Ostensibly previewing the Quantum of Solace release next month and reflecting on future direction for the James Bond film franchise, EMPIRE magazine includes this curious passage in its October 2008 issue.

Daniel Craig says Sean Connery wore a Rolex 6538 in GoldfingerDaniel Craig likes to tell a story about his watch.

It’s a Rolex Submariner 6538, an exact replica of the one he remembers Sean Connery wearing in Goldfinger. The story goes that the budget on Dr. No didn’t run to a Rolex, and Cubby Broccoli, aghast at Connery’s naked wrist, simply slipped off his own and handed it over.

That watch stayed for five films.

The point, for both Broccoli and now Craig, is that it was Ian Fleming who first put a Rolex on Bond’s wrist. ‘He could not just wear a watch, it had to be a Rolex,’ is the line in Casino Royale (the novel), that hymn to fetishism.

Fleming, above all, remains the lynchpin.

That’s the sum of what Ian Nathan has written on the subject as Executive Editor of EMPIRE and author of this 9-page feature article titled, “Quantum’s Leap.” Sort of an odd paragraph, standing alone, not really flowing from the text before it, not much into that which follows it. A shoehorned reference.

Before going on, let me say that in my opinion, Mr. Nathan has not only done more than his homework here on James Bond (books and movies), but also shows a great respect and genuine enthusiasm for the subject. Top marks for that, and a truly enjoyable read.

But let’s not take those victory laps for any Rolex Sub model ID just yet.

Before I’m willing to put a mystery dating back over four decades to rest, I have a few questions. How much does Ian Nathan know about Rolex watches and how much importance does he place on precision related to those references here? This is by no means meant to criticize. I just want to know how much horology he has in his blood (not everyone is as dedicated to the nth degree of this as I am).

The word “replica” is an absolute pejorative among watch collectors — and yet the word replica is used here. I’m not suggesting in this context that we’re talking about a fake or a non-Rolex watch. Quite to the contrary, I can’t imagine that the wristwatch to which this reference is made would not be a genuine, vintage Rolex Submariner; I can’t imagine Daniel Craig wearing a fake, in “homage” to 007 history or otherwise.

So why not say, “It’s a Rolex Submariner 6538, the exact same model number as the one Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger“?

Subsequent “facts” give cause for concern as well. For example, as written, the quote above implies that Cubby Broccoli was standing on set there in Jamaica back in early 1962 as the cameras started rolling for the production of Dr. No, only reacting then and there by providing his Rolex. Other official histories, however, place the anecdote about Mr. Broccoli having handed over his personal wristwatch in a pre-production circumstance.

“That watch” (and no other? ever?) as Mr. Nathan continues, was used for Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice? That’s some durable wristwatch when you consider what pieces are up against in James Bond film productions! And some long-term budget crunch. As well as some patient producer in Albert R. Broccoli, who had to do without that watch for five long years. Or was it returned to him between films, only to have the production come back to him at the start of each successive movie with a plea along the lines of, “nope, still no money in the budget to buy one for wardrobe yet”?

Apart from any argument regarding Ian Fleming as “lynchpin” in contemporary James Bond films, there is no line in the Casino Royale novel that quotes: “He could not just wear a watch, it had to be a Rolex.” In fact, Mr. Fleming makes no reference to any watch brand at all in that novel, and, frankly, only refers to Bond’s watch once in Casino Royale. “Rolex” is not named as a brand until a year later, in Live and Let Die (1954). After that, it disappears, never referenced again by Fleming until after the Dr. No movie hit theatres.

So much for fetishism.

Looking now to the larger context of the EMPIRE article, Mr. Nathan makes a point not once but twice about the Broccoli family and Mr. Craig not being on the same page with facts. The first is in the first paragraphs of the article, where he notes that, “like all good anecdotes, everybody is telling it differently.” Then, on page 87: “According to who you ask, Quantum of Solace begins two minutes (Broccoli), five minutes (Wilson), 20 minutes (Forster), or one hour (Craig) after the final shot of Casino Royale.” So— is the Daniel Craig Rolex Submariner model 6538 based as he appears to have said, straightforwardly, on “the one he remembers” from Goldfinger (my emphasis added here), or, as some are now reading between the lines “on specific production records retained by EON, because he’d clearly have had insider-access as the current James Bond to research it before buying”?

Outside of those among us who care about such exacting detail, is it prudent to assume that Mr. Craig would have asked simply because he could have asked?

At this point, I have to separate myself as a professional researcher from the wishful thinker, and answer this question with a conservative “nope.” That said, I think it’s darn cool that the current James Bond owns a vintage Rolex Submariner, and that we know it’s a model 6358. A fact for history and trivia in its own right.