one in which Sean Connery, as agent 007, first speaks the words "Bond. James Bond." Seated at a baccarat table in a tuxedo, deftly lighting a cigarette, he sparked, in three words — two of which are the same word — a cultural revolution that has informed every crevice of the zeitgeist, from fashion, to cars, to watches, to travel to, of course, cinema.

Inextricably linked to Connery's 007 is the watch seen on his wrist throughout the first few (and best) Bond films — a Rolex Submariner reference 6538. Nicknamed the "Big Crown," this early Sub gets ample screen time in 1962's Dr. No, though it's in 1964's Goldfinger that the timepiece gets its closeup: Clad in a white dinner jacket, Bond holds a lighter up to the Rolex's radium-coated dial in order to check the time, where we see it on a (much too thin) regimental nylon strap. So ingrained is this strap in the Bond mythology — and its blue, green and red colors — that's this particular color combination on a NATO is now often referred to as a "Bond" strap.

By the time Dr. No was released, the Submariner had been kicking around the world for nearly a decade, becoming ever more popular as recreational scuba diving took hold. But it was the watch's screen time on the wrist of the first (and best) Bond that truly catapulted it to global stardom. Ironically, it wasn't actually a Submariner that graced the literary Bond's wrist, but rather an anonymous "Rolex Oyster." (Casino Royal, the first Bond book, came out in 1953, the same year the Submariner was released — had it come out later, one wonders whether the diving-obsessed Fleming would have given his hero a Submariner to wear instead.)

Bond has worn many watches since then — Breitling, Seiko, and of course, Omega — but it's that Sub worn by Connery that has taken on a life of its own, inextricably linking the suave British secret agent and Rolex in the minds of generations of moviegoers. Connery never let his portrayal of Bond define the rest of his working life — he went on to win an Oscar for his role in The Untouchables; he played Harrison Ford's father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; he had the best line in Michael Bay's The Rock. But it's that scene in the dark casino in Dr. No that sparked his legend, introducing the world to one of the cinematic greats of the last hundred years.

Rest easy, Mr. Bond.

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