Tie-in tied to 'Skyfall,' 50th anniversary of film franchise

For such a small item, the watch worn by James Bond has given luxury brand Omega considerable cachet since the company began outfitting the British spy starting with 1995’s “GoldenEye.”

More importantly, the 50-year-old franchise has made Omega more money than it might have made without the tie-in — a limited edition 007 watch is expected to generate $32 million in sales alone this year as “Skyfall” hits theaters.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the effect of the films on purchases of Omega’s watches over the years, company president Stephen Urquhart told Variety that Omega’s sales “look like a stock market chart. It goes up and peaks during the promotion of a Bond film and comes down afterward. The films have had a very marked influence on sales.”

Whereas other marketers have fiercely fought for the chance to brand what Bond wears, eats and drives — with Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Co., Heineken, Sony, Nokia, Bollinger, Persol, Brioni and Tom Ford among many ponying up considerable marketing coin over the years — Omega’s involvement came courtesy of the Royal Navy.

Eighteen years ago, costume designer Lindy Hemming was looking for a new timepiece for Bond and turned to Omega’s royal blue Seamaster watch, popular with British military servicemen, especially those in the Navy. In the books and in several of the films, Bond is a commander in the Royal Navy.

Previous Bonds Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore wore Rolex watches. But when the franchise was rebooted with Pierce Brosnan, Hemming found the Rolex had become too common.

Omega has been worn by Brosnan and now Daniel Craig in seven 007 films, including “Skyfall,” with the brand being turned into gadgets and even getting a verbal shoutout in “Casino Royale.”

The company pays a small fee to be associated with the films but spends most of its money around the marketing of the films typically a month before release. “We agree to promote the film and promote the watch,” Urquhart said. “It’s been a very winning situation for us.”

While Omega watches have appeared in other films, “James Bond is unique,” Urquhart said. “It’s the right image for the brand and something we can promote worldwide.”

Omega began tubthumping “Skyfall” earlier this year to help kick off a yearlong celebration of the franchise’s 50th anniversary at its 260 boutique stores worldwide. A print campaign appeared in magazines in May and June, while TV spots featuring the Bond watch are airing overseas now.

Omega, owned by the Swatch Group, also backed Bond at the Olympics through a pop-up store.

Craig also serves as the company’s brand ambassador, appearing in print and other ads for the company, which has helped increase exposure for Omega. Omega also is upping its online marketing efforts around the film.

For “Skyfall,” Omega produced 5,007 limited edition Planet Ocean Skyfall watches featuring a 007 monogram. Two separate Seamaster Diver 300M watches — 11,007 pieces of the 41 mm version and 3,007 pieces of the 36.25 mm edition — also were created for the 50th anniversary.

The “Skyfall” watches are priced at $6,500 each, with previous editions having sold out when the films are released.

“We could make more and sell more, but we wanted to keep it limited,” Urquhart said.

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