WatchTime, "Discovered: James Bond's Rolex" (page 89)This is more than speculation. In a letter he wrote four years after completing his Live and Let Die manuscript, Fleming made it clear that Rolex was not at that time James Bond’s choice for a timekeeper.

This came in response to written criticism from an astute reader. Following are excerpts from each side of their correspondence, provided to me last summer by Fleming’s stepdaughter. On April 25, 1958, a reader complained about the performance of Agent 007’s watch in Doctor No. Specifically, ‘Bond glanced at his watch. It had stopped at three o’clock.’ Stopped! This sentence made the reader ‘extremely surprised and perturbed.’ He considered it ‘a very serious matter which should at once be drawn to the attention of M [Bond’s boss’s codename],’ suggesting this field failure ‘be made the subject of an Official Inquiry.’

The reader proposed a solution. In the future, Bond should be issued a ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual, which is completely waterproof and does not require winding,’ and, if anything, ‘keeps even better time after immersion.’

Fleming acknowledged the complaint and made his reply. ‘I have discussed this with [James Bond] and he points out that the Rolex Perpetual weighs about six ounces and would appreciably slow up the use of his left hand in combat.’

Then, this: ‘His practice, in fact, is to use fairly cheap, expendable wrist watches on expanding metal bracelets which can be slipped forward over the thumb and used in the form of a knuckle-duster, either on the outside or the inside of the hand.’ If Bond’s personal watch was ‘cheap’ and ‘expendable’ up until 1958, it was never a Rolex.

No particular Oyster Perpetual model was cited in either letter. Fleming simply repeated the ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual’ reference in the reader’s letter. He did, however, come up with a weight for the watch and considered its feel. But this event did not yet set the wheels in motion for his own purchase of the Explorer I. If the 007 watch had moved from a researched to an experienced item, we’d see a change in his writing. The next three books (written after the exchange of letters) feature just over a dozen notations on the watch Bond is wearing. All remain true to form, never going beyond a ‘gleaming minute-hand’ or a luminous dial notation.

Go to “Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex” (WatchTime feature article), Part 6 of 9

Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 1 of 9
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“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 9 of 9

How I Found the Original James Bond Watch,” Part 1 of 3
“How I Found the Original James Bond Watch,” Part 2 of 3
“How I Found the Original James Bond Watch,” Part 3 of 3