James Bond's Rolex Submariner
The Rolex watch became synonymous with the warrior caste as a result of its participation in two world wars. Prior to the Great War wristwatches were worn only by ladies. Men wore a pocket watch. Officers in the trenches began wearing wrist-watches, of which the Rolex was the most desirable. During the Second World War the ascendancy of the Rolex brand was complete. Captured aviators would be relieved of their Rolex by their captors. Rolex in Geneva generously offered to replace all lost in such a manner. Several Rolex watches ended up fighting the war on both sides, as a result. The Rolex brand rose higher still when it became associated with the new and exotic activity of Scuba diving. Jaques Cousteau had invented Scuba diving after spending the war using military issue rebreathers. Scuba diving was undertaken by real men in exotic, distant, locations and an submersible watch was required: The Rolex Submariner. This resulted in Fleming choosing the Rolex for Bond to wear and the choice of the Rolex Submariner for Bond to wear in Dr No (1962). Rolex further cemented its association with warriors by being the watch of choice for US aviators during the Vietnam War. Usually the Rolex GMT Master. The CIA Ravens who flew black ops in Cambodia were issed with a gold Rolex GMT Master to use as a blood chit to buy their way to freedom if they were brought down in the jungle and captured by the natives.
- Dr No (1962) - Sean Connery wears a Rolex Submariner, apparently on a black leather two-piece strap.
- From Russia with Love (1963) Sean Connery wears a Rolex Submariner on a black strap
- Goldfinger (1964) Sean Connery wears a Rolex Submariner on a three-color NATO strap, three black stripes, two green stripes which appear to be lined with a fine red edge.
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) George Lazenby wears a Rolex Daytona.
- Fleming's James Bond Novels
Dr No (1962)
Scene: James Bond inspects Quarrel's boat with a Geiger counter . (00:45:00)
00:45:00 James Bond inspects Quarrel's boat with a Geiger counter and tests the counter by waving it over his Rolex Submariner watch.
During the Great War , military watch dials (such as the Omega Broad Arrow ) had been painted using radioactive radium paint , which glowed in the dark. This practice was stopped after the war because they found that the women who were wielding the paintbrushes would lick the paintbrush between their lips to obtain a fine point prior to painting the fine register on the dial. This exposed their tongue and lips to radioactive paint and some of them suffered serious side effects as a result. Phosphorescent luminous paint was introduced in the 1950s. In the Soviet Union the use of radium paint continued right up until the end of the Soviet Union. The Rolex Submariner would have had its dial painted with phosphorescent luminous paint which was not radioactive. Even sixty years after the war, watches with radium painted dials are still radioactive. A friend of mine was an engineer at a nuclear power plant. One of the watch aficionados brought in a wartime watch with a radium dial which they put through various tests. Its radioactivity was of such a level that there was nowhere they could keep it except in the store for radioactive materials. Nuclear power plants operate to higher standards that the outside world and while the radium dial was not dangerous outside, it was classified as a hazard within the plant and had to be kept in the low-level radioactivity store.
00:52:22 You can see that the light reflects off the strap on Bond's Rolex Submariner in the way it would off a curved reflective surface, not a flat matt surface. This indicates that the strap is a leather strap, and not a nylon NATO band.
Notice that the strap seems to terminate on one of the pins, and not rise and fall over a pin or bar in order to flow under the watch case, as would a single piece NATO band.
00:52:43 and again you can see the light reflecting off the strap.
00:59:46 Bond awakes to hear Honey Ryder's singing.
In this superb photograph you can see a reasonable detail of Bond's Rolex Submariner but also the hue of Honey Ryder's belt, which is a '37 Pattern British Army issue webbing belt with brass fittings.
The strong cotton webbing was a neutral canvas color when issued but would be rendered into the color desired (usually green) by a shoe-polish like paste called 'Blanco' . The Blanco would then be rubbed into the belt. There was also white Blanco which was used by the military police to Blanco their webbing belt and Sam Brown . It is white Blanco which has been used to Blanco Honey Ryder's belt, but you can see that the hue of the belt has changed slightly by salt-water immersion. The casting of Honey Ryder's belt as a '37 Pattern was inspired.
Laughing Waters: Sean Connery's Rolex Submariner is visible as well as Ursula Andress's '37 Pattern webbing belt and her float handled Scuba diving knife.
The strap on the Rolex appears to reflect the light as if it was a curved surface. It appears to terminate on the spring bar.
Laughing Waters: Sean Connery's Rolex
Sean Connery embraces Sylvia Trench giving us a view of his Rolex Submariner. In his right hand is a golf club.
Sean Connery rests while filming Dr No (1962)
Sean Connery and Ursula Andress at Laughing waters. Connery's Rolex is visible in detail. The time looks like 11:15HRS. In this image, the strap appears to terminate on the spring bar.
From Russia with Love (1963)
Scene: 00:16:50 Bond enjoys a picnic while out punting.
On the set of the »Soviet Embassy«. Bond checks the time on his Rolex.
On the set of the Orient Express sleeper carriage.
Scene: The Night Fight at the Gypsy Camp 00:37:00
Location: Pinewood back lot.
A »mystery« watch makes an appearance on the wrist of Sean Connery during the filming of From Russia with Love (1963) . It can be seen most clearly in the scene where Bond leaves the Gipsy Camp and he is entering the car. No detail is visible, but the watch appears to be smaller diameter than a Rolex Submariner and is mounted on a black leather strap.
There is a monochrome publicity still from the making of Shalako (1968) , some years after the making of From Russia with Love (1963) which shows Sean Connery holding his co-star Brigitte Bardot . On his wrist is the same »mystery« wristwatch. This wristwatch also appears in several stills from Dr No (1962)
In the above frame, the props department have made an error and fitted with watch with an 18mm strap when it is has been designed to receive a 22mm watch strap. This mistake has horrified wristwatch aficionados ever since.
In the above frame, the image of the frame has altered to make the watch strap into a 22mm.
As Bond sets the timer on the bomb, you can see that the strap on the Rolex is the normal length for use as a wrist strap. It is not the extended length for wearing over a wetsuit, flightsuit or skydiving overalls. You can wear the extended length strap on your bare wrist by folding the excess through the loops.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
George Lazenby wears his Rolex Daytona for the scene in the barn with Diana Rigg
The Rolex in Fleming's Novels
Bond's Rolex Submariner makes an appearance in three of Fleming's Novels
Live and Let Die (1954)
In this paragraph, Bond is underwater directly under the keel of a boat:
»Bond's skin cringed under the black rubber but he could do nothing about them and he concentrated on his objective. Suddenly there was a long metallic shape hanging in the water above him. Behind it there was a jumble of broken rock leading steeply upwards. It was the keel of the Secatur and Bond's heart thumped in his chest. He looked at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was three minutes past eleven o'clock. He selected the seven-hour fuse from the handful he extracted from a zipped side-pocket and inserted it in the fuse pocket of the mine and pushed it home. The rest of the fuses he buried in the sand so that if he was captured the mine would not be betrayed. As he swam up, carrying the mine between his hands, bottom upwards, he was aware of a commotion in the water behind him. A barracuda flashed by, its jaws half open, almost hitting him, its eyes fixed on something at his back. But Bond was intent only on the centre of the ship's keel and on a point about three feet above it.«
In Thunderball the villain Giuseppe Petacchi wears a Rolex, which Fleming mentions twice. In the first paragraph, Fleming describes how he aspires to own a Rolex, with a gold bracelet.
»And all his life he had had a passion for owning things—flashy, exciting, expensive things. He had most of what he desired—a couple of gold cigarette cases, a solid gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Chronometer on a flexible gold bracelet, a white convertible Lancia Gran Turismo, plenty of sharp clothes, and all the girls he wanted (he had once been briefly married but it had not been a success). Now he desired, and what he desired he often got, a particular Ghia-bodied 3500 G.T. Maserati he had seen at the Milan motor show. He also wanted Out—out of the pale green corridors of NATO, out of the Air Force, and, therefore, off to new worlds with a new name. Rio de Janeiro sounded just right. But all this meant a new passport, plenty of money, and “organismo”—the vital “organismo.”«
In the second paragraph, set much later in time, Fleming describes how Petacchi consults his Rolex.
»For the tenth time Petacchi consulted the Rolex. Now! He verified and tested the oxygen mask in the bulkhead beside him and laid it down ready. Next he took the little red-ringed cylinder out of his pocket and remembered exactly how many turns to give the release valve. Then he put it back in his pocket and went through into the cockpit.«
Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963)
In first paragraph Bond is planning is escape from Piz Gloria and assesses the value of his Rolex as a Knuckle-duster:
»Bond surveyed his weapons. They were only his hands and feet, his Gillette razor and his wrist-watch, a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet. Used properly, these could be turned into most effective knuckledusters. Bond got up, took the blade out of his Gillette and dropped the razor into his trouser pocket. He slipped the shaft between the first and second fingers of his left hand so that the blade-carrier rested flat along his knuckles. Yes, that was the way! Now was there anything, any evidence he should try and take with him? Yes, he must try and get more, if not all, of the girls' names and, if possible, addresses. For some reason he knew they were vital. For that he would have to use Ruby. His head full of plans for getting the information out of her, Bond went out of the bathroom and sat down at his desk and got on with a fresh page of de Bleuvilles. At least he must continue to show willing, if only to the recording eye in the ceiling.«
In second paragraph, Bond is consider which watch to purchase to replace the smashed Rolex:
»Bond lifted his left wrist. Remembered that he no longer had a watch. That he 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 phosphorus numerals. Somewhere in the hall, a clock struck the half-hour. 1.30. Twelve hours before, he must have just set up the trap that killed the three men in the Mercedes. Self-defence, but the hell of a way to celebrate Christmas!«
+ SEE ALSO
The FAQ of Action Wristwatches or Action Wrist-watch FAQ How to select a wrist-watch for use in action. This is an extensive technical document on how to choose wrist-watches for the type of missions Bond would have undertaken.
+ EXTERNAL LINKS
- AJB007 on Bond's Rolex Submariner. This document is almost certainly authoritative.
- Complete list of James Bond watches at Rolex BlogSpot
- Jakes World Rolex Blog
- Wikipedia List of James Bond Gadgets
- Rolex Divomet Scuba depth gauge at Christies
- http://www.classicdriver.com/ The Brietling Top Time Chronograph used by James Bond in Thunderball at auction
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