Eric has asked me to repost the tidied up version of the messy discussion that took place the other week. After the thread was locked I posted this on two other forums and there was a great deal of discussion which has led to quite a few changes... and a much, much longer article.
To get the easy stuff out of the way, here is a list of some of the watches he wears in the movies. This is not exhaustive but it does give the central Bond Watch of each film, unless someone wants to prove to me that I am wrong.
Dr. No……………………………………Rolex Submariner..1
From Russia With Love ………………….Rolex Submariner..2
Goldfinger ………………………………..Rolex Submariner..3
You Only Live Twice …………………….No watch seen
Thunderball ……………………………….Rolex Submariner..4 Brietling... 1
On Her Majesty's Secret Service ………….Rolex Submariner..5 Rolex Chronograph...1
Diamonds Are Forever …………………… No watch seen
The Man With the Golden Gun …………...Rolex Submariner..6
Live & Let Die …………………………….Rolex Submariner..7 Pulsar ... 1
The Spy Who Loved Me …………………..Seiko ..1
For Your Eyes Only ……………………….Seiko..2
A View to a Kill ……………………………Seiko..4
The Living Daylights ………………………Rolex Submariner..8
Licence to Kill ……………………………...Rolex Submariner..9
Goldeneye ………………………………….Omega Seamaster Professional..1
Tomorrow Never Dies ……………………..Omega Seamaster Professional..2
The World is Not Enough ………………….Omega Seamaster Professional..3
Die Another Day …………………………...Omega Seamaster Professional..4
Casino Royale……………………………….Omega Planet Ocean..1 Omeega Seamaster Professional..4
Quantum of Solace………………………….Omega Planet Ocean..2
So, assuming I can count: that's nine to Rolex, seven to Omega four to Seiko, one to Brietling and one to Pulsar. So, that’s the films dealt with. That was easy. Sorry Omega fans, the fact is that Rolex is the cinematic Bond manufacture by nine to seven. Now we know that Seiko and Omega have Bond watches for the simple reason that the companies in question paid Eon a vast sum of money to place their products on Bond’s wrist. As the shift from the nasty Seiko quartz to the SeMP and then to the PO demonstrates nicely, Bond’s wrist has become little more than a display mounting for whichever company will front up the dosh.
Don't get me wrong, I love my SeMP. I just don't see the Bond connection as terribly real.
However, another fact is that Rolex have rather publicly not paid Eon or the Broccoli family a penny and yet one specific watch from their stable is the de facto Bond Watch: the Rolex Submariner. The Rolex Submariner is, without doubt, the default Bond watch. There is even a story that, when asked, Rolex declined to give Eon a Rolex to furnish Bond’s wrist and that, on the set, Cubby Broccoli took off his own personal Rolex Submariner and offered it to Sean Connery. I have tried to find some confirmation of this story but it starts to look like an urban myth. However, the assumption for the first nine Bond films, before his wrist was hired out to the highest bidder, is that Bond wore as Submariner.
For the curious, these two links are pretty interesting:
So much for the films, what about the books?
Well this looks pretty simple too. There are a couple of mentions of Rolex scattered through the books, but the most detailed description of the watch that Bond wore comes chapters fifteen and sixteen of the 1963 classic: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) Bond’s watch is described as a:
“Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer on an expanding metal bracelet”. Bond then uses the watch in question as a knuckle duster, breaking the crystal and, immediately afterwards, is considering what to replace it with. As the quote goes:
"A Rolex? Probably. They were on the heavy side, but they work. And at least you could see the time in the dark with those big phosphorous numerals".
So, how many heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometers with big phosphorus numerals are there?
Well, popular culture tells us there is one, the Rolex Submariner This has been the received wisdom for as long as I can remember. However, I'm not sure the case is as open and shut as it seems...
Initially I had two problems:
one: the idea of a Submariner on an expanding bracelet seemed a bit odd. However, there’s no accounting for taste. Especially from a man who habitually wore short sleeved shirts with a bow tie! I have also been assured that such a bracelet was in fact offered as an option by Rolex in the correct time frame.
It looked like this:
Two: the modern Submariner has either round spots of lume (or indices) but no ‘big phosphorus numerals’. For this reason, I initially thought that the Submariner could not be the watch Fleming described. However, as Neil.C pointed out to me, for the first four or five years, All Submariners sold in the UK came with three large luminous numerals at three, six and nine. In addition this apparently remained an optional extra until the nineteen seventies.
So here is an early example. This one doesn’t say chronometer but slightly later ones did…
As a result, it is pretty clear that when you get right down to it, there is really only one watch that fulfils all of those criteria: the early Rolex Submariner. So it looks like case closed.
However, before Neil pointed this out to me I had gone off on a very different track and one I have never seen mentioned before anywhere. There is another watch that fulfils all of those criteria apart from the ‘being on the heavy side’ one. The Rolex Explorer I.
Here’s what an early one looks like:
http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgur ... n%26sa%3DN
The problem is that it is an undeniable fact that no one today would describe the Explorer as ‘being on the heavy side’. The Explorer started life at 34mm and almost immediately evolved to the 'mere' 36mm of today. However, reflecting upon this, I realised that we are not talking about today’s tastes, we are talking about the tastes of people way back in 1962.
So, in 1962 would the Explorer I have appeared heavy? Well, let’s just say tastes have changed a bit since the Second World War. The easiest way to demonstrate just how radically things have changed is through a gratuitous photograph, so here is:
This is a range of military and 'gentlemens' watches from 1939 to the present day. As you can see the trend is one of constant growth, layer by layer, from the smallest, a 29mm Girard Perregaux to a fairly chunky 39mm Poljot and beyond. By 1962 a complication free 34mm watch would be a large watch and, compared to the average, it would appear very chunky indeed. Of course, there will always be exceptions and, for example, specialist 'tool' watches such as the Submariner Divers watch or Speedmaster Chronograph would just have been considered stupidly large at the time.
(Some of the watches here are later homage models by the same maker: the Hamilton, O&W and 1-MWC and yes, the FL has had a vile redial)
Thus the fact that the Explorer, now at 36mm, looks gracile today does not detract from the fact that in 1962 at 34 or 35mm it would have been considered a large, even heavy, watch. I do not claim certainty. However, I think there is a good case for claiming that this puts the Explorer right back in the frame for being the original Bond watch. So now there are two suspects: the Explorer and the Submariner.
In addition, Simonk over at TZ-UK suggested a third possibility: the Rolex GMT Master. However, it rapidly became clear that, the GMT is a non starter,
Initially, the GMT looks like a live contender: as we can see from the excellent article below, the watch fits all the criteria bar the ‘phosphorus numerals’
However, as we have seen Rolex offered the Phosphorus numerals as an optional extra on the Sub and thus it seems quite likely that they would have on the GMT too. In addition the GMT was also available on the Rolex elasticated strap as can be seen from the article above . However, I argue that the GMT is disqualified on textual grounds…
In Thunderball, Felix Leiter is demonstrating a camera that has a built in Geiger counter. Any reading on the Geiger counter is passed on to Felix’s watch and causes the second hand to move. This leads to the following exchange:
This paragraph is clearly referring to the Rolex GMT Master. As we discovered in the article above, a batch of GMT Masters used luminous material in which the tritum, (which produces exclusively fairly harmless Alpha radiation) had been contaminated with Strontium (which produces extremely harmful Beta radiation). There is no other watch I can find that had this problem.'You're still wearing that old wristwatch of yours with the big phosphorous numerals....Put your watch right up against the counter. See! The sweephand is getting all excited. Move your hand away and it loses interest. It's those phosphorous numerals of yours. Remember the other day one of the watch companies withdrew an air-pilot's watch from the market because the Atomic Energy people got fussy? Same thing. They thought this particular pilot's watch, with the big phosphorous numerals, was giving off too much radiation to be good for the wearer.'
So, a clear reference to the GMT, however, lets go back and read this carefully:
(My italics)Remember the other day one of the watch companies withdrew an air-pilot's watch from the market because the Atomic Energy people got fussy? Same thing. They thought this particular pilot's watch, with the big phosphorous numerals, was giving off too much radiation to be good for the wearer.'
This is clearly a reference to the Strontium contaminated dial on the original GMT. However it is crucial to note that Leiter is not referring to Bond's watch, he is referring to a different watch, an air pilot's watch, Bond's watch is referred to as 'that old Wristwatch'. Fleming is having Lieter refer to two different watches: Bond's and the pilots' watch. The inference seems clear to me: Bond's watch is not a Rolex GMT, it is some older watch with big phosphorus (radium or tritium) numerals.
It seems clear to me that, when Leiter says 'same thing' that he is talking about the radioactivity of the numerals, not the same watch, otherwise he would surely comment on the fact that Bond wears the same watch.
For a moment, it looked like the GMT was moving into the frame, however, to my mind, this exchange actually disqualifies the GMT from being the Bond watch!
More importantly, it supports the idea that Ian Fleming had a particular watch in mind for Bond's wrist. It also gives us two further clues: by 1965 Bond's watch was considered old and the watch’s numerals were either tritium or radium.
This introduces one final contender, the Rolex Bubbleback. These were much older and far smaller watches at 31mm but they did fulfil all of the criteria apart from the minor detail that no one could ever accuse them of ‘being on the heavy side’. Personally I think that this fact alone excludes them from consideration. They simply were not remotely heavy in any way and there was no period in which they were anything more than a small average.
So, having excluded the GMT and the Bubbleback we are left with two contenders and no further way to distinguish them. Once again, Simonk had an excellent suggestion:
Now this seems to swing the balance in favour of the Submariner, however, I would argue that this this is not such an obvious killer quote for two reasons:
Now, in Live and Let Die (1954) Bond swims a considerable distance underwater at night (with oxygen tanks) to attach a limpet mine to the hull of the 'Secataur'. Once directly underneath the ship he pauses and :-
The submariner 6204 was launched in 1954 and had a depth rating of 600ft. Were I a gambling man I would put next month's rent on that being what Fleming had in mind.'He looked at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was three minutes past eleven o'clock'.
Firstly, while Live and let Die was published in 1954 it was written between April 1952 and some point in 1953. In other words prior to the release of the 6204. However, while this excludes the 6204 it doesn’t exclude the 6202, with a slightly less extreme depth rating. I think that being able to read the watch underwater at night is a red herring; to be in the frame the watch would have to have 'phosphorus numerals'. In other words whether it was a Sub or an Explorer, it would have the same face and the same luminosity.
The real question is; could the Explorer realistically be used for shallow scuba diving? I think the answer is a clear yes: the whole point of the Explorer was that it was, and is, a go anywhere, do anything watch. While it was only rated to 50 meters at the time, this was not the modern 50 meters static but 50 practical meters.
I am reliably informed that, with its screw down crown, most people consider it to be 100m capable today as the way we measure depth capability has changed, the Explorer has moved without any major change from a 50m to 100M rating. The fact is that the Explorer has been to some fairly inhospitable places. I'm pretty sure that shallow transitional Scuba diving would not phase it - in the same way as I am confident enough to use a Speedmaster Pro while sea and even surf kayaking and that's only rated to 30m (admittedly only once and only to be able to say I had...)
The bottom line is that an Explorer in good condition would be capable of shallow scuba diving without harm. In addition I think that the conceit of using an Explorer as a single 'gentleman's watch that does everything' fits both Fleming and Bond's character to a tee.
As far as I am aware, there are no other textual clues as to the watch that Bond wore. As far as the books go then, we are left with only two possibilities: The Explorer and the Submariner. There is nothing left to help us to work it out.
Then it struck me: Fleming modelled much of Bond's taste and wardrobe upon his own, He even had basically the same rank and back story as his character. He was famously rather vain and would have been conceited enough to imagine Bond as wearing the same watch as he did.
A good example of Fleming equipping Bond out of his own experience. Is Bond’s original gun. Many have commented upon the inappropriateness of the Beretta 418 to Bond's line of work. It transpires that Fleming chose this weapon as it was the one he was issued when he worked in Naval Intelligence.
Bond's eventual weapon of choice: the Walther PPK, only emerged after a fan convinced Fleming that the Beretta was more of a lady's choice and the PPK was a far more appropriate weapon.
Several people have suggested that Fleming modelled Bond on someone he knew, however no one seems to be able to agree upon whom. Having chased down the quarter dozen people who are apparently 'the real' James Bond, it becomes quite clear that Fleming drew from a number of sources in putting together this composite character. How can I be certain of this? Well, in this NYT review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/19/books ... ref=slogin
Fleming is directly quoted:
The key point is that he only appears to have asked for, or leant upon, the experience of others when his own was clearly lacking. Clearly in the field of horology his experience and knowledge was quite sufficient.Bond himself, Fleming said, was “a compound of all the secret agents and commandos I met during the war,” but his tastes — in blondes, martinis “shaken, not stirred,” expensively tailored suits, scrambled eggs, short-sleeved shirts and Rolex watches — were Fleming’s own. But not all the comparisons were ones the author liked to encourage. Bond, he said, had “more guts than I have” as well as being “more handsome.”
This got me wondering: what watch did Ian Fleming himself wear?
That's a real question with a real answer... and I think I have found it!
Let’s be clear, Fleming wore quite a few different watches, including, for example, what looks like an early forties (30 or 32mm) military Omega. However, sitting in the National Portrait Gallery in London there is a rather nice portrait of the man himself. It was painted, I have been informed, (as you all know) in 1962 as the cover picture for OHMSS.
In other words the watch in the picture is the watch that Fleming would have been wearing when he wrote the book and the watch he chose to wear for the publicity picture used on the cover of the book. Interesting…
Here it is.
http://picasaweb.google.com/charlesvill ... 8949900418
And he's wearing a watch...
http://picasaweb.google.com/charlesvill ... 7647106866
Now, this isn't going to be any old watch. We already know that Fleming cared about watches. Well, when being painted for posterity, and the cover of his new book, He would be wearing his best. Wouldn't you? More to the point, the publicity painting would have been done while OHMSS was more than a little on his mind
Well, That looks to me like an Explorer I...
Lets see, first things first: it is definitely not a Submariner unless the bezel has fallen off and it has shrunk! That's a 34mm watch or thereabouts...
Here are some photos to help show this. Unfortunately Fleming has significantly larger wrists than me. Mine are only seven inch and his were eight or more but this helps to give an idea:
34mm oyster on the Rolex expanding bracelet. (note the reflection on the bezel for later consideration...)
36mm Explorer homage
Even on my slim wrists the 34mm looks the closest, Someone posted a 34mm on a similar size wrist to Fleming's elsewhere and it was spot on.
Moving on, Fleming's watch is not on a standard fixoflex style expanding bracelet but it does look like it’s on a bracelet a whole lot like the Rolex expanding bracelet. What else? Well I think I see the give-away ball of 'Mercedes' hands and a mixture of numerals and markers.
There's no date and there is a bunch of writing in exactly the right place (for an Explorer) at the bottom. The writing at the top is missing, but I think that the artist would have missed it out as it would have undermined the hands and made the watch look too busy.
So, as a reminder, here’s an Explorer from the correct period:
Unfortunately it is a military version with the tritium symbol rather than the chronometer status in the lower half of the dial.
so here's another one:
and here is the modern version:
There simply isn't any other watch that combines the three luminous numbers, the Mercedes hands, the size, the bracelet, the writing in exactly the right place and a complete lack of the black numbered bezel found on the Sub. Initially, I thought I had absolutely nailed the watch as this one:
The Rolex 'Explorer I' Oyster Perpetual Chronometer.
However, after much discussion and debate there is a problem: go back and look at the bezel in the painting carefully. It’s gold! Now I couldn’t quite believe this when it was first pointed out. It actually looks as if half is golden and half is silver. As a result several suggestions came up: I thought it was a reflection of Fleming’s golden tan. Others thought it was the reflection of a table. However, having discussed this with a professional artist they have pointed out that due to the lighting a gold bezel would have appeared just as it does. As you can imagine, this rather threw the cat amongst the pigeons as the idea of an Explorer with a gold bezel sounds downright odd.
However, as we are talking about a Rolex here and Rolex are famous for slapping gold on even the most inappropriate applications, I decided to go hunting for pre 1960s gold bezeled Explorers....
And guess what?
Buried in this:
article, is the revelation that:
(my italics)We have even seen a gold capped Explorer with a Tiffany dial with the reference no 5510. The earliest one of these to turn up has been a model 6298, having the manufacture date of ii1 53, and bearing the phrase "Self Winding" more often seen on Tudor watches. It seems that these watches were made in the 1950s or 1960s when Rolex was unsure if the Explorer would succeed or not, and attempted to increase the popularity of the watch by broadening the line. When the mainstream Explorer began to sell it seems that these "piggyback" models were withdrawn. This is one more example of the bizarre fact that it is a company's failures that become the most desirable and valuable items in any collection.
This inspired me to keep searching and then, paydirt:
A whole new concept: the 'Dress Explorer' with gold bezels or even gold cases:
So we have another possibility: that the watch in the picture is a 'Dress Explorer'. I have struggled to find a picture or description of a Dress Explorer that didn't have a Tiffany Dial instead of the standard Explorer dial. Did such watches exist? I think that the existence of this painting alone is evidence that they do. After all I was inspired to go hunting for a gold capped explorer by this very picture. And lo and behold, they exist. Whether they would have been a factory standard watch or an optional extra is another matter. Would it be credible to think of Fleming taking such an option. Yes, I think that the idea of the combination of rugged and luxury is exactly to his taste.The second variation are the "dress Explorers." These are standard Oyster Perpetuals in steel or gold with white or black non-Explorer dials but signed, "Explorer". Seen both with and without date these watches seem to have been predominately in the North American Market.
*edit* The idea of the watch in the picture having a gold bezel has attracted the most comment. To be honest, I don't mind either way. If you see gold in the picture then you know that it can be explained by the existence of the Dress Explorer. However, if you do not then it simply doesn't need explaining. This is not a central part of my hypothesis.
Now, The Dress Explorer was a short lived variation which covered a roughly ten year period from 1953 to 1963, when OHMSS was published. However, most of this decade was taken up with a variation of the Explorer which we can comfortably exclude: the 6150. This is out for two reasons, firstly, it was merely a precision and not a chronometer and secondly, it was a 36mm watch. Thus both the text and the size of the watch on Fleming’s wrist exclude it. Thus from 1954 to 1959 the Explorer was the wrong size and not marked as a chronometer. However, in 1959 the 6610 was launched with the 1030 movement, this watch was also a 36mm, as were the next two models, which bring us virtually to the nineteen nineties.
Thus there is really only one possibility: the 6350 Explorer. As far as I can discover, this officially existed from 1953 to 1954, but clearly, in Proto Explorer version, existed several years earlier. This is both the first Explorer variation and also, for some, the ‘big bubbleback’. Now while this watch did in fact have a bulged back I think it makes more sense to call it a Proto Explorer as it has far more in common with the very first 34mm Explorer than it has with the 31mm Bubblebacks.
As is common knowledge, just as a Rolex was aboard Apollo 13 but not actually used to time a burn, a proto Explorer was worn on Everest, but only by Tenzing, the Sherpa. This Rolex was a gift from the Rolex equipped Swiss expedition of 1952 led by Raymond Lambert. (They got to within 200 meters of the summit but had to turn back.) Even this was a reserve of a reserve as Tenzing rather famously wore two wristwatches, the Rolex of the Lambert expedition and the Smiths of the Hillary one.
This raises an amusing possibility: had the Lambert expedition succeeded while equipped with the Rolex 6350 then the Explorer would, in all probability have been dubbed the 'Everest'. As it was, the Hillary expedition, officially equipped with Smiths Imperials, succeeded. Immediately after the success of the expedition Smiths renamed these rather fine 25 jewel automatic watches the Smiths Everest. Rolex renamed the Proto Explorer the Explorer. It could so easily have been the other way around!
http://www.idolreplicas.com/replicawatc ... xplorer-i/
The Smiths Everest:
As can be seen from Sherpa Tenzing’s watch, this early Proto Explorer had straight hands rather than the later Mercedes hands. This variation was also marked ‘officially certified chronometer’. However, other 6350 have the Mercedes hands and they were certainly an option offered by Rolex for the Proto Explorer.
So this line of thinking draws one towards the 6350 proto Explorer or Big Bubbleback if you prefer, much as worn by Tenzing on Everest. In 1952 and 1953 As such, it's not actually yet an Explorer, while it looks an awful lot like one as all it is missing is the word 'explorer' on the dial. This would explain why Fleming doesn't use the word 'Explorer' when he effectively reads off the contents of the dial of his watch - I know he doesn't say 'officially certified' but that would have unbalanced the prose - this I know about! I'm an expert in unbalanced prose.
So, The 6350 didn’t become the Explorer proper until 1953 when it had done a bit of exploring! However, we know the Proto Explorer existed in 1951 as it equipped the 1952 Everest expedition of Lambert.
So, now we know what Fleming wore on the very cover of OHMSS and almost certainly wore while writing the book.
The Rolex 6350 (Dress) (Proto) Explorer I (with a smooth gold bezel).
The brackets highlight the non essential features. If you see gold in the picture then it is a dress if not, not. Likewise, if it was pre 1953 ghen it was a proto Explorer, if not an actual explorer. Anyone who wants to be pedantic can still call the 6350 ‘Big Bubbleback’ if they prefer.
So that's what Fleming wore, But is this the watch that Fleming imagined onto the arm of his creation? Well, that’s the question. Personally I think that now we have identified the watch that Fleming wore everything slips into place nicely.
Think about the psychology of the man. He imagined Bond into the clothes he wore, had him drink the drinks he liked, armed him with his service pistol, gave him a similar back story and identical rank. He even named one of the Bond books (Goldeneye) after his own house!
It seems clear to me, and to Fleming himself, that James Bond was, to some degree, Ian Fleming’s alter ego and that Fleming, apparently a fairly vain man with refined tastes, would have wanted his creation, like himself, to have the very best of everything. Thus, I find it hard to believe that Bond's watch would be anything less than the very watch Fleming was wearing as he wrote OHMSS and chose to wear on the publicity pictures for that very book.
In other words, it is my contention that James Bond wore exactly the watch that his creator wore. Thus, if you want the original Bond Watch, as worn by Ian Fleming and thus, in an act of hubris, imagined onto the wrist of James Bond, you want an early, or proto, Rolex 6350 (Dress) Explorer I on an original Rolex expanding metal bracelet.