Saving the world one watch at a time: A comparison between the timepieces of Kingsman and James Bond
We might think of product placement as a recent development in the history of cinema, with producers and executives finding ways to stretch the budget, not matter the cost to artistic integrity. However the art of product placement has been going on for over a hundred years. It is rumoured that in his classic book Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne sold the privilege of shipping companies named to the highest bidder back in 1873, and the first Academy Award Best Picture Winner "Wings" had Hershey's featured in the film in 1927. Now it is a simple fact of life that product placement will appear in a film and one of the most frequent products placed is the wristwatch.
A watch is perhaps one of the best pieces of product that can be advertised on screen as it is constantly on the character throughout. Just a simple glance at a the wrist of character will tell us what type of person they are, where they've been, what they may do for a living, their economic status, etc. A character wearing a Cartier isn't going to be in the same position as one wearing a Casio. Either worn passively and used to simply check the time or worn as a functional tool laden with gadgets, the watch can easily be just as iconic as the character who wears it; this is what makes the recent partnership between Bremont and the Matthew Vaughn film Kingsman: The Secret Service so interesting, especially in comparison with another partnership between James Bond and Omega.
"Manners maketh the Man"
Kingsman is essentially the R rated Bond film that Roger Moore never made, complete with witty one liners spoken by dapper gentleman spies wearing expensive timepieces combating a cartoonish megalomaniacal villain in a hidden lair and a Number 2 with an augmented deadly body part. Just like the eponymous 007, the Kingsman agents are all outfitted with watches that aid them in their mission, this time provided to them by the British watch brand Bremont. All the watches in the film are variants on the Bremont World Time ALT1-WT, with the trainee agents given a military-styled black DLC watch, while the Quartermaster has a functional yet sophisticated stainless steel model and the full agents wear the elegant solid rose gold piece. As you expect the watches all feature prominently in the film with a variety of gadgets being crammed into the 43mm case, which is both constantly noticeable on the wrist yet elegantly styled so not garish.
Kingsman differs from the Bond franchise by creating the "Kingsman brand" in its entirety. Practically anything seen in the film worn by the actors, from shoes, cufflinks, jackets, umbrellas and of course watches, can be purchased from either Mr Porter or Bremont Boutiques. One of the more memorable posters for the film didn't include any of the actors instead just showing the wardrobe used in the film. It's always been possible to purchase the Omega Seamaster worn by James Bond since 1995's Goldeneye and Omega have produced a limited edition associated with the current film since 2002's Die Another Day, but never have those limited editions been on the characters wrist. Their newest limited edition associated with SPECTRE is perhaps the only one that could be worn by the character with it's subtle tribute to James Bond's family coat of arms.
"He could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex"
The internet is rife with many articles about the watches of Agent 007, so I'll keep this brief. In the books Fleming said that James Bond wore a Rolex but it was never specified which reference (perhaps he wore an Explorer 1016 like Fleming) so most fans go with what was seen in Goldfinger, the Rolex Submariner 6538. However in the books James Bond also preferred to wear a short sleeve shirt and believed that gay men couldn't whistle, so perhaps some changes aren't all bad. Many watches have graced the wrist of Bond over the years, from Rolex, Seiko, and TAG Heuer, leading to Pierce Brosnan wearing the Omega Seamaster Professional 300M 2541.80.00 in his first outing in 1995's hit Goldeneye. With the film being the first James Bond since 1983's Octopussy to feature a gadget laden watch, these films made the Omega Seamaster iconic as the Bond watch. Brosnan changed his watch in Tomorrow Never Dies to the visually identical 2531.80.00 reference which replaced the quartz movement with the automatic Calibre 1120 movement and would wear it till he departed.
Now with eight films behind them, Omega and James Bond have formed a formidable partnership together, with Omega providing the timepieces for the film and the film providing Omega with some of the best product placement in the world. Whilst James Bond is no stranger to product placement, it all seems rather disassociated with the films themselves and "overly associated" with the character. It's not the Skyfall perfume it's "the James Bond perfume", it's not the Skyfall watch (Unless it is the limited edition Skyfall watch), it's "the James Bond watch". This is in stark contrast to Kingsman, where despite seeing it recently, I struggle to remember the names of the characters but thanks to the marketing and design of the film, I can picture the suits, accessories and watches perfectly. I don't think anyone is going into a Bremont boutique asking for "The Eggsy watch".
Despite recent attempts to make the franchise more grounded in realism (something that the series routinely does: camp spy space nonsense in Moonraker to the more serious For Your Eyes Only and CGI laden tsunami surfing, invisible car driving Die Another Day to the gritty and gadgetless Casino Royale), James Bond is such an iconic character Omega can afford to play the long game. A young fan will watch and rewatch the films and grow older with fond memories James Bond and eventually will have enough capital to buy himself a Seamaster and to be the proud owner of "a Bond watch". Just as there are Connery/Fleming purists who hate that Bond wears an Omega, maybe in another 50 years there will be Craig purists saying that this new guy shouldn't be wearing a Bremont/Oris/Timex!
I do wonder about the connection between Bremont and Kingsman and whether it will be a success. On the surface it seems like a perfect fit with the Kingsman characters and Bremont's style trying very hard to conjure up the mythical aspect of the dignified and dapper gentleman of British yesteryear, umbrella in one hand and a cup of tea in the other with "God Save the Queen" resting upon his lips. Yet with the film being a pastiche of campy spy nonsense not taking itself too seriously, whilst the associated Bremont is attempting to become a prestige brand, there is a slight disconnect. Whilst visually the choice of using Bremont as the Kingsman timepiece works well, it does make you think that as a new property marketed primarily towards the 18-25 age range with excessive violence and crude humour, how much will a luxury watch brand like Bremont gain from this. These special editions are retailing at $6,495 for steel, $6,650 for the black DLC and $20,285 for the rose gold which are hardly in the average movie-goers budget for a timepiece, especially for a relatively unheard of brand like Bremont. With last year's "in-house movement" fiasco losing Bremont a lot of respect within the industry, I doubt that a connection with Kingsman will help bolster their image in the eyes of aficionados. Not that these aficionados care for the association between Omega and James Bond either.