WatchTime, "Discovered: James Bond's Rolex" (magazine cover)Unlike the Live and Let Die watch, there is no question that this piece is James Bond’s choice. He is concerned about its out-of-pocket cost.

During the debriefing with M, in Chapter 20 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, ‘Bond lifted his left wrist’ to check the time. ‘Remembered that he no longer had a watch. That 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 phosphorous numerals.’ We see Fleming’s Explorer I on Bond for the last time (ever) on page 241, when 007 ‘glanced at the new Rolex on his wrist.’

Yet we still learn something: James Bond may continue wearing a watch after it becomes ‘old,’ as his friend Felix Leiter once observed; but when it’s time for replacement, he chooses new.

This first specific wristwatch chosen for Bond not only remains in current production as the model 114270, but its overall appearance remains true to the 1016 that Ian Fleming put on James Bond’s wrist in 1962. So what would it really mean to go ‘back to the original Fleming’ and put Bond in an 114270 for 2009? I think it would symbolize a more discreet operative, more subtly able to transition from casino to combat — every bit as tough, but without advertising his Navy service with a watch that sticks out from his shirt cuff.

Just prior to display of Fleming’s Rolex Explorer I at the Imperial War Museum, it was virtually all-original. On February 13, 2008, a Rolex service center had its first opportunity to make an assessment. The movement had rust and had been damaged by water contamination. Its bezel, and caseback were scratched, its 5- and 11-o’clock lugs were ‘marked.’ The crown was broken at the stem. The bracelet was strained, ‘clasp cracking at pin of blades.’

I was told before the museum opening that someone raised concerns about ‘protecting’ visitors from the radioactive material used to make its now-half-century-old dial luminescent. Stanchions and ropes were discussed as a way to keep the public at a safe distance. In the end, it was decided to replace the original dial that had illuminated so much of one great James Bond story.

Still, this chronometer continues to serve as a tangible reminder that there is no James Bond without Ian Fleming. In this most personal way, James Bond was Ian Fleming. And his watch, the Rolex Explorer I, is the first, authentic James Bond watch.

Dell Deaton is an expert on Ian Fleming and James Bond, founder of JamesBondWatches.com, and lead consultant to the NAWCC exhibit advisory group for its “Watches, James Bond Watches” display, opening in 2010.

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
“Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex,” Part 7 of 9
“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