Bond. James Bond. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Say those three words anywhere in the world and you’ll be understood. Dreamed up by Ian Fleming in 1952, the character still pulses with vigor and swagger 60 years after he came to life on the page in 1953. For purists, Bond” is dated to 1952, when Fleming started writing his first draft of Casino Royale, at Goldeneye in Jamaica – to deal with the stress of having just gotten married, he initially said.
Hollywood knew the playboy Agent 007 with a gift for wooing women and outwitting the bad guys in spectacular fashion would enchant the silver screen. Bond is so compelling he bridges generations. Witness the planned release of Skyfall, the 23rd film in series, on November 12 in the United States.
Part of what makes Bond films so much fun are the contraptions cooked up by Q for Bond to use out in the field when he’s up against the bad guys. Everyday objects such as pens and cars get tricked out, becoming weapons in Bond’s arsenal. What remains an enduring feature and an absolute necessity in Bond’s toolbox is his watch. One of the most enduring images is Bond, played by Sean Connery, dappered out in a tux and lighting his cigarette. Highlighted on his wrist is a Rolex Submariner. Bond’s watches aren’t just for timekeeping, Q turns them into gadgets that help Bond during his mission, whether it’s romancing women or escaping from a dire pickle. Remember Bond using his watch to magnetically unzip a woman’s dress in To Live and Let Die? Or in Or in GoldenEye to trigger explosive charges planted around Trevelyan’s lair
While OMEGA now owns the sponsorship rights to Bond films, Rolex seems to always be associated with the Bond character, perhaps because Rolex is the only brand Fleming specifically stated in his books. But, there are lots of other Bond watches that play an integral part in the plots over the years. Interestingly, the watches used by Bond were always intended as a expendable item by Fleming, an irony since Bond watches are so collectible.
If there’s any person on the planet capable of accurately discussing the relationship between James Bond and his watches, it’s Dell Deaton. He is the reigning authority on the timekeeper’s used by Agent 007. On his site James Bond Watches, he not only keeps track of all the watches employed by Bond, he also gives insight into their significance. In a collecting world where an authentic James Bond watch used in the movie can bring huge sums, provenance is a crucial issue. It’s unfortunately too easy for people to claim they have the genuine article when in fact it isn’t. Meticulously researching provenance, Deaton keeps it honest and informative. Like a possessed detective, he tracks down every shred of evidence of a Bond watch. I had the honor of befriending Deaton. In this series of interviews, he talks about how his interest in Bond watches began, the consequence of watch sponsorships and the impact of the watch sponsorships in the movies, among other topics. I posed some tough questions to Deaton and he answers with great candor. I turn you over to him now.
What started your love affair with James Bond watches?
My dad’s father, my Papa Deaton, got me interested in watches; pure focus on accuracy and durability, which he saw as having taken the ultimate leap forward with the onset of the Quartz Revolution.
The James Bond side came through Ian Fleming’s original books — which, in addition to providing great plots and characters, appealed to my admittedly juvenile interest in reading something I thought I wasn’t supposed to in the late 1960s.
Those two worlds came together in the 1973 movie Live and Let Die, when Roger Moore made his LED digital wristwatch light up with bright red digits by pressing a button. The fact that all this took place while James Bond was in bed with an attractively curvaceous foreign agent — well, that simply added all the more appeal.
How did you become one of the definitive authorities on this rather esoteric subject?
Is there more than one? Other people are seriously vying for the title?
Speaking strictly for my own path, I think it starts with having been among the first people — if not the only person, at least in the beginning — to critically define the label “James Bond watch.” I wanted to move away from having “James Bond” used as a sorta loose shorthand to describe a variety of watches or try to extend a product line. I wanted to create a discipline where fans and investment-oriented collectors could more seriously rely on the name to identify exact, legitimate, screen-worn and officially licensed wristwatches.
Additionally, I took the view that we should at least be looking hard for original documentation and people who were there. Or as close to those sources as possible, given all the years that continue to pass.
“James Bond’s watch” is big business. I’ve served as an objective center in that — which means earning and continuing to deserve the trust of buyers, sellers, and others simply looking for the most accurate data available on a complete history of the James Bond legacy.
Anyone can copy down a list of supposed James Bond watches and claim they’re telling you something. But unless they can tell you how they know what they claim to know, where they got their information, what the controversies are in calling their identification of this watch or that, they’re no better than a fifth or sixth generation photocopy of Rembrandt. Their intelligence is akin to the last Michael Keaton character clone in the movie Multiplicity.
My work stands apart from all that cut-and-pasting. It’s detailed, names names for numerous original sources that I’ve personally ferreted out, and treats all James Bond watch brands with passion and respect.
How do you know I discovered the literary James Bond Rolex? Because Ian Fleming’s stepdaughter says so, and she was there when he wrote about it. How do you know I created the first confirmed list of James Bond watches supplied by Seiko UK to the Eon Productions movies? Because Mark Mills, FBHI, says so, and he was Seiko UK liaison to the filmmakers throughout that time.
Where’s evidence of my personal commitment to James Bond watch fans? I curated and helped finance out of my own pocket the first-ever exhibition of every confirmed James Bond watch brand so anyone who was interested could actually see those wristwatches for him- or herself. I understand that a couple of Internet forum participants actually enlarged photos of me from the exhibit opening to try and determine what watch I was wearing: I’m not sure whether to feel flattered or concerned about stalkers.
So– anyone really still wanna be a “definitive authority” on James Bond watches? Stick around a while. Prepare to learn a lot about each of the wristwatch technologies worn by Agent 007. And put your name on the line, for personal scrutiny and accountability, as well as a bit of praise.
After all, the people who follow your advice have a right to expect that you care as much as they do about the passion and money they’re investing based on the information you’re providing.