CommanderBond.net
  1. Era ends for James Bond Rolex Submariner Date wristwatch

    Written by: Dell Deaton, www.jamesbondwatches.com author-creator

    Basel, Switzerland— For the first time in the history of James Bond films, Rolex is no longer offering a current watch model that’s consistent with any on-screen choice of 007.

    A new Rolex Submariner Date reference 116610LN has just been introduced at Baselworld 2010 (March 18-25), the premier trade show for the wristwatch industry, held annually in Basel, Switzerland. It replaces the Rolex 16610 Sub Date which was introduced in 1988, according to experts Franca E. Guido Mondani and Lele Ravagnani, who discussed this in their definitive book, Rolex Submariner Story.

    Era ends for James Bond Rolex Submariner Date wristwatch

    Rolex model 16610 Submariner Date wristwatch.
    Image courtesy JamesBondWatches.com and Dell Deaton.

    It’s most likely that actor Timothy Dalton wore a Rolex 16610 for his second outing as James Bond in Licence to Kill, a film that opened during the summer of 1989.

    The history of Rolex and the movie-Bond character dates back to 1961 and pre-production planning for the first Eon Productions contribution to this series, Dr. No. From the very beginning, filmmakers recognized the importance of wristwatch selection in fleshing out their lead man. As John Cork and Bruce Scivally emphasized in James Bond: The Legacy, “he could not just wear a watch, it needed to be a Rolex.”

    Over the years, performers changed as Bond was variously played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore. So, too, did the Rolex models that were featured on their wrists. But Rolex is renowned for the slow pace at which it changes designs and shifts direction in technology. So even as movies came along where James Bond would carry out missions with the support of competing brands, local Rolex dealers could continue to offer new stocks of models consistent with whatever 007 had worn last time he had had a Rolex.

    For example, Christie’s auctions verify that two Rolex model 5513 Submariner wristwatches were modified to suggest Q-Branch gadget functions for the December 1973 release of Live and Let Die. Rolex continued to produce the 5513 into 1989 — albeit sufficiently evolved in appearance by then to no longer qualify as what JamesBondWatches.com would consider screen-correct (“proper reference number” notwithstanding).

    After The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974, fifteen years and six films passed without another James Bond Rolex watch.

    Era ends for James Bond Rolex Submariner Date wristwatch

    Rolex model 16610 Submariner Date wristwatch. Image courtesy JamesBondWatches.com and Dell Deaton.

    Then Licence to Kill began filming and the Rolex affiliation was renewed with the first (and, thus far, only) appearance of its Submariner Date wristwatch. Given the frequency with which “Rolex” is cited in connection with James Bond, it’s rather ironic that Licence to Kill is the sole film in which 007 wore a wristwatch with the signature date-magnifier that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf so firmly established as an icon for his watch company.

    Neither Rolex nor Eon Productions has ever specifically identified the Licence to Kill timekeeper. But director John Glen in his autobiography, For My Eyes Only, tied the start of filming to July of 1988. At that time, as Mondani and Ravagnani have documented, no less than three Rolex Sub Date model reference numbers could have been available through authorized dealers at retail.

    Submariner Date 16800: Produced 1979-1988.

    Submariner Date 168000: Produced 1987-1988.

    Submariner Date 16610: Produced 1988 until just recently.

    Based solely on what can be seen on film, it’s impossible to say for certain which was actually worn by Timothy Dalton as James Bond. Referred to as the “Leiter Wedding Rolex” for serious researchers and collectors, all that can be said is that a screen-correct version should have a sapphire crystal, glossy dial, and “bicchierini” indices (that is, time-markers surrounded by white gold).

    There are, of course, technical differences among these three otherwise seeming look-alikes. Changes to case metal composition enhanced corrosion resistance. The earlier 3035 caliber movement from 1977 replaced by the 3135 improved durability.

    Additionally, by the time work began on Licence to Kill, producers were dedicated to appointing James Bond with the latest in materials. Wristwatches were not only current models, but, by the late 1980s, just after the SEIKO period, some of the most advanced of their time. This certainly favors selection of the 16610 over similar alternatives. And, as stated in Rolex Submariner Story, cases for this reference were being produced as far back as 1986 in anticipation of releasing the 16610 wristwatch two years later.

    Clearly there was a strategy to roll out the 16610 reference as 16800 and 168000 inventories depleted. A plan no doubt enhanced by the widely established popularity of the Rolex Submariner Date.

    Era ends for James Bond Rolex Submariner Date wristwatch

    Rolex model 116610LN Submariner Date wristwatch, just introduced at Baselworld 2010. Image courtesy Rolex.

    Eon Productions had come to enjoy a close connection to the Rolex brand over the years since Dr. No. Over half of all 007 films released before Licence to Kill feature Rolex watches; several highlight more than one. Despite lack of any formal product placement credit, these watches were shown in more close-ups than any competing model. Rolex was chosen to serve as the first elaborate gadget-watch. Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman chose Rolex to reward great service by team members such as that of Peter Hunt on You Only Live Twice in 1967.

    Both Rolex and Eon had an interest in having the very latest Sub Date model for Timothy Dalton when 007 returned to the watchmaker of Ian Fleming after its decade-and-a-half absence. It’s hard to imagine that anyone inside this film production would have settled for old stock. Cubby Broccoli himself was on hand for Licence to Kill with a continued commitment to make fantastic things happen.

    In the years since then, the Rolex 16610 has changed little. The bracelet is technically different, and the lugs no longer have holes that pass all the way through for its springbars.

    But the new 116610LN that replaces it is obviously changed.

    Readily apparent is its ceramic “Cerachrom” bezel insert with platinum gradations, fitted to a case with much larger crown guards. The bracelet features a completely redesigned clasp design and functioning.

    Water resistance is rated to a depth of 300 meters / 1,000 feet, protected by a case made from 904L steel, with timekeeping provided by a COSC-certified 3135 caliber movement: These are the same as what’s found in the 16610, of course. Yet the 116610LN is sufficiently different overall as to deny any claim this newest Rolex Submariner Date might otherwise make to James Bond watch status. It’s more than a different number. In the world of 007, there are no substitutes.

    Baselworld 2010 closes this Thursday, March 25. With it, a chapter in movie history that dates back to 1961 will end as well.

    But— like James Bond himself: Will Rolex return?


    Dell Deaton is the creator-author of JamesBondWatches.com and guest curator for the “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibition, June 18, 2010 through April 30, 2011. He is a member of both the National Watch & Clock Association and American Marketing Association, and a recognized expert on Ian Fleming and James Bond horology. Previously, he was elected to a three-year term on the board of directors that governs the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, and served three terms on the editorial advisory board for Exhibitor Publications.

    Guest writer @ 2010-03-22
  2. How I Found the Original James Bond Watch

    Written by: Dell Deaton, www.jamesbondwatches.com author-creator

    Originally published in NAWCC BULLETIN, Journal of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, June 2009.

    The literary, or original, watch of personal choice for the James Bond character is a Rolex 1016 Explorer. Details related to my making this first definitive identification were published in the February 2009 issue of WatchTime magazine. So this is not an article about “what” Agent 007 wore, but, rather, it’s a piece more functionally relevant to BULLETIN readers: “How was it found?”

    Ian Fleming's personal Rolex 1016 Explorer

    The original James Bond watch: Ian Fleming’s personal Rolex 1016 Explorer. Image copyright 2009 Imperial War Museum and JamesBondWatches.com (used with permission).

    Yes, “Rolex” is the only James Bond watch specifically named by creator Ian Fleming. But watch collectors who read Fleming’s books after hearing about “the James Bond Rolex” are often surprised at how little attention the brand is actually given in those pages. In fact, Rolex is ascribed to Bond in only two novels. It appears one time during the plot of Live and Let Die (1954). Nine years later, Rolex is mentioned an unprecedented seven times as Bond’s own purchase in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963).

    Although James Bond is a fictional figure, Ian Fleming invariably looked to reality for details. He gave a trade name for 007’s shirts. Aston Martin is an actual car. Authentic brand references helped him sweep readers along through fantastic situations by hooking them to the real world with citations his audience was likely to know through advertising.

    For me, “Bond” serves as a creative theme for the watches I collect; the literary James Bond watch is where I start.

    Dating Watches through Fleming’s Writing Routine

    Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond stories between January 1952 and August 1964, following a strict, selfimposed cycle to produce one book per year, resulting in a total of 14.

    With his second novel, Live and Let Die, he established a routine that all but the last two books would follow to publication. His preliminary research and notes organization began some 18 months out. Individual manuscripts were then written, start-to-finish, during the initial two months of the year prior to publication. Over the course of the next 12 months, those complete drafts were revised, fact-checked, and edited to final form.

    Understanding this history is critical in accurately dating references to physical wristwatches. So the sequencing above, for example, at least initially suggested to me that the Bond Rolex in Live and Let Die would have had to be based on something from the fourth quarter of 1952.

    This is consistent with my review of the typed Live and Let Die manuscript archived in the Lilly Library on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. The word “Rolex” in Fleming’s own bound edition there appears on page 111.

    The larger context of the Live and Let Die plot makes that watch mission-specific. In other words, Fleming didn’t intend to define Bond’s personal watch choice, but, rather, deliberately used the Rolex name to validate a tool watch among a larger inventory of diving gear and weaponry he described as having been received by 007 from his quartermaster (“Q-Branch”) in London. “Rolex” merely enhances plot credibility, in this case, giving his protagonist the ability to check the time while submerged. It’s on par with “Champion,” maker of the Live and Let Die harpoon gun, also sourced from Q-Branch.

    In an earlier chapter that describes preparations for the dive, Jacques Cousteau is named more than once as a source from which Bond was learning through books he’d borrowed. This mirrors Fleming’s own real-life research technique. He had just struck up a friendship with Cousteau at that time and even visited with him during his work surrounding discovery of the 2,200-year-old Marcus Sestius wine ship off the Bay of Marseilles.

    All the evidence I’ve seen points to a high likelihood that Captain Cousteau provided quite a bit of technical detail, if not motivation, for sequences related to Bond’s climactic 300-yard swim in Live and Let Die. Exciting as this association may be, however, I would not connect it to a specific watch nor to any particular Rolex model.

    'How I Found the Original James Bond Watch'

    “How I Found the Original James Bond Watch,” featuring photo of Ian Fleming wearing James Bond’s Rolex; NAWCC BULLETIN, June 2009.

    Ian Fleming thought no more of that Rolex than as an efficient shorthand to substantiate a wristwatch that could perform as required on a commando mission to mine an enemy ship, moored at an anchorage of about 30 feet. His writing shows not the slightest trace of his otherwise characteristic attention to detail when describing physical pieces he’d seen (e.g., Where is the dial luminescence and rotating bezel—obvious and extremely relevant, if these had been features of a developmental Submariner that had served as its basis?).

    Responsible research requires that I draw this line as well. Editors at WatchTime felt the same way, deleting a discussion of Jacques Cousteau from the earliest draft of my feature article.

    Further reason to avoid overreaching here comes from evidence of just how effective Fleming otherwise could be in using horology as a means of carefully defining characters and enriching plotlines.

    His first novel, Casino Royale (1953), features a shadowy Swiss figure who is “a traveller in watches.” Fleming’s first script treatment (1959) for a proposed 007 motion picture provides the heroine with a cover story of working for customs in search of stolen Swiss watches. He gave other high-profile characters important timepieces by Patek Philippe in 1955, Cartier in 1956, and Girard-Perregaux in 1957. One story published in 1961 even used a radium-painted watch dial to test a Geiger Counter.

    Photos from the 1950s clearly show that Fleming wore a variety of different watches into his Bond era. These were alternatively on bracelets and straps. He seemed to favor lower-profile cases and dark dials, simply decorated, with no complications of any sort.

    So I concluded many years ago that it was not due to oversight, nor for any lack of interest or knowledge that Ian Fleming had chosen to be so oblique in defining the James Bond watch. Nor was it out of any reluctance to get into the particulars of Bond’s individual tastes, since Fleming otherwise routinely explored the minutiae of Agent 007’s preferences in food and women.

    Naming James Bond watch brands throughout the series would have perfectly, intimately served Fleming, then. But that’s not what he did.

    Why not? Because, purposefully, Bond’s watch needed to be a commodity due to the nature of his work. This is confirmed by the copy of a letter provided to me by Lucy Fleming, the author’s niece. In correspondence dated June 5, 1958, Ian Fleming responded to a fan by the name of B. W. Goodden, stating that the practice of James Bond, “in fact, is to use fairly cheap, expendable wrist watches on expanding metal bracelets….”

    Thus, not only is the reference to Rolex in Live and Let Die an anomaly, but, as I wrote above, it is an exception that had to be allowed to credibly have a wristwatch available to function underwater. Otherwise, it was Fleming’s clear intent for all James Bond watch choices to be generics, through Goldfinger (1959). In no case before 1961 was there an actual watch he referenced from the real world. So long as watches meet the criteria of “cheap” and “expendable,” worn on “expanding metal bracelets,” any number of timekeepers fit the bill as James Bond watches in books one through ten.

    And this is how the earliest James Bond watch was presented on the wrist of an actor. See Barry Nelson in the Chrysler Climax Mystery Theater version of Casino Royale for CBS television, October 21, 1954. That show aired less than six months after the May 5 publication of Live and Let Die.

    Literary-Bond versus Movie-Bond

    'How I Found the Original James Bond Watch'

    Ian Fleming’s Rolex 1016 Explorer was first displayed to the public for The Ian Fleming Centenary; Journal of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, June 2009.

    Things were different when EON Productions began shooting scenes on location for its first James Bond film, Dr. No, on January 16, 1962. Harry Saltzman and Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli were the producers; Terence Young directed. Actor Sean Connery was James Bond. His movie-Bond was wearing a Rolex Submariner when Ian Fleming famously visited those sets and interacted with the cast that January.

    For decades, many have cited this to justify arguments favoring a Sub model as the original James Bond watch: Fleming was there. He wouldn’t have missed noting the details of the watch Connery was wearing in character. Fleming’s style and number of references vis-à-vis the literary-Bond watch significantly changed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—unquestionably written after having seen the movie-Bond watch.

    A close read actually shows that Ian Fleming resoundingly rejected the Sean Connery Rolex when giving specifics for his own literary-Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. For that book, he gave Agent 007 the same metal bracelet discussed in his B. W. Goodden letter; in the Connery film, the watch is obviously worn on a dark, textured strap with a buckle. The Submariner in Dr. No has only markers, not numbers, like the Rolex in Chapter 14 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Much later in 1962, Playboy magazine asked Fleming for a “description of James Bond,” and he responded on December 11. This letter is quite consistent with his then-unpublished manuscript of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and strikingly dissimilar to Connery’s Bond. Fleming favored for Bond his own, personal traits of “blue-grey” eyes and short-sleeved shirts (even with a suit).

    He also wrote: “Wears Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch.”

    However, there’s no evidence that this might somehow have been a personal rejection of Connery, himself, in the role of Bond. In fact, Fleming’s stepdaughter Fionn Morgan was present at one of the first meetings between the Bond-creator and Bond-actor; she remembers an immediate acceptance and a good rapport. Nor was Ian Fleming adverse to having EON Productions influence his novel in progress. Note his mention in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of the virtually unknown Ursula Andress, who played female lead in Dr. No. Fleming simply wanted to hold some elements of the literary Bond’s choices to himself. This included giving 007 his Rolex Explorer.

    Among those less sure that a Submariner must have been the original intent of Fleming, there have been a variety of curious attempts to guess the true Rolex type. From a snapshot by Mary Slater to the professional session done by Harry Benson, period photographs have been examined in search of clues. An excellent history titled James Bond: The Man and His World, by Henry Chancellor, features one stock image of a Rolex Oyster Perpetual that caused some to erroneously claim “Mystery Solved!” in 2005.

    I have long been convinced that the answer was to find an actual Rolex, or perhaps a number of Rolex wristwatches, that were worn by Ian Fleming himself. My approach, then, had been to make direct inquiries over the years to the Ian Fleming Will Trust, biographers, and surviving contemporaries of Fleming.

    Initially, the clearest answers I’d gotten were most discouraging: Very few personal effects of this nature survived the author. Ironically, it was a particular Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean that led me to identify the original James Bond Rolex of Fleming’s time.

    On March 8, 2006, amidst all sorts of secrecy surrounding the newly cast Daniel Craig, I became the first to identify the wristwatch he’d wear as Agent 007 in the so-called franchise reboot, Casino Royale. Although I’d been studying Bond watches since the 1970s, it was this Omega Planet Ocean that made my name synonymous with James Bond watches.

    Following the unprecedented public acclaim with which Casino Royale was received, attention slowly shifted to preparations for the Ian Fleming Centenary, timed to what would have been his 100th birthday, on May 28, 2008. As part of this, the Imperial War Museum in London was planning to open a special exhibit on April 17, 2008, titled, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond,.

    Family members were approached for artifacts, and Fionn Morgan supplied items never before displayed in public: a pair of her stepfather’s cuff links and his only surviving wristwatch—a Rolex Explorer I (according to her clear recollection, the only Rolex he’d ever owned). That’s where I came in. I specifically identified this illusive “Oyster Perpetual” for the first time in detail and provided historical context.

    To revisit and expand a bit on my WatchTime feature, the Ian Fleming Rolex is a model 1016 Explorer, case number 596851. It still has the factory-delivered 7206 riveted, hollow-link (nonexpanding) bracelet with the number “58” on its endpieces. The mechanism is a Rolex 1560 caliber.

    James Bond’s Radioactive Watch Dial

    The original dial under the “superdome” crystal of this wristwatch is what fascinates me the most. It had indices painted with radium-226, no doubt providing the referent for Fleming when he wrote of Bond’s watch on page 154 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first edition: “The big luminous numerals said midnight.”

    Vintage Rolex Explorer 1016 wristwatch

    The literary James Bond Rolex Explorer 1016 had a radium dial, visibly illuminated for mission-viewing night or day! Image courtesy JamesBondWatches.com, 2010.

    Debate surrounding luminescent material containing a radioactive isotope of the element radium has received excellent technical coverage in previous BULLETIN issues. I wasn’t in London when the Fleming watch decision was made, but I’m told that concerns related to radium exposure came down to a decision that its dial be replaced prior to showing it at the Imperial War Museum.

    The photograph of the watch that appears on page 89 of the February 2009 WatchTime was taken after that change.

    So, in addition to being aged, the original dial would have only had the word “SWISS” below its 6 o’clock position, as opposed to “SWISS – T < 25,” as seen in WatchTime. It also had a minute-track insert. Finally, the word “Rolex” was in a slab serif typeface, and the crown logo had a more squared proportion than later versions of the 1016.

    I’ve been able to access a similar Rolex Explorer with a 596,xxx serial number for comparison and analysis by the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Its caseback markings date its production to the fourth quarter of 1960, placing it—and the original Bond watch, with an identical caseback—nicely into the retail window I wrote about in WatchTime.

    This virtually identical watch, which still has its original dial, will be on display at the 2009 NAWCC National Convention in Grand Rapids, MI.

    Manufacture date, markings, and other important Fleming-Bond watch configurations described in this BULLETIN article have been confirmed by Rolex UK.

    Last May 28 I was at the Lilly Library in conjunction with Ian Fleming Centenary commemorations. While there, I took time to pull from their archive an original On Her Majesty’s Secret Service uncorrected proof, which would have been printed shortly before that novel was first published on April 1, 1963—almost six months after the October 5, 1962, premiere of Dr. No starring Sean Connery. I found that Ian Fleming had not only continued to make changes to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service well into spring 1963, but among those he’d made a key correction in reference to the James Bond watch.

    But there was no effort to reconcile a consistency with the movie-Bond wristwatch. The singular “Oyster Perpetual” wording in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service could have easily been changed to “Submariner” at that late date. It wasn’t.

    This was a period of unique challenges for Ian Fleming, intimately, as the creative force behind 007. Litigation stemming from an earlier attempt at a movie deal sought to wrest credit from him for various successes of the James Bond icon. A massive heart attack in 1961 mandated radical changes to his active lifestyle. The Spy Who Loved Me

    Then, with the Dr. No movie, the world of Tinsel Town got him caught up in a measure of playacting choreographed to blur the lines between his actual service with the Department of Naval Intelligence during World War II and the fictional exploits of his fantasy secret agent.

    In my WatchTime article, I wrote that it was “hard to imagine that Ian Fleming would have let the last detail of Bond’s Rolex model be determined by someone else.” My research leads me to conclude that that “someone” was three-time 007 film director Terence Young. In an interview published in 1981, Young described the nature of his rivalry with Fleming at that time over how the James Bond character would be presented going forward.

    I’m confident that the Bond creator held fast to key details of the character as reminders that it would always be “Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007” (as, in fact, the lead to each new movie states even to this day).

    In You Only Live Twice (1964), Fleming made what I read as yet another insider passage for which he is famous—this time, to horologists. In defense of the post-World War II greatness of England, James Bond gives only one specific: “…we still climb Everest….” Here again is implication of Ian Fleming’s propensity to keep almost any scrap of information he came across and to use it however he could in his stories. Period Rolex documents connected his Explorer to the climb he had Bond reference. I don’t think that is coincidence.

    In my opinion, there is indeed one specific brand, model, and configuration for James Bond’s first watch—just one. That’s what I’ve written about here.

    It’s hardly a surprise to prove that Ian Fleming first wore the original James Bond watch (and I suspect that Sean Connery would be among those most happy to agree). But the question for this BULLETIN article was not “Where—?” but, rather, “How was it found?”

    That answer required discussions with those who actually knew Ian Fleming, professional examination of his Rolex, physical contact with the author’s own James Bond writings, and a Geiger Counter. Even then, my proposal draft to WatchTime was substantiated by some 168 footnotes before going forward—a field assignment quite worthy of Agent 007 himself.

    This is how I found the original James Bond watch.


    Dell Deaton is the creator-author of JamesBondWatches.com and guest curator for the “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibition, June 18, 2010 through April 30, 2011. He is a member of both the National Watch & Clock Association and American Marketing Association, and a recognized expert on Ian Fleming and James Bond horology. Previously, he was elected to a three-year term on the board of directors that governs the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, and served three terms on the editorial advisory board for Exhibitor Publications.

    Guest writer @ 2010-02-22
  3. CBn Competition – Win A James Bond 007 Colour Sketch By Artist Robert McGinnis

    CommanderBond.net has once again partnered with the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition to offer members the chance to win another James Bond 007 colour sketch absolutely free of charge.

    McGinnis is best known by Bond fans as the man behind the classic poster campaigns for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, and more. As previously reported on CBn, the following sketch accompanies the art prints that are part of the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition. Full details:

    This colour sketch can be obtained by ordering two or more of the art prints (which cost $260 / £159 each), but CBn members can win one for free!

    James Bond 007 Colour Sketch by Robert McGinnis

    This competition is open to all members of CommanderBond.net. You must be a registered member of the CBn Forums and answer the following question correctly to be eligible to win. Not yet a member of CBn? Register here now–it is free and only takes a minute!

    To enter, fill out the following questionnaire and send a Communiqué/Private Message on the CBn Forums to ‘CBn Competition’ (Subject: CBn McGinnis 4) by Midnight EST on 12 March 2010 (simply click on the link in this paragraph).

    1. Which of the following James Bond film posters featured the tagline: “No One Comes Close To James Bond 007”

    1. Goldfinger
    2. Diamonds Are Forever
    3. For Your Eyes Only
    4. The Living Daylights

    2. What is your CBn Forum Screen Name?
    3. What country/state do you live in?

    Devin Zydel @ 2010-02-19
  4. Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Written by: Dell Deaton, www.jamesbondwatches.com author-creator

    Originally published in WatchTime magazine, February 2009

    Did Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, have a particular wristwatch in mind when writing the original 007 stories? Could it be that Fleming himself wore the first James Bond timepiece?

    Only one brand is specifically named as that secret agent’s watch in Fleming’s original 14 Bond editions: Rolex. The greatest detail comes in his eleventh book, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, published in 1963. Here we read of the “big luminous numerals” that Bond sees when taking a lazy midnight glance at his chronometer, “a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet.” The watch is a Rolex Explorer I.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Found: James Bond’s Rolex

    And not just any Rolex Explorer I. My research convinces me that it was Fleming’s own stainless-steel wristwatch, model 1016 with a black dial on a 7206 bracelet, case number 596851. Fleming’s stepdaughter, Fionn Morgan, believes it is the first and only Rolex he ever owned. After her stepfather passed away on August 12, 1964, the watch was locked in a bank vault. There it stayed until the death of her mother — his widow, Ann — in 1981. That was when, following almost 20 years in isolation, it once again saw the light of day.

    “Spookily, it was still going,” Morgan said to me last May, recalling the day she first picked it up. “I am told that this happens with Oyster Perpetuals; your hand sets them off.” To her the watch was intensely personal, a family heirloom left by a man she loved as if her own blood-relation father. So she did what many of us would do. She gave it to her son-in-law, to wear daily as a touchstone with her past.

    That’s how it went until preparations began for the “Ian Fleming Centenary,” a year-plus celebration associated with the author’s 100th birthday on May 28, 2008. In particular, Britain’s Imperial War Museum (IWM) was planning a special 45-week exhibition titled, “For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond.” Mary Gibson, Fionn Morgan’s daughter, loaned for show the Ian Fleming watch that her husband had been wearing. Along with other Fleming artifacts and props from James Bond movies, the watch is on display at the museum in London until March 1, 2009.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    James Bond creator Ian Fleming

    The IWM exhibit asks a question often debated by Fleming biographers: How much of James Bond was Ian Fleming? Evidence abounds that Fleming steeped this fictional spy with his most personal tastes and habits. The 007 clothing choices, hatred of tea, and number of cigarettes smoked in a day all parallel aspects of Fleming’s own life.

    Product placements abound in his books. Familiar brands hook us to Bond’s world through the reality of what we already know and accept. Bond’s creator was thoughtful in the use of these. Thus there are obvious distinctions between references made to things he had simply researched to fill in gaps, and those he experienced personally.

    In total, there are approximately 100 references to James Bond wearing a watch in the Fleming novels and short-story collections published between 1953 and 1966 (the last two were posthumous). Two-thirds of these tell readers nothing more than the time of day. This is particularly true in earlier novels such as Moonraker, Diamonds Are Forever, and Goldfinger, where Agent 007 mostly just looks or glances at his watch, on average nine to 10 times per story.

    Function and design details come slowly. We hear Bond’s watch “tick” for the first time in 1955. In 1957, we are told that, although he otherwise sleeps naked, Bond wears a watch to bed. Fleming used the word “glass” when referring to its crystal in From Russia, with Love. For Doctor No a dial is not just “luminous,” but blazingly so! In 1960, 007’s eyes follow “the gleaming minute-hand” creeping past its time markers.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Ian Fleming at work in his study at Goldeneye, in Jamaica.

    The Ian Fleming thrillers feature multiple James Bond watches. Bond loses his watch during the Casino Royale torture, has another watch shot apart on his wrist in From Russia, with Love, destroys a Rolex while using it as a “knuckle-duster” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and is unlikely to have returned for whatever timepiece he left behind when Tiger Tanaka gives him a “cheap Japanese wristwatch” for his final pursuit of recurring arch-villain Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.

    Fleming, too, had many watches. Photographs from the 1950s show him variously wearing a half-dozen-or-so nondescript wristwatches, mostly on straps. None stands out. This parallels the attitude of his character through the period as well. I don’t suggest that Fleming treated his own watches as disposable (as his alter-ego certainly does). But Fleming heirs told me last summer that his Explorer I is the only wristwatch known to have survived him.

    Some Bond aficionados insist that Rolex is established as the definitive “James Bond watch” in Live and Let Die (1954). I don’t think so. When Fleming settled on a brand, he tended to either repeat it or clearly label its replacement. We don’t simply read about locks, we read about Yale locks, again and again, in multiple novels. James Bond drives a Bentley or an Aston Martin or a Thunderbird, a specific car, as opposed to any car we might imagine.

    That’s not the case with the 1954 Rolex. After Live and Let Die, almost a decade passed before Fleming gave Bond another Rolex. In the meantime, Fleming hadn’t forgotten the brand, since “a solid gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer on a flexible gold bracelet” features prominently as a bad guy’s watch seven novels later, in Thunderball. (This Rolex becomes a “James Bond watch” of sorts, since Agent 007 puts it on his own wrist after removing it from the villain’s dead body.)

    Secondly, the Live and Let Die Rolex is a divers’ watch; hardly what men wore daily in the 1950s. We know how Bond’s watch had to perform here, because he “looked at the Rolex on his wrist” while underwater. He was at the close of a 300-yard dive in Jamaican waters, on a well-prepared mission to place mines on a smuggling vessel, moored at an anchorage of about 30 feet. His agency quartermaster, Q Branch, has supplied him with a wetsuit and other special-purpose equipment for the assignment. It’s likely that Q had provided this particular watch as well, and that Bond did not choose the Live and Let Die Rolex for himself. (Years later, in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, we learn that Q Branch actually keeps an off-the-shelf inventory of Rolex wristwatches, or at least came to do so by 1963.) For Live and Let Die, I think the plot simply called for 007 to check his watch in mid-swim in order to build tension at a key point in the exposition. As a diver himself, Fleming knew that a typical wristwatch was unsuitable; he needed to cite a specific brand to make that awareness clear. Being an accomplished journalist, he would have researched options.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Ian Fleming’s Rolex Explorer I watch, which the author used as the model for James Bond’s watch in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Finally, the lack of any further specifics on this Rolex, and no reference whatsoever to the brand in his next eight books, classify it as a watch Fleming researched rather than experienced. Most likely, he chose Rolex because of its advertising, which emphasized waterproof case integrity.

    This is more than speculation. In a letter he wrote four years after completing his Live and Let Die manuscript, Fleming made it clear that Rolex was not at that time James Bond’s choice for a timekeeper. This came in response to written criticism from an astute reader. Following are excerpts from each side of their correspondence, provided to me last summer by Fleming’s stepdaughter. On April 25, 1958, a reader complained about the performance of Agent 007’s watch in Doctor No. Specifically, “Bond glanced at his watch. It had stopped at three o’clock.” Stopped! This sentence made the reader “extremely surprised and perturbed.” He considered it “a very serious matter which should at once be drawn to the attention of M [Bond’s boss’s codename],” suggesting this field failure “be made the subject of an Official Inquiry.” The reader proposed a solution. In the future, Bond should be issued a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual, which is completely waterproof and does not require winding,” and, if anything, “keeps even better time after immersion.”

    Fleming acknowledged the complaint and made his reply. “I have discussed this with [James Bond] and he points out that the Rolex Perpetual weighs about six ounces and would appreciably slow up the use of his left hand in combat.”

    Then, this: “His practice, in fact, is to use fairly cheap, expendable wrist watches on expanding metal bracelets which can be slipped forward over the thumb and used in the form of a knuckle-duster, either on the outside or the inside of the hand.” If Bond’s personal watch was “cheap” and “expendable” up until 1958, it was never a Rolex.

    No particular Oyster Perpetual model was cited in either letter. Fleming simply repeated the “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” reference in the reader’s letter. He did, however, come up with a weight for the watch and considered its feel. But this event did not yet set the wheels in motion for his own purchase of the Explorer I. If the 007 watch had moved from a researched to an experienced item, we’d see a change in his writing. The next three books (written after the exchange of letters) feature just over a dozen notations on the watch Bond is wearing. All remain true to form, never going beyond a “gleaming minute-hand” or a luminous dial notation.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Ian Fleming’s personal Explorer model 1016, the only Rolex he’s known to have owned in his life — and his basis for the James Bond watch in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum (after dial replacement, just prior to public display).

    Everything changes with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, written in 1962. Thirteen percent of all James Bond watch references are in this one novel, more than in any other Fleming thriller. He cited the Rolex brand in seven places. As Bond expert and author Kingsley Amis generally observed, Fleming wrote “with an energy that shows [when] he’s dealing with something personally important to him.” What was that?

    I’m convinced that it was the deal struck with Eon Productions in 1961 to make five James Bond movies. The first, Dr. No, began filming in Jamaica during the early months of 1962 — the same time Ian Fleming was there, writing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We know that cross-pollination resulted, because the virtually unknown actress who played the female lead in Dr. No is referred to as “Ursula Andress, the film star” in the novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

    Sean Connery, as Bond in Dr. No, wore a Submariner. Whoever made that happen, the only Fleming book then existing to specify a Rolex was Live and Let Die. It’s hard to imagine that Ian Fleming would have let the last detail of Bond’s Rolex model be determined by someone else. Neither would he have forgotten the 1958 letter that first recommended Rolex to him. As 007 followers know, it was another reader’s letter, from gun expert Geoffrey Boothroyd, which persuaded Fleming to have James Bond give up his signature Beretta pistol in favor of a Walther PPK.

    By 1962 when filming began on Dr. No, Ian Fleming was becoming an icon in his own right through his books, increasing public attention (good and bad), and sophisticated self-promotion. At the same time, “James Bond” was taking on a life of his own, beyond the control of his creator. All of this affected Fleming. Lines were blurring as he sought to identify himself more closely with his character, to live as 007 would live, to play the part. Biographers have written about this. His wife, Ann, noted that no one had “grasped the extent of Ian’s desire to be his alter ego.”

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    Ian Fleming’s James Bond watch, worn by his stepdaughter’s son-in-law, mid-1990s. Image courtesy Ian Fleming family via Dell Deaton (with original dial intact).

    Ian Fleming acquired his Rolex Explorer I sometime between the summer of 1961 and spring of 1962. It’s this chronometer that changed his writing about Rolex and James Bond from researched to experienced.

    In contrast to the sunny beaches where movie work was underway in Jamaica, the main action of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service takes place on a snow-covered mountain. If you were going to pick a watch for such an adventure, what better choice than a Rolex Explorer, the watch that had famously conquered Mount Everest in 1953?

    Bond’s watch is described as having “numerals,” as opposed to undefined markers. Fleming’s own Explorer I had luminous 3-, 6-, and 9-o’clock indicators. “Bond surveyed his weapons. They were only his hands and feet, his Gillette razor and his wristwatch, a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet. Used properly, these could be turned into most effective knuckle-dusters.” But this doesn’t mean the “expanding-link” option offered by Rolex at that time. Fleming had established in Thunderball that “flexible” was a bracelet with springs in its links. Fleming’s personal Explorer is fitted with the original 7206 bracelet; it has fixed links and a deployant clasp. Laymen describe this as “expanding” to open.

    Finally, Fleming specifies the 007 watch as new in Chapter 23. The Fleming Rolex case number 596851 suggests it, too, would have been a relatively new model 1016 that the author was wearing as he wrote this novel.

    For the publication of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming commissioned an oil portrait of himself, painted in 1962 by longtime friend Charles Amherst Villiers. It appears as a frontispiece in a special edition of 250 numbered copies of the book. I confirmed last summer that it captures Ian Fleming wearing his Explorer I, its dial reading 12:05.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    By Rolex numbering, the watch in this image is anywhere from a few hours to a few days older than the Ian Fleming reference 1016 Explorer. This is how the original dial on his watch would have looked before dial replacement — what James Bond would have seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service references — and provides the sort of detailed information necessary for researcher and collector identification.

    So why stop at calling it a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” in the novel when the name “Explorer” was so evident on the face of Fleming’s own watch — the watch he used as referent while typing? Why not note the material as stainless steel, indulging his penchant for adding detail after detail? Of all Rolex models at the time, this one was identified with unwavering performance under the harshest conditions, an ideal watch to advance his characterization of James Bond. Why didn’t he identify it as an Explorer?

    Because he wanted to give a wink and a nod to that reader who’d first recommended Rolex to him almost four years earlier. I think that was more important to Fleming. In this case, going no further than calling the watch a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” was, in fact, quite specific to him, more personal. His 1958 letter became notes for his 1963 novel (he hated to waste good material): On page 177 we see, “the Rolex transferred to [Bond’s] right, the bracelet clasped in the palm of his hand and round the fingers so that the face of the watch lay across his middle knuckles.”

    Unlike the Live and Let Die watch, there is no question that this piece is James Bond’s choice. He is concerned about its out-of-pocket cost. During the debriefing with M, in Chapter 20 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “Bond lifted his left wrist” to check the time. “Remembered that he no longer had a watch. That would certainly be allowed on expenses. He would get another one as soon as the shops opened after Boxing Day. Another Rolex? Probably. They were on the heavy side, but they worked. And at least you could see the time in the dark with those big phosphorous numerals.” We see Fleming’s Explorer I on Bond for the last time (ever) on page 241, when 007 “glanced at the new Rolex on his wrist.” Yet we still learn something: James Bond may continue wearing a watch after it becomes “old,” as his friend Felix Leiter once observed; but when it’s time for replacement, he chooses new.

    This first specific wristwatch chosen for Bond not only remains in current production as the model 114270, but its overall appearance remains true to the 1016 that Ian Fleming put on James Bond’s wrist in 1962. So what would it really mean to go “back to the original Fleming” and put Bond in an 114270 for 2009? I think it would symbolize a more discreet operative, more subtly able to transition from casino to combat — every bit as tough, but without advertising his Navy service with a watch that sticks out from his shirt cuff.

    Found: James Bond's Rolex

    February 2009 issue of WatchTime, featuring Dell Deaton’s “Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex”.

    Just prior to display of Fleming’s Rolex Explorer I at the Imperial War Museum, it was virtually all original. On February 13, 2008, a Rolex service center had its first opportunity to make an assessment. The movement had rust and had been damaged by water contamination. Its bezel, and caseback were scratched, its 5- and 11-o’clock lugs were “marked.” The crown was broken at the stem. The bracelet was strained, “clasp cracking at pin of blades.”

    I was told before the museum opening that someone raised concerns about “protecting” visitors from the radioactive material used to make its now-half-century-old dial luminescent. Stanchions and ropes were discussed as a way to keep the public at a safe distance. In the end, it was decided to replace the original dial that had illuminated so much of one great James Bond story.

    Still, this chronometer continues to serve as a tangible reminder that there is no James Bond without Ian Fleming. In this most personal way, James Bond was Ian Fleming. And his watch, the Rolex Explorer I, is the first, authentic James Bond watch.


    Dell Deaton is the creator-author of JamesBondWatches.com and guest curator for the “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibition, June 18, 2010 through April 30, 2011. He is a member of both the National Watch & Clock Association and American Marketing Association, and a recognized expert on Ian Fleming and James Bond horology. Previously, he was elected to a three-year term on the board of directors that governs the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, and served three terms on the editorial advisory board for Exhibitor Publications.

    Guest writer @ 2010-02-10
  5. CBn Competition: Win A James Bond 007 Colour Sketch By Artist Robert McGinnis

    CommanderBond.net has once again partnered with the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition to offer members the chance to win a James Bond 007 colour sketch absolutely free of charge.

    McGinnis is best known by Bond fans as the man behind the classic poster campaigns for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, and more. As previously reported on CBn, the following sketch accompanies the art prints that are part of the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition. Full details:

    This colour sketch can be obtained by ordering two or more of the art prints (which cost $260 / £159 each), but CBn members can win one for free!

    James Bond 007 Colour Sketch by Robert McGinnis

    This competition is open to all members of CommanderBond.net. You must be a registered member of the CBn Forums and answer the following question correctly to be eligible to win. Not yet a member of CBn? Register here now–it is free and only takes a minute!

    To enter, fill out the following questionnaire and send a Communiqué/Private Message on the CBn Forums to ‘CBn Competition’ (Subject: CBn McGinnis 3) by Midnight EST on 5 February 2010 (simply click on the link in this paragraph).

    1. Which of the following James Bond film posters featured the tagline: “His New Incredible Women… His New Incredible Enemies… His New Incredible Adventures…”

    1. From Russia with Love
    2. You Only Live Twice
    3. Live and Let Die
    4. Octopussy

    2. What is your CBn Forum Screen Name?
    3. What country/state do you live in?

    Devin Zydel @ 2010-01-16
  6. James Bond Complete Collection DVD Set

    A new edition of the James Bond Complete Collection DVD Set is now available to purchase at Amazon.co.uk.

    22 discs in total, this set includes all of the official James Bond films up to and including Daniel Craig’s 2008 adventure Quantum of Solace.

    The James Bond Complete Collection DVD Set retails for £119.99, although Amazon.co.uk currently has the title available at 27% off.

    James Bond 007 ‘Ultimate Edition’ DVDs
    Complete CommanderBond.net Coverage

    Latest news, front and back cover art, box cover art, worldwide release dates, menu and screen caps, new certificates, ordering details, special features, technical specs, special collections and more.

    Be sure to keep checking the CommanderBond.net main page and our Discussion Forums for all the latest James Bond on Blu-ray/DVD news.

    Devin Zydel @ 2009-12-28
  7. EXCLUSIVE CBn COMPETITION: WIN A ROBERT MCGINNIS-SIGNED JAMES BOND 007 ART PRINT

    CommanderBond.net has once again partnered with the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition to offer members the chance to win a signed James Bond 007 art print absolutely free of charge.

    McGinnis is best known by Bond fans as the man behind the classic poster campaigns for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, and more. As previously reported on CBn, the following art print is a part of the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition. Full details:

    • Limited edition of 500 copies each
    • Each print personally hand-numbered and signed by Robert McGinnis
    • Size: 17″ x 23″ (42,50 cm x 58 cm)
    • Four-colour printing on museum-quality paper
    • Professionally matted and ready to frame
    • Certificate of authenticity

    Each print normally sells for £159, ($260) but CBn members can win one absolutely free! The print being offered in this competition is:

    “A Man of Affairs” (click here to view)

    This competition is open to all members of CommanderBond.net. You must be a registered member of the CBn Forums and answer the following question correctly to be eligible to win. Not yet a member of CBn? Register here now–it is free and only takes a minute!

    To enter, fill out the following questionnaire and send a Communiqué/Private Message on the CBn Forums to ‘CBn Competition’ (Subject: CBn McGinnis 2) by Midnight EST on 8 January 2010 (simply click on the link in this paragraph).

    1. Which of the following James Bond film posters featured the tagline: “Has James Bond Finally Met His Match?”

    1. Diamonds are Forever
    2. For Your Eyes Only
    3. A View to a Kill
    4. Licence to Kill

    2. What is your CBn Forum Screen Name?
    3. What country/state do you live in?

    Devin Zydel @ 2009-12-17
  8. EXCLUSIVE CBn COMPETITION: WIN A ROBERT MCGINNIS-SIGNED JAMES BOND ART PRINT

    CommanderBond.net has once again partnered with the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition to offer members the chance to win a signed James Bond 007 art print absolutely free of charge.

    McGinnis is best known by Bond fans as the man behind the classic poster campaigns for Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, and more. As previously reported on CBn, the following art print is a part of the Robert McGinnis Hollywood Edition. Full details:

    • Limited edition of 500 copies each
    • Each print personally hand-numbered and signed by Robert McGinnis
    • Size: 17″ x 23″ (42,50 cm x 58 cm)
    • Forur-colour printing on museum-quality paper
    • Professionally matted and ready to frame
    • Certificate of authenticity

    Each print normally sells for £159, ($260) but CBn members can win one absolutely free! The print being offered in this competition is:

    “Fit to Kill” (click here to view)

    This competition is open to all members of CommanderBond.net. You must be a registered member of the CBn Forums and answer the following question correctly to be eligible to win. Not yet a member of CBn? Register here now–it is free and only takes a minute!

    To enter, fill out the following questionnaire and send a Communiqué/Private Message on the CBn Forums to ‘CBn Competition’ (Subject: CBn McGinnis 1) by Midnight EST on 18 December 2009 (simply click on the link in this paragraph).

    1. TRUE or FALSE: One of the poster taglines for Thunderball was “Here Comes The Biggest Bond Of All!”
    2. What is your CBn Forum Screen Name?
    3. What country/state do you live in?

    Devin Zydel @ 2009-11-27
  9. Limited-time Black Friday bargain on James Bond Blu-ray 10-pack

    Amazon.com is getting into the frenetic shopping spree spirit of Black Friday with some big savings on a number of DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

    James Bond 10-Disc Blu-ray Collection

    James Bond 10-Disc Blu-ray Collection

    One such sale item that will surely catch the eye of 007 fans in the recently released James Bond Blu-ray 10-pack. While this set retails for $199.98 and typically sells on the website for $159.99, fans will be able to order it for a limited time on 27 November for only $59.99.

    This deep price cut will only be in effect from 4:45am to 8:00am PST on Friday, 27 November. Note that there are limited quantities available. For full terms and conditions and a listing of all the other non-Bond films on sale, visit this Amazon.com page.

    The James Bond Blu-ray 10-pack brings together the following already available Bond films on the Blu-ray format: Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Die Another Day, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, For Your Eyes Only, Goldfinger, Moonraker, The World is not Enough and Quantum of Solace (2006’s Casino Royale is not included).

    CommanderBond.net will keep you updated with complete coverage on all the latest James Bond Blu-ray news—be sure to check out our Twitter feed as well.

    James Bond On Blu-ray
    Complete CommanderBond.net Coverage

    Latest news, cover artwork, ordering details, worldwide release dates, special features, technical specifications, special collections and more.

    Devin Zydel @ 2009-11-26
  10. US James Bond Blu-ray 10-disc set available now

    James Bond fans can now pick up the James Bond 10-pack Blu-ray Collection, which was released earlier this month in the United States.

    James Bond 10-Disc Blu-ray Collection

    James Bond 10-Disc Blu-ray Collection

    Retailing for $199.98, the James Bond 10-pack Blu-ray Collection includes the following already available Bond films: Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Die Another Day, From Russia With Love, Thunderball, For Your Eyes Only, Goldfinger, Moonraker, The World is not Enough and Quantum of Solace.

    No new titles are present and the only omission from the official series is 2006’s Casino Royale.

    As some fans will note, this exact same collection was available to purchase at Costco for a limited time earlier this year to mark the debut of Quantum of Solace on Blu-ray and DVD.

    Amazon.com currently features this box set at a discounted price of $159.99. Order online:

    CommanderBond.net will keep you updated with complete coverage on all the latest James Bond Blu-ray news—be sure to check out our Twitter feed as well.

    James Bond On Blu-ray
    Complete CommanderBond.net Coverage

    Latest news, cover artwork, ordering details, worldwide release dates, special features, technical specifications, special collections and more.

    Devin Zydel @ 2009-11-23
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