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Why James Bond Has Always Had an Affinity for Luxury

Forget all the world-saving heroics. The James Bond franchise has always been a lifestyle fantasy.


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Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator and in many ways his model, spent just six years as an intelligence officer. Between the end of the Second World War and his death in 1964, Fleming was primarily employed as a foreign correspondent and travel writer. It’s largely from him that 007 acquired his proclivity for luxury hotels and fine dining. At its core, the Bond franchise has always been about vicariously experiencing the world’s most glamorous locations on MI6’s unlimited budget. Ever more so today—according to a recent analysis, Daniel Craig’s Bond has racked up more miles on Her Majesty’s Secret Service than any previous incarnation of 007, edging past Roger Moore.

In the 25th film of the series, No Time to Die (in theaters April 8), we find Commander Bond enjoying a well-deserved retirement, cruising at the helm of an impossibly elegant Spirit yacht through turquoise waters off northeastern Jamaica. The film’s production designer, Mark Tildesley, calls the Caribbean “Bond’s spiritual home.” This affinity, too, was inherited from Fleming, whose Jamaican estate, GoldenEye, has been converted into a luxury resort. Meanwhile, Sean Connery—the first, and for many the quintessential, onscreen Bond—has made his home a puddle jumper away, in Nassau. The Bahamian capital has appeared in no fewer than eight Bond films and has built an industry around the franchise. The Ocean Club, now a Four Seasons Resort, where 007 stayed in 2006’s Casino Royale, has fully embraced the association: Longtime bartender Keith Cash specializes in Vesper martinis; Casino Royale plays on the TVs when guests walk in; and the hotel serves as a regular stop on fan cruises organized by Bond obsessives Matt and Janine Sherman.

Like his creator, “Bond is a well seasoned traveler with very expensive tastes,” says Matt Sherman. “When he’s on a mission, and it might be his last day on earth, he’ll eat and drink and live with gusto because he has an expense account.” Over the years the Shermans have organized meticulously researched tours to destinations including New Orleans (where, in Live and Let Die, Bond stayed at the Omni Royal New Orleans); Miami (where, in Goldfinger, he found a gold-plated girl in his room in the Fontainebleau); and Mexico City (where the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México served as a backdrop for both Spectre and License to Kill).

One could check off a travel bucket list simply by following Bond’s itinerary during the past 58 years—from the Peninsula Hong Kong (The Man With the Golden Gun) to Hotel Danieli in Venice (Moonraker) and Tokyo’s Hotel New Otani (You Only Live Twice), all American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts properties.

Half the fun of a new Bond film is looking forward to the featured destinations, which are almost always on trend. In No Time to Die, 007 can’t stay put for long. He heads to Cuba, Norway, and—after an idyllic holiday through Europe—ends up in Matera, Italy, recently named a European Capital of Culture. The ancient hilltop town serves as the setting for a climactic car chase through vertiginous streets. “We really raced through the city,” says Tildesley. “It required miles of protective steel cladding against the walls.”

If you’re going to emulate Bond’s travel habits, splurge on insurance.

—Julian Sancton

Bond’s Longest-Lasting Love Affair

James Bond did not always drive an Aston Martin. In Fleming’s first three 007 novels, written in the early 1950s—Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and Moonraker—the ride of choice for the British superspy was a Bentley. In fact, it wasn’t until the seventh novel, Goldfinger, in 1959, that Bond got behind the wheel of an Aston, a DB Mark III.

“The idea of driving an Aston Martin did originate with Fleming, and it makes sense, because what Aston Martin represents was similar to what Fleming wanted to make Bond represent,” says Meg Simmonds, archivist for EON, the production company behind all of the Bond films. “And that meant classically British, tailor-made, and dynamic. Something special.”
This sporty, luxurious two-seater launched a connection between Britain’s most famous fictional government operative and one of Britain’s most venerable automakers, which was founded in 1913. While 007 has famously driven BMWs, Land Rovers, and Lotuses in the movies, Aston Martins have been his chariot more often than any other brand, appearing in nearly half of the two dozen Bond films during the past six decades.

None is more memorable than the elegant, silver, gadget-laden DB5 coupe that first appeared in Goldfinger—hidden machine guns blazing, license plates revolving, passenger seat ejecting, and oil slick and smoke screens spewing. “The car was such a huge success in Goldfinger that they wrote in a big title-sequence scene for it in the next movie, Thunderball,” says Simmonds. The DB5 has appeared in seven more of the franchise’s movies, becoming such a familiar motif that, according to Simmonds, its unveiling in recent Bond films, such as Skyfall, often elicits applause from audiences. “It’s like an old friend came back,” she says.

The release of No Time to Die sees this special relationship continue. No fewer than four Aston Martins will appear in the movie: the iconic DB5; a 1980s V8 Vantage (like the one driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights); a brand-new twin-turbo V12-powered DBS Superleggera; and the forthcoming Valhalla hybrid super-car.

“When we launch a new movie, the cars are unveiled with the cast,” Simmonds says. “It’s like they’re another cast member.”

— Brett Berk

Dressed to Kill

In the entirety of the first Bond book, Casino Royale, Fleming devotes only a few words to what 007 is wearing: a single-breasted dinner jacket and a heavy silk evening shirt. In later books Bond wrinkles his nose at other men who try too hard with their attire, sneering, for example, at the “assertive blatancy” of the villainous Goldfinger’s matchy-matchy golf getup. Personally, Fleming’s Bond favors tried-and-true togs that further his aim as a spy: not to stand out. In Dr. No, our hero is introduced in similarly understated fashion: The first view is of Sean Connery’s expertly turned cuff as he sits at a card table. A few seconds later, with a flick of a cigarette lighter, an establishing shot of Connery, and the first “Bond, James Bond,” a style icon had arrived. On celluloid, blending in was no longer an option.

Call Bond the ultimate menswear influencer. Traditionally, brands sported by the fictional spy tend to sell out: After its products appeared in one of the films, N. Peal made a knitwear collection purely for the franchise’s fans. Sunspel polos, Barbour vests, and Billy Reid peacoats have reaped the benefits of appearing in Bond films. Daniel Craig may have single-handedly persuaded thousands of men to try a midnight-blue, shawl-collared tuxedo (well, he and Tom Ford). Omega Seamasters have been 007’s pick since 1995 (predecessors ran from Rolex to Breitling and Seiko). The watchmaker’s newest launch—a limited-edition James Bond Seamaster Diver 300M—has a spiral-brushed black ceramic dial with a laser-engraved gun-barrel design, for those less licensed to kill than dressed for it.

If the purpose of James Bond is that every man wants to be him—and likely, while tuxedoed, spends at least a few seconds pretending he is—the wardrobe operates in the same way: how we all think we’d dress (or dress the men in our lives), given the funds and figures and various exciting events with accordant dress codes. Which is to say, the clothes are almost beside the point.

Bond is aspirationally attired, but no dandy. You don’t ever imagine him standing in front of an open closet, mentally weighing the effect of different glen plaids. The key to outfitting him for the screen is nailing the “confluence of contemporary style with futurism, a little bit of sci-fi, and high glamour,” says Suttirat Larlarb, the costume designer for No Time to Die.

Typically, that means the best materials and a general bias toward formality— clothes Bond can both save the world and get the girl(s) in. Even for those less preoccupied with espionage, there are takeaways. “The thing about Bond,” says Larlarb, is that whatever he is wearing “has to be an answer. He doesn’t know what is going to be expected of him at any given moment. He could be thrown into some kind of end-of-the-world adventure. He’s always ready.” And no matter what he’s wearing, “it’s always something everybody else wishes they could wear as well as he does.” In other words? Dress for the job you want.

— Alessandra Codinha


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