Over a year now since WatchTime published my article on having discovered the original, literary James Bond Rolex (Explorer 1016), I continue to get questions related to a sidebar photo and caption that the magazine ran under “Bad Guys, Good Watches.”
Didn’t James Bond wear a Girard-Perregaux, too?
That’s legitimate to ask when you fast forward to Chapter 27 of From Russia with Love. Here, bad guy shoots Bond’s watch on his wrist. Bond kills bad guy, takes bad guy’s watch and starts wearing it as replacement. Bad guy’s watch thus becomes a James Bond watch. Identify brand of bad guy watch and you have brand name for Bond watch. Right?
Not exactly. Go back to Chapter 1 for initial details on that bad guy and follow through everything that Ian Fleming shared with his readers. Donovan Grant or “Red” Grant: We’re introduced to him on holiday, wearing his personal, indulgent timepiece.
There was also a bulky gold wristwatch on a well-used brown crocodile strap. It was a Girard-Perregaux model designed for people who like gadgets, and it had a sweep second-hand and two little windows in the face to tell the day of the month, and the month, and the phase of the moon.
Subsequently, when summoned to his assignment — assassinate James Bond — Grant pulls together traveling items including “cheap respectable clothes.” In other words, he’s no longer on holiday, no longer revealing his personal tastes, when he catches up with 007 later. It’s under this mission-prepared circumstance where Bond notes Grant’s left wrist in Chapter 25, and observes “a battered silver wristwatch with an old leather strap.”
To me that limits Girard-Perregaux to being the bad guy’s personal “trophy” (left at home), and makes the watch that James Bond later takes from him something else.
Others disagree. Maybe the shift from gold to silver in the description isn’t enough of a distinction for them.
So I again went to the source for a definitive answer. The manuscript for From Russia with Love as first typed by Ian Fleming is part of the Lilly Library archives on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. On December 7 of last year, I was given access to this as part of specific research I was conducting on the extent of a possible connection between Girard-Perregaux and James Bond.
Reading through that, I found clearly discernable on page 196 (behind Fleming’s extensive hand-written revisions to the latter part of this draft), exactly as it had come off his Imperial, this: Grant wearing “a battered silver wristwatch with an old strap.” It is a silver wristwatch. I could also see that the word “leather” was added later, most likely during Fleming’s routine evening re-read of pages produced each morning prior.
Having confirmed this, I returned to page 1 of that manuscript.
When typing that text, Ian Fleming had consciously left a 34-character blank space where an as-yet-undetermined wristwatch name would later appear. As a side note, that then-non-existent watch was originally specified with “three little windows in the face,” rather than two. Girard-Perregaux didn’t exist in Fleming’s mind, let alone on Bond’s wrist.
Months later still in 1956, Fleming’s Jonathan Cape editor William Plomer suggested “Girard-Perregaud” [sic] to fill that void. “It’s such a nice name,” Plomer wrote in a note that’s still available for review, thanks to Ian Fleming Publications preservation. Plomer further added, “and they’re good watchmakers.”
He then politely concluded that a proper spelling of the brand name needed to be confirmed.
That name would be Girard-Perregaux: The signature watch brand in From Russia with Love that James Bond did not wear.