Written by: Dell Deaton, www.jamesbondwatches.com author-creator
The Living Daylights (1987) offers less than 10 seconds of focus on the wristwatches worn by Timothy Dalton in this, his first outing as James Bond. Most of this reveals little more than a hint of bezel and crown, or merely profile the bracelets. In all instances, the watch is adjunct to some larger action, seen briefly in passing motion.
Yet this is still enough for JamesBondWatches.com to identify the first Dalton-Bond watch as a thin-case TAG Heuer 980.031 Professional “Night-Dive” watch. For now we’ll call it 80-100% “certain,” short of having direct confirmation from Eon Productions (makers of the Bond films) – which, based on history, isn’t likely to be forthcoming. Furthermore, we’ll point collectors in a better direction to look for the second, silver-colored Bond watch Dalton wore later in The Living Daylights. That means equally important clues regarding where not to look (hint: Rolex-Switzerland isn’t the origin for this one).
Unlike a lot of what JamesBondWatches.com does in terms of providing bulletproof identifications, the research here is actually more akin to what broader historians do in search of details for horological artifacts associated with real-world people, in real-world circumstances. In other words, the substance upon which Ian Fleming created his 007 fantasies and the watches his protagonist wore throughout.
Now back to the world of James Bond, thirty-five years after Fleming first wrote of it: Why has the TAG Heuer watch affiliation been so hard to nail down?
James Bond in the mid-1980s
Heuer 980.031 watch similar to the one worn by Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights pre-title sequence.
Immediately before and after the two Timothy Dalton films, wristwatch product placements can be ascertained from references in the closing credits. But The Living Daylights includes no such acknowledgment; if these watches were supplied to the production from an original manufacturer, it would have to have been done according to some curious departure from a practice that recognized SEIKO in the film just prior (A View to a Kill, 1985), and Omega in the one that next followed Dalton’s pair (GoldenEye, 1995).
Most likely, then, James Bond watches for The Living Daylights were either purchased outright, or provided by a jeweler or another general properties supplier not further specified as the wristwatches source.
Watch selection for The Living Daylights also fell under the context of an intense and challenging effort to replace Roger Moore in the lead role that he’d held for the previous seven films, spanning a dozen years. Bond producer Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli described this in his autobiography as an urgent time. John Glen, director of both A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights wrote for his book, “Despite what you may have read elsewhere, we really didn’t have a clue who to cast as James Bond when Roger hung up his gun holster.” So, a very tight 25 months between premier dates here.
Even after Pierce Brosnan became heir-apparent after a variety of hopefuls were screen-tested during the summer of 1986, his deal fell through – leading to the casting of Timothy Dalton that August: Ten months before the June 1987 opening of The Living Daylights. Not much time to negotiate and close a product placement deal, which first assumes that wristwatches would have even ranked near the top of such an efforts list.
Broccoli wrote of the time that, “we not only needed a new 007, but an entirely fresh concept for the fifteenth James Bond film.” Further to this, Glen recalled, “Tim was a serious fan of the Ian Fleming novels and was keen to incorporate as much of Fleming’s original characterization as possible…. We had to be bold. Tim referred to the Fleming novels a lot and I could see he was preparing a characterization for Bond connoisseurs…. Tim’s input began with the first wardrobe meeting: when Bond wasn’t wearing the obligatory tux, he wanted a more casual look, perhaps more in keeping with the times.” Major changes. Many of them.
It’s been established that Fleming made very effective use of wristwatch choices to flesh out many important characters in his original stories. Hugo Drax wore a Patek Philippe in Moonraker. For Jed Midnight of the Shadow Syndicate, a “complicated gold watch on his wrist must have weighed nearly half a pound” in Goldfinger. And for Agent 007 himself, a “cheap Japanese wristwatch that Tiger had provided” told him the time during his undercover mission (disguised as a poor fisherman) to finally dispatch his arch-enemy Blofeld in You Only Live Twice.
SEIKO watches helped define the James Bond role for Roger Moore through most of his tenure. SEIKO Watch Corporation has confirmed directly to me in writing that it ceased to be a formal product placement partner with Eon Productions following A View to a Kill. So Dalton’s Bond would be fleshed out by some other time piece brand.
Which one? The door to the next 007 watch stood wide open.
Beginning research, May 2008
Early in 2008, I started an organized effort to identify the James Bond watch or watches worn by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights. It quickly became clear that at least two different watches were featured: The first appeared to have a cream-colored dial, black case, and black band; the second showed a silver-colored case on a silver-colored band. As an aid to research and collection, JamesBondWatches.com labeled the first “Gibraltar Watch,” the second, “Tangier Rooftop Watch.”
Glimpses of the Gibraltar Watch can be seen at various points in the pre-title sequence. But the best close-ups come during the parts where Bond has torn through the canvass roofing on the bad guy’s getaway vehicle, between approximately 5½ and 6½ minutes into the film (as viewed on the 2006 Ultimate Edition DVD). Here Dalton grabs the steering wheel with his left hand, wristwatch exposed below the sleeve, providing over seventy-five distinct frames that we stop-captured for closer analysis.
Several attributes are readily apparent. In addition to the Gibraltar Watch description above, Bond’s timekeeper shows dark hands and dark markers. It has a graduated bezel, black in color. Additionally, the bracelet is jubilee-style.
While it wouldn’t have made sense at this point to rule out some form of polymer or high-tech resin as a case material, the first most likely candidate here is something with PVD-coated surfaces.
“Physical Vapor Deposition,” or “PVD,” is a term used to describe a family of coating processes. The general purposes for PVD application are to improve performance in specific applications, namely, hardness and lubricity (reduction of friction). By way of perspective, the average relative micro-hardness of tool-steel measures 58 to 62 Rc (Rockwell scale), versus well-over 80 Rc for some PVD-coated materials applied using evaporation or sputtering technologies (based on current 2010 standards). Some process experts conservatively estimate that this can result in a life of two- to three-times that of an uncoated tool; extreme cases have shown ten-fold increases in performance versus comparable base metals sans coating.
As various watch alternatives might have been considered for 007 in 1986, this is very much the sort of description one might imagine as having appeal to the James Bond film producers. It’s in keeping with the cutting-edge direction that instructed horological selections that began with the Hamilton Pulsar featured in Live and Let Die fourteen years earlier, and the various quartz watch choices selected for many of the films that followed.
It also enhanced the new characterization of James Bond as anticipated from the outset of the Timothy Dalton casting. A tougher 007, as Michael G. Wilson, co-author and co-producer of The Living Daylights said in the September 1987 issue of Starlog magazine.
Heuer 980.031 Professional “Night Dive” watch, featuring luminescent dial, with PVD-coated case and jubilee bracelet; mint condition (new old stock).
But in order to identify this watch with only the visual information to which we had access, JamesBondWatches.com poured through leading printed references and began periodically posting different screen captures on various non-brand-specific Internet wristwatch forums. The only context given was that the watch in question was from the year 1986 or prior. The 980.031, of course, was in current production during this time frame, TAG Heuer a leading user of PVD coatings in wristwatch designs.
On Monday, May 19, 2008, I posted to the JamesBondWatches.com Blog an entry titled, “Was the first Dalton-Bond a Heuer?” In summary, the following was observed. “Shading makes it difficult at this point to say a great deal about the case and bracelet color, but the dial is clearly light. Overall, the images make the black 1000 series Heuer 980 diver with glow face a strong possibility. The second image I’ve posted would be consistent with that watch in a PVD body and matching bracelet.”
For the next twenty months, I sporadically shared images from among the seventy-five-plus screen-captures collected. No better alternative ever surfaced; nothing even close. At the same time, arguments favoring reference 980.031 produced by the company now known as TAG Heuer grew increasingly persuasive.
Serious analysis of TAG Heuer watches
During the first week of January, 2010, JamesBondWatches.com formed a study group with David Chalmers and Paul Gavin to critically test the Heuer-Bond watch theory. Chalmers, based in Hong Kong, runs Calibre11.com, “a website dedicated to both the Vintage Heuer watches from the 1960-1980 period, as well as the new TAG Heuers of today.” Gavin, in the United Kingdom, collects Heuer watches focusing on 1964 to 1984, and includes among his current projects an effort to extensively catalogue Heuer and TAG Heuer diver watches. He has just launched HeuerWorld.com to facilitate ongoing research into these tool pieces.
Neither of these men was predisposed to name TAG Heuer the first newly identified addition to any list of James Bond watches since Omega took on the mantle with GoldenEye in 1995. They’re watch guys, not 007 fans. Further to this, I actually held off for a bit in our initial discussions before revealing even the possibility that our work might involve a potential James Bond connection.
Although consistent with the 980.031, the Timothy Dalton Gibraltar Watch from The Living Daylights “could” have been seen as a 980.031.60 reference. The former has a standard diver’s bezel: With numbers on the tens, major indices between each of those increments, and further marked for each minute between zero and fifteen; these increase around the clockwise direction. The 980.031.60 features a countdown bezel on which all sixty minutes are marked, numbers are shown at each five-minute increment, and numbers ascend in counter-clockwise rotation.
In one of the earliest of what would turn out to be a series of invaluable side-by-side comparisons produced for our team review, Paul Gavin identified the Gibraltar Watch bezel as that of a standard diver’s configuration. This eliminated the 980.031.60 from further consideration. No surprise; it’s also the much rarer one.
By the way, for those who collect 007 (watch) trivia, we can confirm that the time shown on this Dalton-Bond wristwatch is 3:30, with the sweep second-hand pointing to the 12 o’clock position.
Unfortunately, the position of these hands presents serious problems in key areas of further differentiation among reference 980.031 options including the brand logo.
In 1985, a company by the name of Techniques d’Avant Garde (“TAG”) bought an established Swiss watchmaker with a history dating back to the late 1800s, founded by Edouard Heuer and his sons Jules-Edouard and Charles-Auguste. The result was what became known as TAG Heuer by the time pre-production began on The Living Daylights. Even before the merger, Heuer had produced a number of dial variations for its 980.031 diving watch. Some simply showed the “Heuer” logo below the 12 o’clock position; others had added the number “1000” just below the name.
TAG Heuer 980.031 wristwatch, evidencing typical PVD wear, bracelet stretch, and aged dial coloring (this sample is in very good condition).
With the advent of TAG Heuer, a re-branded 980.031 was produced with the “TAG Heuer” logo, otherwise indistinguishable from the “Heuer” version it replaced. But distribution channel queues and indeterminate production change-over date records suggest that the Gibraltar Watch – which JamesBondWatches.com now calls the “Gibraltar Heuer” – is equally as likely to have branded with either logo. Therefore, the dial on the Gibraltar Heuer at this point can be narrowed no further than to one of perhaps two to four variations (mostly differentiated by small changes to text and placement details).
Some Heuer reference 980.031 wristwatches had filled 6, 9, and 12 o’clock markers. The aforementioned Gavin analysis, however, clearly shows that the watch worn by Timothy Dalton as James Bond had open markers at these positions.
Conversely, some of these watches showed date windows with black numbers against white backgrounds; others had white numbers against black backgrounds. The note made above about the time showing as 3:30 puts the hour-hand in a position to obscure meaningful attempts at reaching certainty on this question for the James Bond Gibraltar Heuer. Similarly, the 12 o’clock second-hand position adds to the problem of calling the logo “definitely Heuer” versus “definitely TAG Heuer.”
Finally, many 980-series Heuer watches were produced in two different case thicknesses. One is approximately 30% thicker than the other, crystal-to-protruding-caseback. The thicker case features crown guards that more fully surround the winding crown than does its less-hefty brother. Examination of available profile images showing the watch on Dalton’s wrist clearly indicate the thinner, i.e., 10 mm O.D., case version.
The first TAG Heuer Bond watch
Both David Chalmers and Paul Gavin expressed concern during our research about the relatively small bezel diameter of the TAG Heuer 980.031 relative to current style trends. It didn’t seem “big enough” to be a James Bond watch.
So we took a close look at Timothy Dalton wearing the Rolex Submariner Date in Licence to Kill (1989), the second of Dalton’s two outings as James Bond. This watch has been clearly identified by model, if not number, and thus it can thus be used as a frame-of-reference on the actor’s wrist. The Sub Date bezel diameter is 8% larger than that of the Gibraltar Heuer, and it’s well-over 6% longer lug-to-lug. That gave us the comparative fit for which we were looking to validate the Heuer.
Short of having original detailed records from Eon Productions, the thin-case Heuer or TAG Heuer 980.031 Professional black PVD “Night-Dive” watch with phosphorescent dial, uni-directional turning bezel with click-stops, 38mm case (excluding crown), and water-resistant to 660 feet, is the JamesBondWatches.com 80-100% certainty determination for the Gibraltar Watch worn by Timothy Dalton as 007 in The Living Daylights.
Equally, though subtly different possibilities include the version with Heuer-only branding, and with either white-on-black or black-on-white date window numbering. Markers must be open at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions (actually, they are filled with Tritium), with or without “1000” below the logo, and either “1000” or “Quartz” above the depth-rating near the 6 o’clock dial position.
Use of its watches in The Living Daylights is no surprise to TAG Heuer itself. Last month, David Chalmers contacted several current and former Heuer and TAG Heuer employees in the United States and in Europe with fundamentals of the research presented here.
TAG Heuer confirmed that it was already aware of the arguable James Bond connection to its brand, but declined to “officially” confirm which watches were used.
For James Bond fans with interests beyond the lead character, Chalmers, Gavin, and I believe that the TAG Heuer 980.031 is worn by two other actors in The Living Daylights. Starting approximately 3 minutes, 16 seconds into the film, it is evidenced on the imposter (Carl Rigg) as he clips the Smiert Spionam tag to the climbing rope of a Double-O agent who meets a sad demise. Later, proximal to 2 hours, 52 seconds, Felix Leiter (John Terry) raises his left hand to his ear in contact with Bond – showing the audience that he, Leiter, is also wearing a 980.031 TAG Heuer wristwatch.
It’s credible, one might suppose, that James Bond and Felix Leiter could be wearing virtually the same type of watch as field operatives. But the imposter on Gibraltar, too? Sure. Recall at just after 3 minutes into the pre-title sequence, the imposter’s clothing closely resembles that of the three men deployed from MI6. This is clearly intended to fool the NATO exercise guards on the military installation, which it does, as we see when the imposter is shot with what appears to be pink paint, as if merely another player in the exercise.
Two of the added challenges to identification of this James Bond Heuer lie in the watch itself.
In a marketplace where appearance is important to the trade of aging pieces, these watches not only take a step back to the shine of comparable stainless steel horology, but also more readily show their age in PVD wear. Many of the few watches that do come up for sale have cases where the coating has degraded to a point that leaves them looking more silver than black; a large number no longer include their original bracelets. Mid-sized diver watches such as this are not that popular among collectors anyway.
Pricing is another factor. Used reference 980.031 Heuers and TAG Heuers currently sell for between $250.00 and $500.00 (U.S.). That’s a far cry from Omega and Rolex values. Over the years, it’s possible that owners of these TAG Heuers simply haven’t seen them as worth the effort to market as vintage.
There’s a final note of irony in this watch as it relates to the original Ian Fleming short story that provided the impetus for scripting The Living Daylights. That brief adventure was first published in the June 1962 issue of ARGOSY magazine under the title, “Berlin Escape.” There, on page 99, “…James Bond glanced down at the luminous dial of his watch.” How nicely consistent these words are with what we now know of the actual watch that Timothy Dalton wore for his introduction as Agent 007.
But what of the second James Bond watch in that film, the “Tangier Rooftop Watch”? Look for those details in “Introducing the TAG Heuer James Bond Wristwatch: Part II,” coming up next.
That article also completes the indications that point to a dominant, if not exclusive TAG Heuer association with The Living Daylights.
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.