Watch Of The Week: How My Nintendo Taught Me To Love The James Bond Seamaster
To me, there’s only one Bond Seamaster – the original. The one from Goldeneye. Yes, the movie. But also the video game.
Originally published by Cole Pennington on HODINKEE, October 11th, 2021
In Watch of the Week, we invite HODINKEE staffers and friends to explain why they love a certain piece. This week’s columnist is our very own Cole Pennington.
Goldeneye, released in 1995, was the first James Bond film where Pierce Brosnan sported an Omega Seamaster 300m Professional. Even at nine or 10 years old, I noticed the watch and thought it was cool.
Older viewers would’ve known it represented a change. In the previous Bond film, 1989’s License To Kill, Timothy Dalton wore Rolex. So did Sean Connery, back in his day. So did the literary Bond, in Ian Fleming’s novels. I didn’t know any of this.
To me, James Bond has always worn an Omega.
And his choice reinforced itself in my favorite childhood Nintendo 64 game.
In an excellent piece of product placement, the Seamaster 300m Professional appeared in the classic N64 first-person shooter, Goldeneye 007. There’s a level in the game called Train where Bond must use the laser-equipped watch to cut through metal and eliminate the bad guys. That was fantastic. And about as close as I could get at the time to owning the watch.
As I grew up, my admiration grew in kind. I took in a steady stream of Bond films, like Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, and Die Another Day, that bolstered my desire to own the Bond Seamaster. During the early 2000s in suburban New Jersey, it wasn’t unusual to waste away the weekend just walking around malls. In between stops at Pac-Sun, I – a teenager – frequented Omega boutiques and ADs to snag a few minutes with the Bond Seamaster. Both the salespeople and I were very aware that I couldn’t afford the watch, but they were always more than happy to let me hold it and try it on.
The watch became a white whale, a fantasy purchase. If you’re reading HODINKEE, surely you know that feeling of longing for a watch. The kind where you say to yourself “I’ll come back and buy it one of these days. When I’m ready.”
That day never came, but I did wind up with an Omega Seamaster Professional ref. 2531.80.00. It just arrived from somewhere unexpected.
My father bought me the Bond Seamaster shortly after I graduated high school. It didn’t happen on graduation day, and it wasn’t necessarily a ceremony. It took some time. He ordered it, it came in the mail and I opened it up and drove down to the local jeweler to get it sized. This was a truly unprecedented gift coming from a man who wore a Seiko 6309-729A for decades. Working in this industry, I hear plenty of stories that go something like, “I received this Patek from my grandfather, but he was just waiting until I turned 21,” or “My dad bought a Datejust when he was in his early 20s when he made it on Wall Street and now it’s mine.” I was never exposed to any of that.
My dad grew up with humble means in Natchez, Mississippi. For him, Sundays meant dressing up and paying his respects at the local Lutheran church. Chitlins and collard greens were standard fare. Shooting possum and squirrels down at St. Catherine’s Creek was a favored pastime. His dad, my paternal grandfather, served in the Korean War as an enlisted grunt, then spent the rest of his days repairing body panels on 18-wheelers.
My dad was never given a watch growing up. I’m not sure he got a graduation gift at all. And although he found success as an adult in the north, his southern sensibilities dictated that gifting something as luxurious as an Omega watch (especially to a kid) was unwise, bordering on uncouth.
I knew it. But I was ecstatic to have my first nice watch. Honestly, it was probably a little too nice for me at that age. I vowed to wear the hell out of it and make it worth his money.
When I’d give class presentations in college, I’d dress up in typical required collegiate business school garb – khakis, a navy blazer, and a nice tie – and putting on the watch as a final touch made me just a little more confident. Of course, the man makes the watch, but it certainly didn’t hurt to have that little boost. After all, I wasn’t really even a man yet.
Throughout my 20s, I wore the Seamaster almost daily, save for the days that I’d throw on a Seiko, microbrand, or obscure vintage watch I picked up on eBay. This Bond Seamaster was probably on my wrist more than any other watch from 2005 to 2020, right up until I bought my GMT-Master II. Which is, coincidentally, another watch I admired growing up; and even at retail, it was tough to stomach paying that much for an extravagance. I often wonder what my relatives down south would think about that purchase. I don’t think I’ll ask.
The Bond Seamaster has been back to Bienne for service a few times after getting dropped and magnetized more than once. I’ve worn it so much that one day the bracelet – one of the best bracelets ever – literally came apart on my wrist. (Luckily I caught it before my watch fell off. I threw it on a Marine Nationale strap after that.) The watch has been on hundreds of dives, it’s been to about 40 nations with me (how it did not get stolen still baffles me), and I’ve lent it to my best bud a handful of times to wear for important occasions in his own life.
These days I don’t look at it the same way I did when I was a young man pressed up against the glass outside the Omega boutique in suburban New Jersey. I no longer have visions of sliding my Walther PPK into a concealed holster and then peeling back my cuff to check the time on my Seamaster before striding into a swanky party full of statesmen and beautiful people in an exotic locale. (Okay, fine, maybe I do just a little).
Nowadays when I look at the watch, beyond all the memories in the metal, I see a tradition in the making. This was the first time in my family that a watch was passed down.
Now it’s up to me to figure out how to continue that tradition.