As I first wrote here last April, coverage of James Bond wristwatches up to that point had all but completely missed the fact that the first 007 timepiece we see on the big screen is a watch with “a light-colored dial, a smooth, perhaps somewhat domed crystal, and a thin, gold-colored case.”
This has come to be called the “Sylvia Trench” watch, to differentiate it from the Rolex Submariner that adorns the wrist of Agent 007 throughout most of Dr. No.
That previous article here on JamesBondWatches.com also included reference to a wonderful book titled, James Bond: The Legacy, by John Cork and Bruce Scivally. Then and now, I asked if the often-repeated story of Eon producer Albert R. Broccoli (“Cubby”) having pulled the personal watch of his own wrist, then subsequently providing it for Sean Connery to wear in his inaugural outing as James Bond, might not have been this gold-cased, light-dialed watch. As opposed to the Rolex Submariner it’s so frequently assumed to have been.
It’s important to actually look at the source material to see why the Submariner identification is in question here.
The image at left is the third of four that run horizontally down page 36 of James Bond: The Legacy. It is a black and white photograph of James Bond (Sean Connery), with Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) in his arms, less than fully engaged with their kiss. He is looking at his watch, which is clearly the Sylvia Trench watch, and not the Submariner — confirmed by referencing a parallel composition in the film itself, Dr. No, at 16 minutes, 9 seconds running time: Scene 37.
Authors John Cork and Bruce Scivally label this watch a Rolex. As you can see in the caption from the first image I’ve included here, it reads as follows.
Third, give Bond tailored shirts with turnback cuffs from Turnbull & Asser for a look of class and distinction — accentuated by his Rolex watch. Though a civil servant, agent 007 lives a life of enviable luxury.
The context in which the James Bond Rolex is discussed in the book comes off a tangent accusing the character of snobbery, and considerations for depicting that trait in Dr. No. It “came in the form of Bond’s elite tastes,” Cork and Scivally write. “In short, Bond had to know more about the finer things in life than the audience, than anyone.” They then go on to quote at length production buyer Ron Quelch, who “recalled the day in 1961” when decisions were made regarding 007 accessorizing.
They were looking for everything that Bond might or might not have been wearing. Whether he would have cuff links or whether he wouldn’t. Whether he would have a tie pin, whether he’d have an identity chain, what watch he was wearing, what sort of wallet he would carry, whether it would be an inside pocket job or a hip wallet. Everything that went to create the character of Bond was discussed at that meeting, and it took a long time, believe you me.
Curiously, James Bond: The Legacy goes on to state that the “tone was taken from Ian Fleming himself.” Is this a further recollection from Mr. Quelch, or from some other source? Does this mean that Mr. Fleming provided that tone, or that it was interpreted based on knowing or meeting the creator of James Bond? They don’t say here.
John Cork and Bruce Scivally continue, without further quoting any source in particular.
Terence Young provided the essentials for Bond’s wardrobe. He took Sean Connery to famed shirt-maker Turnbull & Asser for custom-designed shirts with turnback cuffs (ones with buttons so that Bond could undress more quickly). Young had his tailor Anthony Sinclair cut Connery’s suits. Sinclair’s suits, which look traditional by today’s standards, were considered somewhat rakish and fancy at the time. Bond needed to be “well turned-out,” a fashion plate for the modern British man.
Style was key to quickly communicating the character of Bond. If he was to represent the best the Western powers had to offer, he had to be surrounded by the best. 007 could not just drink vodka, it needed to be Smirnoff’s; he could not just wear a watch, it needed to be a Rolex. The champagne would be Dom Perignon.
When Rolex declined to provided a timepiece for the filmmakers and the budget precluded the producers from purchasing one, Cubby Broccoli pulled the one off his wrist and tossed it to a member of the art department.
So— on the one hand we have here “custom-designed shirts,” and on the other hand (or wrist, if you prefer), a budget that precludes the purchase of “a watch” (note that the reference is singular), for the price at which a Rolex would have sold in the early 1960s. The cover of James Bond: The Legacy, is included here for reference as the second image above and left; that book is open to pages 36 and 37 in the third of the three images included here on this screen of the James Bond Watches website.
- What we have here, then, is a situation where the same authors who say four things that come as a piece.
- They reference the filmmakers’ view that James Bond “could not just wear a watch, it needed to be a Rolex.”
- They relay an anecdote about Mr. Broccoli having “pulled the one off his wrist and tossed it to a member of the art department.”
- They suggest only one watch, eg, “a timepiece,” for the Dr. No film production.
They label only one photograph as a Rolex in corresponding to this article, and that watch has a light-colored dial, a smooth, perhaps somewhat domed crystal, and a thin, gold-colored case (ie, the Sylvia Trench watch, which, again, you’ll have to see in the actual movie to view it in color).
As an open-minded researcher, this doesn’t close the book with a loud, “A-ha! The first watch we see on James Bond in Dr. No is the Sylvia Trench piece, and it’s a Rolex in a gold case provided by Albert R. Broccoli.” If nothing else, the fact that what John Cork and Bruce Scivally have written does not clearly note the presence of two different watches in Dr. No suggests to me that they may not be as focused on horology as some of us might have liked them to been when writing. James Bond: The Legacy is also a bit further than I’d like to be in terms of source attribution on the whole Broccoli Rolex story to begin with. For example, is it a Ron Quelch recitation? From someone else? If so, who would that someone be — and how did they come to know the story?
On the other hand, in taking next steps to identify “Eon James Bond watch Number 1,” it makes more sense to me that we start with Rolex than anywhere else.
Clearly, in 1961 and 1962 there was a great deal of attention given to the details of characterizing James Bond through what Sean Connery would wear in Dr. No. And Rolex was at the center of wristwatch brand discussions.