Dell Deaton in Part 1 and Part 2 talked about the alluring nature of James Bond as a character and how he became the leading expert on Bond watches. Quite an interesting specialty. Here we continue our series with Deaton weighing in on the Rolex/Bond connection and which watch he thinks makes the perfect one for Bond.
How have Bond and Rolex affected the other in terms of prestige or brand awareness?
Present day? You mean like selling new watches or enhancing the bank-ability of the movie franchise?
If there’s any effect, it’s negligible.
Again, I’ve done surveys along this line. For the most part, Rolex watch owners say it’s “of interest” that there’s a James Bond connection. Not much more than that. Anecdotally, one friend of mine who works at a Rolex Dealer actually prompts customers to see if the slightest Bond connection has brought them in: Not once in 30 years, he continues to tell me.
In response to your earlier question about “the relationship between Bond and Rolex,” I expressed doubt that references to any past overlaps they’ve shared are relevant today. The fact that those watches are sold via Christie’s auctions probably does more in terms of transferred prestige – beyond that which each brand, Bond and Rolex, each already enjoys on its own. More so than either does for the other.
But that does raise the issue of “vintage” as “brand.”
Most Rolex models have enough of their oomph that you’re never gonna sort for “Bond effect” in value. Wristwatches with documentation proving without a doubt that they were worn in one of the feature films being notable exceptions.
However, we can look to the Bond-Explorer. Objective price histories for that Rolex 1016 clearly demonstrate a significant upward bump in sales prices LINK that tie directly to publication of my discovery that was first to unquestionably peg it as the basis for Ian Fleming’s original description of the literary James Bond watch in his 1963 novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Mind you– we’re talking about the first time anyone had verifiable details on exact movement caliber, date of manufacture, and dial configuration: Consisting of radium-226 material, and no longer part of the surviving artifact as its ever been displayed. In other words, the first time specs were available for making purchases.
Once buyers had bulletproof information from a named source they trusted, the “Bond effect” undoubtedly increased “the prestige and brand awareness” for at least this one Rolex watch model.
Which watch do you think is another perfect Bond watch besides a Rolex or Omega, and why?
Like I don’t get enough angry eMail from folks about the brands James Bond actually does wear? Praise a brand, and I’m “in their pocket.” Question something beyond content of an official press release, and I’m “out to get ’em.”
Actually, I don’t think there is a perfect Bond watch — past, present, or future.
Meehna, one of the things I’m told that most readers value about my work is that I don’t advocate for any brand. My passion for “James Bond” watches isn’t merely a guise for routing attention to just one maker, reducing all others to ridiculous foils for contrast. Picking winners and losers risks compromising one’s objectivity.
Beyond that, I’d hate to mess with serendipity.
Take Jeffery’s Deaver’s choice of a Breitling for Bentley model A2536513 / C781 for James Bond in the 2011 novel Carte Blanche. Fantastic choice. Last June, we showed the actual Bond-Breitling that Mr. Deaver wore at one point during his book promotion tour — the serial number on that watch is 2363493 — next to Ian Fleming’s own Rolex Explorer at the National Watch & Clock Museum.[i] With the two then side-by-side there, you saw an immediate ah-ha! for the Jeffery Deaver selection.
A year or two before that, I got to know 2 great guys while trying to nail down James Bond watch specs from The Living Daylights. Working together — David Chalmers of Calibre11.com,[ii] Paul Gavin of Heuer World,[iii] and me — we determined by our own independent analysis that Timothy Dalton had worn a couple of TAG Heuer models in that movie.[iv] One was the PVD 980.031 Night-Diver. If you read Ian Fleming’s short story, “Berlin Escape,” upon which parts of The Living Daylights are based, you’ll see that the Heuer Night-Diver is a great real-world choice to make manifest the writing.
Much as I might like to think I’d have picked the Carte Blanche Breitling for Bentley or said The Living Daylights should feature TAG Heuer — beforehand, during an interview such as this — there’s no sense risking that I could not have.
Having sufficiently dodged any inference from your question that I direct folks toward some particular watch or watches, then, I will talk “characteristics.” Maybe non-characteristics, as well.
Ian Fleming envisioned Bond wearing unobtrusive watches with easily-read, analog dials, no complications. His Bond was fundamentally a commando, his navy ties “a convenient front.”[v] That makes it difficult if not impossible to believe Mr. Fleming would have thought any sort of diver’s watch appropriate for his gentleman agent’s daily wear. Eon Productions moviemakers obviously felt this way as well in the beginning, appointing Sean Connery with a Rolex Precision dress watch at least as often in the first 5 films as they did a Submariner model. Obviously we’re talking something quite a bit more durable than a Precision today, as Ian Fleming himself came to appreciate when a reader took him to task[vi] for sending 007 out in Doctor No [vii] with a watch that couldn’t keep ticking after being subjected to the knocks and blows of a predictable fistfight in the swamp.[viii]
Water resistance? I think it needs little more than what a Double-O would experience at whatever depth he’d reach while holding his breath. Ad hoc things, like going after Vesper as her elevator car sank in Casino Royale, or exiting Sanchez’s lair by holding off the side of Lupe’s boat in Licence to Kill. Hardly the sorts of things that’ll test the limits of a diver’s watch.
Luminescence is a requirement, although not exotic or hard to find.
In 1958 Ian Fleming described it as James Bond’s “practice” to “use fairly cheap, expendable wrist watches.” But that obviously changed later. Perhaps as a result of Bond briefly putting on the solid gold Rolex he took from SPECTRE operative Giuseppe Petacchi in the 1961 novel Thunderball. And certainly by early 1962, when he was typing out his manuscript for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In fact, Mr. Fleming was by then a full convert to more expensive, if not luxury sports watches for his James Bond. In a December 1962 letter to the art director of Playboy magazine, Ian Fleming yet again specified a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” as James Bond’s watch.
Succinctly, then: I think any watchmaker’s model consistent with a tastefully-sized modern-day Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra would qualify as a “perfect Bond watch” today.
[i] Link: http://www.nawcc.org/index.php/museumlibrary
[ii] Link: http://www.calibre11.com/
[iii] Link: http://heuerworld.com/
[iv] Cite: http://jamesbondwatchesblog.com/2010/04/james-bond-wore-a-tag-heuer-wristwatch-part-i-a/
[v] Henry Chancellor, James Bond: The Man and His World (2005), page 61
[vi] Dell Deaton, WatchTime, “Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” February 2009, pages 88-9
[vii] I believe the 1958 novel Doctor No has the word “doctor” spelled out, as opposed to the 1962 movie (based on that book), where it is written Dr. No
[viii] Ian Fleming, Doctor No (1958), pages 102-3
Notes Question 1
 Cite: http://jamesbondwatchesblog.com/2012/03/james-bond-rolex-1016-prices-showing-impressive-gains/ (further noting that my actual data, conclusions go far beyond what I conservatively reported in the above-linked Blog post)