WatchTime, "Discovered: James Bond's Rolex" (page 93)Finally, Fleming specifies the 007 watch as new in Chapter 23. The Fleming Rolex case number 596851 suggests it, too, would have been a relatively new model 1016 that the author was wearing as he wrote this novel.

For the publication of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming commissioned an oil portrait of himself, painted in 1962 by longtime friend Charles Amherst Villiers. It appears as a frontispiece in a special edition of 250 numbered copies of the book. I confirmed last summer that it captures Ian Fleming wearing his Explorer I, its dial reading 12:05.

So why stop at calling it a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual” in the novel when the name ‘Explorer’ was so evident on the face of Fleming’s own watch — the watch he used as referent while typing? Why not note the material as stainless steel, indulging his penchant for adding detail after detail? Of all Rolex models at the time, this one was identified with unwavering performance under the harshest conditions, an ideal watch to advance his characterization of James Bond. Why didn’t he identify it as an Explorer?

Because he wanted to give a wink and a nod to that reader who’d first recommended Rolex to him almost four years earlier. I think that was more important to Fleming. In this case, going no further than calling the watch a ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual’ was, in fact, quite specific to him, more personal. His 1958 letter became notes for his 1963 novel (he hated to waste good material): On page 177 we see, ‘the Rolex transferred to [Bond’s] right, the bracelet clasped in the palm of his hand and round the fingers so that the face of the watch lay across his middle knuckles.’

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

Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 1 of 9
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 2 of 9
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 3 of 9
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 4 of 9
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 5 of 9
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 6 of 9
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“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 8 of 9
“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