George Lazenby as James Bond, smooth British secret agent
Bern, Switzerland, Christmas Eve 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Wrapping up this winter Car Week on the 00-7th of December, let’s flash back to 1969 and Aussie actor George Lazenby’s sole adventure as James Bond. Whether the Bond production team was reversing its formula after the larger-than-life You Only Live Twice or playing it safe after Sean Connery left the role, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service closely follows the plot of Ian Fleming’s source novel, chronicling the agent’s romance with the self-destructive Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) as well as setting up his snowbound investigation of arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) at his research institute Piz Gloria, located high in the picturesque Swiss Alps.
The action culminates in a Christmas Eve confrontation that results in 007’s alpine getaway on commandeered skis, assisted by Tracy and her bright red 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 that had first captured his attention when they met in Portugal three months prior.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first time we saw James Bond on skis, excitedly captured by second-unit director and editor John Glen (who would later direct every ’80s Bond movie himself) and featuring stunt doubles Luki Leitner and Vic Armstrong performing Bond’s ski stunts.
What’d He Wear?
James Bond had arrived at Piz Gloria assuming the cover identity of genteel genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, though the agent’s nocturnal sexploits with Piz Gloria’s nubile patients tipped Blofeld off as “respectable baronets from colleges do not seduce female patients in clinics.” Blofeld orders Bond to be temporarily imprisoned before he can focus on giving the agent his own “yuletide greetings”.
Bond being Bond, he escapes from captivity and changes out of his dirty cardigan and tweed suit trousers into found ski clothes, though his blue ski suit differs from the black-and-orange uniforms worn by Blofeld’s henchmen. Matt Spaiser confirmed at Bond Suits that Bond’s ski suit was made by Willy Bogner, beginning a collaboration that would last through Roger Moore’s white ski gear in A View to a Kill (1985).
“I am sure that this sport owes something of its popularity to the attractiveness of the costume,” wrote Sir Hardy Amies of skiing in ABCs of Men’s Fashion in 1964, adding, “I would like to say that most skiers have a good physique. All these one-color schemes will show it off.” For whatever criticisms fans may have of Lazenby’s performance, there’s no doubting that the erstwhile underwear model was in fine shape to play Bond, shown off by trim athletic clothing like this tight blue ski suit, basically the winter equivalent of the similarly cut and styled tan golf costume he had worn earlier.
The stretchy, water-resilient cloth may be pure nylon or the “Helanca” blend of wool and coiled nylon that had been marketed by Maria Bogner in more than 40 colors since the 1950s. The cloth may also incorporate spandex, which had been developed by DuPont in 1959 and would allow skiers to more comfortably wear tight costumes that stretched with them while retaining shape.
The top half of the sky-blue ski suit is a trim hip-length jacket with matching blue ribbed-knit collar and cuffs. The silver-toned zipper has a silver “B” logo zip pull, representing Bogner’s company.
Unlike the popular and stylish ski sweaters often worn during his era—as seen in ’60s films like The Pink Panther—Bond’s skiwear is built expressly for speed, his jacket and trousers fitting him like a glove to reduce any wind resistance or flapping fabric that could
branch off snag on any branches or twigs during his downhill descent.
The tight ski pants echo the slim, minimalist design of the jacket, with only an extended tab over the front of the fitted waistband that presumably fastens through a hidden hook closure. Already close-fitting, the trousers taper toward the ankles to allow them to be easily tucked into ski boots. Although the literary Bond’s ski trousers have a hip pocket where the agent keeps his passport, the screen-worn ski pants have no visible pockets.
Ski boots are specifically designed to be securely fastened into skis and thus make very clunky footwear for any other purpose. Ski boot technology has greatly evolved since the 1960s, though the emphasis for quality boots have always been to keep the wearer secure, warm, and dry.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was produced toward the end of the era when ski boots were predominantly made with tough leather uppers rather than the lightweight plastic and polyamide shells that were pioneered in the ’60s and remain the predominant boots today. The close-ups we see of Lazenby’s boots appear very similar to examples of Swiss-made Molitor ski boots I’ve seen from that era (such as this eBay listing).
Rather than more traditional lacing, wearers are typically secured into ski boots via a system of buckles that latch over the center to securely keep the wearer’s feet locked in place… and keeping snow and other elements out. Lazenby’s lined black leather ski boots share the Molitors’ unique cable-laced system of three buckles on the outer side of each boot—two over the two-piece vamp, one on the ankle shaft. Each buckle tightens a spring cable that’s looped through two speed hooks on the inner side of each boot.
This eBay listing for Molitor boots—handmade in Switzerland in the '60s—appear to match nearly every detail of Lazenby's screen-worn boots, right down to the cable-laced buckles and the unique toe where the two-piece vamp is cut away.
Listing active on December 5, 2022.
“As a shirt, there is nothing smarter than a polo-necked sweatshirt in cotton or wool,” advised Sir Hardy in ABCs of Men’s Fashion, editorializing that “white is never wrong” though he also allows pale-blue and, for the more daring, scarlet.
Bond takes Sir Hardy’s advice with his white lightweight knitted jumper, designed with the requisite “polo-neck”, also known as a roll-neck or turtleneck. Given Bond’s intent to make his alpine getaway as fast as possible, this was a smart choice as the double layers around his neck would add warmth while the overall fit coordinates with the rest of his costume without adding bulk like a heavier ski sweater.
Bond wears a navy-blue knitted wool winter cap, elongated and detailed with a navy yarn pom-pom at the end like the style known among Brits as a “bobble hat”. This strikes me as a surprisingly non-functional choice as a simple “beanie” or watch cap would likely be more aerodynamic, but I’ll defer to any more skilled winter sportsmen to suggest why Bond’s bobble hat may have been a better choice.
Bond protects his eyes with a set of massive white-framed snow goggles with rounded amber-tinted “bug-eye” bubble lenses that remind me of Mrs. Bell (Ruth Kempf), the comically bespectacled flight student who undergoes a destructive lesson with Roger Moore two Bond films later in Live and Let Die (1973). Designed with vents around the frame to prevent fogging, these are likely the ParaSki goggles hat were popular through the late ’60s and can still be found from places like Vintage Ski World. The goggles secure with a black-and-white houndstooth elastic headband.
Bond’s heavy lined ski gloves are black leather with ribbed padding on the dorsal sides and small sliver clips on each wrist to attach them when not being worn.
In the novel, Tracy assists Bond’s escape by zipping him into her fur parka, which our hero can’t help but to note smells of Guerlain’s “Ode”. Luckily for Diana Rigg, the cinematic Tracy can keep her Harold J. Rubin furs for herself as Lazenby’s Bond has already found himself an outer layer both to keep warm and evade detection by Blofeld’s surviving henchmen.
Hanging outside a bar in town, Bond finds an oversized woolen flannel camper coat, patterned in a brown, white, black, and purple plaid. This jacket has a thigh-length cut like a classic pea coat but is single-breasted and half-belted, suggestive of the hardy mackinaw jackets favored by outdoorsmen of the American midwest, particularly the snowy regions of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Lined in a beige quilted nylon, the hip-length coat has a large shirt-style collar that lays flat like a revere collar, three taupe-brown woven leather shank buttons positioned high over the chest, and set-in sleeves that fasten at the cuffs with a half-length strap that closes through a single button. A belt hangs loose across the back, and there are two slanted welt-entry hand pockets over the hips on the front of the jacket.
Both of Bond’s Rolex watches appear during this sequence. After he flees to temporary safety at the skating rink in Lauterbrunnen, Bond pulls his commandeered coat over him, flashing the Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 that he had earlier worn with his tuxedo and glen plaid suit. This may be the same Submariner that Lazenby had purchased in real life as part of his plan to look like Sean Connery’s Bond to wow the producers during his audition. This Submariner follows the classic configuration of stainless steel case and Oyster-style link bracelet with a black bezel and dial. The ref. 5513 non-chronometer was introduced in 1962, the same year that 007 debuted in theaters in Dr. No.
Later, while romancing Tracy in the abandoned barn, Bond appears to have swapped out his Submariner for the “pre-Daytona” Rolex Chronograph ref. 6238 that was part of Bond’s undercover disguise as Sir Hilary Bray. While the discrepancy is obviously the result of continuity errors that would only be noticed by the most insufferable nit-pickers (*warily raises my hand*), it’s fun to speculate on how or why Bond would have changed his watch during his escape. We know his ski clothes didn’t have any pockets, so—being a spy—perhaps Bond tucked one of the watches away in the one place he knew he wouldn’t be searched… never mind.
According to James Bond Lifestyle, EON Productions had purchased this Rolex from Bucherer on October 23, 1968, originally intending for the watch to double as a compass with the red second-hand guiding Bond back to safety. The screen-worn watch (serial #1206513) has been sold and auctioned multiple times since production ended, as it evaded the destructive fate of doubling as a “knuckle-duster” like the Rolex Oyster Perpetual that Ian Fleming had described Bond as wearing—and subsequently destroying on a henchman’s face—while making his escape from Piz Gloria.
This line of Rolex chronographs would eventually be named the “Daytona” series, based on the Florida-based racing hub, but early examples before this nomenclature became official are known as the “pre-Daytona” by collectors. The ref. 6238 was produced from 1960 through 1967, overlapping with the launch of the Cosmograph Daytona that moved the tachymeter from the dial (as on the ref. 6238) onto the bezel. The 36mm stainless steel-cased Rolex worn by Lazenby follows the relatively rare “albino” colorway, referring to the lack of contrast between the silver dial and the trio of sub-registers at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. Like his Submariner, Bond’s pre-Daytona Chronograph is worn on a riveted steel Oyster-style three-piece link bracelet.
When Tracy’s candy apple red 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 first sped past his Aston Martin on that winding seaside road in Portugal three months earlier, James Bond could have had no inkling that he’d one day be relying on that very same car—and its beautiful driver—to speed him out of danger.
In the novel, Tracy had driven “a low white two-seater, a Lancia Flaminia Zagato Spyder” which—while appropriately stylish for the Italian-born countess—may have been even less practical than a heavy rear-wheel-drive American muscle car for the winding, snow-covered roads of the Bernese Oberland… not to mention that the production wouldn’t have received the same level of “help and co-operation of The Ford Motor Company” specified in the end credits.
After the successful launch of the FordMustang in 1964 established a market for the sporty “pony car” segment, the Ford Motor Company green-lit development of a similar sports coupe to be marketed under the downmarket Mercury marque. Though based on an early proposed Mustang design, the Cougar quickly found its own identity with more luxurious features and a sophisticated European-inspired design that immediately appealed to consumers, particularly with the luxurious XR-7 trim package. The Cougar was a runaway success, accounting for 40% of Lincoln-Mercury division sales in 1967 and receiving the 1967 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award.
Maintaining its emphasis on performance, only V8 engines were available for the Cougar; in 1967, this ranged from the 289 cubic-inch Ford “Windsor” engine to a series of Ford FE 390 engines. By 1969, American automotive momentum had shifted toward increased power and engine size. Anything smaller than the now-standard 351 cubic-inch “Windsor” V8 was dropped from the lineup while the massive 428 Cobra Jet reigned supreme, conservatively rated at 335 horsepower with or without Ram Air, though actual power was said to be closer to 370. In addition to a subtle “Coke bottle” redesign consistent with the times, 1969 also introduced a convertible to the Cougar lineup, which had previously only been offered in a two-door hardtop coupe.
Although James Bond would drive his customary Aston Martin in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the film would also serve as a showcase for the impressive 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 convertible. Automotive designer Carroll Shelby prepared the three Cougars that would appear on screen, each painted “candy apple red” with a black vinyl powered retractable roof featuring a glass rear window.
“The Cougars used in the film all have the 428-ci. 4V Cobra Jet Ram Air V8, C-6 Select Shift three-speed automatic transmission, a 3.50 conventional rear axle, Ram Air induction, Hauser Racing Traction-Lock limited-slip differential, front disc brakes, power steering and even hood pins,” wrote Stef Schrader for The Garage of the screen-used Cougars. “Inside, there are dark red leather bucket seats, color-keyed floor mats, a center console, tilt steering, and AM radio.”
Of the three Cougars, one was reportedly destroyed during production while one of the two survivors—chassis no. 9F94R549292, used for the low-action barn scene—was fully restored in 2020 and auctioned that December by Bonhams for £356,500. According to the auction listing: “Eon Productions ordered this car on the 30th January 1969. It was scheduled to be built on the 12th February but was actually completed six days earlier on 6th February 1969. The car was flown from the USA to the UK and registered on 13th February 1969.” You can also read more about the screen-used Cougar at James Bond Lifestyle.
1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Body Style: 2-door convertible
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 428 cubic-inch (7.0 L) Ford FE “Cobra Jet” V8 with Holley 4-barrel carburetor
Power: 335 hp (250 kW; 340 PS) @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 440 lb·ft (597 N·m) @ 3400 rpm
Transmission: 3-speed SelectShift automatic
Wheelbase: 111 inches (2819 mm)
Length: 193.8 inches (4923 mm)
Width: 75 inches (1905 mm)
Height: 51.8 inches (1315 mm)
(Above stats from Automobile Catalog)
The Cougar would outlast the muscle car era, expanded into the full-size “personal luxury car” segment for the 1974 model year though—as with all cars of the ’70s—this came at the expense of engine power, if not displacement. At the start of the ’80s, the Cougar was downsized again to share the same Ford Fox platform as the Mustang before again returning to the luxury sports segment shared by the Thunderbird.
There was no Cougar in 1998, though the redesigned model that launched in 1999 returned to its sporty roots. This eighth-generation Cougar was the first to be offered in front-wheel-drive, with a contemporary, aerodynamic look, though its straight-four and V6 “Sport” engine options paled in comparison to its muscular forebears. With sales declining each year since its introduction, the newest Cougar lasted only a few years into the 21st century until production ended after the 2002 model year.
How to Get the Look
Making his getaway from a terrorist stronghold in the Swiss Alps, James Bond dresses for speed skiing in form-fitting ski clothes that conform to his physique rather than the stylish but heavier ski sweaters popular through this era.
- Sky-blue stretch-nylon Bogner ski suit:
- Hip-length zip-up jacket with knitted collar and cuffs
- Tapered trousers with hidden hook-closure waistband
- Brown, white, black, and purple plaid woolen flannel three-button camper coat with slanted hand pockets, belted back, and button-strap cuffs
- White lightweight knitted turtleneck sweater
- Black leather cable-laced ski boots
- Black socks
- Navy knitted “bobble hat” with navy pom-pom
- White vented-frame ParaSki ski goggles with amber-tinted bubble lenses and black-and-white houndstooth elastic headband
- Black leather ski gloves
- Rolex “pre-Daytona” Chronograph, ref. 6238, with stainless steel case, silver “albino” dial with three silver sub-registers, and stainless steel “Oyster”-style three-piece link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.