It’s very rare on this blog that I go into too much depth in regards to accessories.

Indeed, there are so few options available to men when it comes to dressing up an outfit, that often accessories are considered an after-thought by lots of men, or an affectation by a select few.

One of the few pieces that many men are still passionate about, however, is the humble wristwatch. The wristwatch is a piece that was once an absolute necessity, but now (due to the advent of the smartphone) is becoming less and less common. Watches are terrific for adding a little flare to an outfit, without needed to go overboard or feel too dressed up.

Perhaps one of the best watch icons in fiction is Ian Fleming’s 007 – Commander Bond, as he originally appeared in Fleming’s novels, was a man of simplicity and habit and enjoyed high-quality in all aspects of his existence. Indeed, Fleming gave his fictional secret agent many of the same tastes and predilections as he himself had – including an affinity for Rolex watches.

In ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘, Fleming describes Bond’s watch as, “a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet,” – a fine watch, beautiful in its simplicity and suitable for a man who has no time or patience for frills or quirks.

Onscreen, however, James Bond is well known to have originally worn a Rolex Submariner – the Submariner is now lauded as one of the most classically beautiful watches on the market and is highly prized by many watch collectors.

Perhaps the most popular iteration of this timepiece is the one seen in ‘Goldfinger

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Bond (Sean Connery) checks the time on his Rolex Submariner.

wherein Bond casually checks the time and the audience is treated to a view of the watch on an undersized nylon strap – for years many believed this strap to be a G10 styled NATO strap, but it’s now widely believed to be an RAF style strap instead.

It was this very image that first got me interested in finding an affordable alternative for this classic watch and, if possible, the nylon strap to go with it.

Cheap imitations of the Submariner are plentiful and it only take a cursory search of many watch brands’ sites to find any number of suitable alternatives. When I was first on the market for such a watch, however, I was looking for as cheap as possible, given that money was tight. In my searches, I came across the Infantry Pacifistor – when I bought mine it was only £11 and came on a rather nice olive green NATO strap – now, however, it’s £15 and comes on a black NATO, either way it’s still a bargain!

Infantry.jpgWhile the construction of the watch is far from perfect, I’ve worn it as my workhorse watch for two years solid now and it’s still going strong – surprisingly high quality for such a cheap watch. It’s a good interpretation of the Submariner style, offering many of the same style beats, but adding a little bit of a different flare – this one for instance features a date window and magnifier.

The strap I purchased came from a wonderful Manchester based company called MonkeySwag – they offer some incredibly high quality NATO, ZULU, and RAF straps at low prices. Unfortunately, the exact one I have for my watch is no longer available in an RAF pattern from MonkeySwag, but can be purchased in either a ZULU or NATO configuration, or alternatively, this very similar strap is available on eBay.

Much confusion existed around the exact colour and configuration of the original Bond nylon strap, which lead to the misunderstanding that the strap was a grey and black G10 NATO. For years, the grey and black NATO style was referred to as the ‘James Bond strap’ when in actual fact, it’s now understood to be black, burgundy, and olive green…

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Daniel Craig wearing a Rolex on a black/grey NATO.

That said, in one of those rare instances of life imitating art imitating life, current James Bond, Daniel Craig, was seen sporting a Rolex on the incorrect grey and black strap! It may very well be this personal choice on the part of Craig which lead to the watch we then saw in ‘Spectre‘.

When the teaser poster of ‘Spectre’ was released, the Bond community (and the watch collecting community) went crazy – James Bond was now wearing an Omega Seamaster 300 on a black and grey NATO strap. After years of confusion, the originally incorrect ‘Bond NATO’ was now, officially, a Bond NATO after all!

From first seeing that image, I was obsessed with both the watch, and the beautiful strap it sat on. However, the Omega was, (and remains) far out of my price range, especially for a watch I intend to wear as a workhorse – so once again I set out trying to find a similar, cheap alternative.

After a bit of googling, clicking around, and searching, I found the Rotary Ocean Avenger

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Daniel Craig’s Omega Seamaster 300 while on a visit to the Omega factory.

However, once I’d found it, it was still out of my price range. The full price of the watch is £170, which at the time was a little rich for my blood, so I put the idea on the shelf and forgot about it until a couple of months ago, when I re-watched ‘Spectre‘ and my passion was rekindled.

Following Christmas last year, the price of the Rotary Ocean Avenger was slashed down to £85 so I ordered one without hesitation and I’m so pleased I did – the watch is beautifully made, incredibly handsome, and sturdy to boot. It features beautiful vintage orange lumes, a domed crystal and classic cool styling. The price has now been reduced a further £20 to £65 – so if you’re thinking about getting one, I’d go for it now.

The Rotary comes on a rather cheap feeling black leather strap which I removed immediately and I was pleased to see that it came pre-installed with curved spring bars! I popped on a grey and black NATO and was very pleased with my ‘Spectre‘ inspired Bond watch.

Rotary.jpgThat said, the story doesn’t end there. Over the course of a couple of years, I’ve been collecting nylon straps in loads of different configurations and colours and, when I got the Rotary, I owned no fewer than three grey and black straps. None of which satisfied my need for a close-enough ‘Spectre‘ strap.

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Coarse eBay strap, passable ZULU strap, and beautiful deluxe TimeFactors.

The first strap I purchased went straight in the bin as it was so poorly made, the second was a very cheap eBay find (pictured left) which is so coarse, I can’t wear it on my wrist because it itches and chafes after just a few minutes! The third strap I purchased was about £7 on eBay and is a ZULU style – this one is much, much better, but still feels very cheap compared to some of my other straps so the search continued.

What really got me thinking was the pictures of the Omega, and how smooth and shiny the provided NATO strap looks – so I did some googling and I learnt that Eddie at a company called TimeFactors offered a deluxe NATO which had many of the same style beats as the onscreen strap, for only a fraction of the price! I ordered one a couple of days ago, it arrived the following day, and I was blown away by the quality – the strap is so silky smooth and well made, I can hardly believe it only cost me £14.

With the installation of my deluxe NATO, I was finally thrilled to bits with my Rotary – it gives a very ‘Spectre’ look, without costing the earth and it’s hardly left my wrist since.

What do you think to wristwatches? Do you wear one? Any particular favourites? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch on Twitter!

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