2020 Update: This is my most popular blog post (thanks Google) but the strap mentioned here is sadly no longer available. Still, the information is correct and I hope that one of you dear readers will locate a suitable alternative. Please leave a comment if you find one!
Most watch enthusiasts have a grail, a watch just out of reach whether through rarity or price. But once they attain their grail, they often turn to restoring missing accessories like the proper box, papers, buckle, and strap. Who wouldn’t want to put their “James Bond” big crown Submariner on the proper “Goldfinger” strap?
Let’s start with an iconic accessory for one of the most iconic watches of all time. In the first films, James Bond wore two watches: A Gruen Precision 510 dress watch and a Rolex “Big Crown” Ref. 6538 Submariner. The Rolex in question is said to have come from producer “Cubby” Broccoli’s own wrist, and it fits the character perfectly. The Sub was perhaps the most reliable and durable dive watch of its age with bright luminous markers and hands, a useful rotating bezel, and automatic winding.
In the 1964 film, Goldfinger, Bond is seen wearing his Submariner over the wrist of his bulky dry diving suit before emerging in a white dinner jacket. He switches this watch to his bare wrist and checks the time in an iconic close-up.
In order to fit over the diving suit, Bond replaced the bracelet of the Submariner with a nylon strap. The character must have been relying on what he had at hand on the submarine that delivered him because he selected a too-narrow 16 mm strap in the colors of his Royal Marines regiment: Alternating navy blue and olive stripes separated by a thin burgundy line.
You might also enjoy reading this post: The Original James Bond Watch Was Not What You Think!
This is all perfectly appropriate for the character but devilishly difficult for modern enthusiasts looking to re-create the same look!
For one thing, it took the advent of remastered HD movies for the correct colors to be visible. For years, poor-quality video releases and still images suggested a simple black-and-gray nylon strap, and this came to be known as “the James Bond strap” color combination among fans.
Another issue is the structure of the strap. Nowadays, NATO straps (properly called G10) are fairly common. But that design had not even been invented in 1964! Instead, Bond wore an RAF strap, which is much simpler in construction, being a ribbon of nylon webbing with a buckle and sewn keeper loop on one end.
Then there are the details. The Goldfinger strap has a thumbnail-shaped buckle rather than the common square or round shapes found on NATO straps today. And it is entirely sewn using thread, since the welding used on NATO straps was also not yet invented at the time.
A few years back, Jake’s Rolex World Magazine published a fantastic article with much this same story. They also managed to source a proper Bond strap (and dive watch) from Corvus. This article is still highly ranked in Google, but it presents a problem for today’s fans: The Corvus Watch Company is now defunct after a humiliating legal charge was brought against one of the founders. The links in Jake’s article now go nowhere.
I took the plunge and ordered one, and I am very satisfied. This “Real Bond Strap – New Version” presses all the right buttons: It has the exact color, fabric, construction, and buckle seen in the film. It seems very well-made, without the amateurish touches I might have expected from a film prop replica.
Although James Bond used an ill-fitting 16 mm strap in a very long size to fit over his wet suit, I ordered a normal-length 18 mm strap. I felt this would look best with my watch collection, which alas does not include a 6538 Submariner. My only complaint is that the strap is a bit on the short side for my 7.5” wrists. It fits fine, but the end just barely peeks out of the keeper.
My Bond strap is currently installed on an Enicar Star Jewels, a watch 007 would not have worn and one that wouldn’t really have been at home in a military regiment. Perhaps eventually I’ll find a proper military diver with 18 mm lugs, but that’s all I have today.
If you have an enthusiasm for James Bond or dive watches, this is a must-buy. At just $32 shipped to the USA, it’s a screaming bargain to boot. And if you happen to have a Big Crown Submariner to attach to it, rest assured it will look absolutely perfect!