Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar Wristwatch

The gold Girard-Perregaux owned by SMERSH assassin Donovan "Red" Grant in the 1957 novel, "From Russia with Love," never existed: So GP created a model to "honour" Ian Fleming's reference - released in 2008

The title of this post is further substantiated by way of Girard-Perregaux, 1957 to present-day.

On July 6, 2009, I received an unsolicited eMail strongly encouraging me to display a Girard-Perregaux 1966 Full Calendar wristwatch as part of our then-upcoming “Bond Watches, James Bond Watches” exhibit at the National Watch & Clock Museum.

To put this in context, that was just over 3 weeks after my presentation titled “Where would James Bond be without his wristwatch?” for the 64th Annual NAWCC Convention.

Museum Director Noel Poirier introduced my talk there, along with making our surprise announcement that Ian Fleming family heirs had agreed to make a loan of the Bond creator’s personal 1016 Rolex Explorer for display throughout the run of “Bond Watches,” set to open a year later.

Now, if I gave you any more details about the sender of that aforementioned July 6, 2009, eMail (or the 4 that came my way from the same source, over the next 5 months), I might easily be breaching confidences to even casual observers from the watch community and media.

And I won’t do that.

Still— given certain parallels to current coverage of the Breitling for Bentley featured significantly of late here on the James Bond Watches Blog, the thought processes, as well product offering decisions made by Girard-Perregaux itself, are revisited below in support of that examination.

By July of 2009, I was, of course, already quite familiar with the Girard-Perregaux reference made in the 1957 Ian Fleming 007 novel, From Russia with Love. Read the book many times. Reviewed the first-draft manuscript on a number of occasions at the Lilly Library, where it is archived on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. And I’ve seen a copy of the note to Mr Fleming from his Jonathan Cape editor, William Plomer: The person who actually suggested “Girard-Perregaud [sic] for the watchmaker….”

Even closer to home, WatchTime was adamant that a photograph of a new Girard-Perregaux “1966 Full Calendar” model be included under a sidebar titled, “Bad Guys, Good Watches” on page 92 of my February 2009 feature contribution, “Discovered: James Bond’s Rolex.”

Reverse-engineering history

To recap: The primary reason we have any reference whatsoever to a Girard-Perregaux in From Russia with Love is because William Plomer wrote, “It’s such a nice name & they’re good watchmakers.”

Keep this in mind as you read the following excerpts from The Rake in an article titled “From Switzerland with Love,” October 2009. It’s available online right now through the Girard-Perregaux website. Wei Koh, who wrote the piece, is also Founder and Group Editorial Director of Revolution magazine, a “Bond Watches” exhibit co-sponsor.

Says the brand’s owner and president Luigi ‘Gino’ Macaluso, ‘On the first page of From Russia with Love, you can find the description of a Girard-Perregaux watch in gold with moonphase, day and date. It was not Bond’s watch, it was Nash’s watch. The only thing was, at the time the novel was written, Girard-Perregaux produced no such watch.’

To be clear, this was actually the personal watch of Donovan “Red” Grant, “the Chief Executioner of SMERSH, the murder apparat of the MGB….” In addition to being a cold-blooded killer, he was utterly and irredeemably insane (think “vulgar thug”). Grant impersonates Captain Norman Nash as a means by which to get close to 007; but as Nash, he is only described as wearing “a battered silver wristwatch with an old leather strap.” Not the gold GP described in the opening paragraphs of From Russia with Love.

See also “The Girard-Perregaux wristwatch that James Bond did not wear.”

Continuing — aware of not just my editorial comments above, but that Wei Koh wrote this in October of 2009 about a book first published in April of 1957:

Macaluso continues, ‘This came to our attention because collectors were always requesting to purchase Nash’s watch….

That is, a watch and brand mentioned only once by Ian Fleming. No specific model. No product placement support nor media promotion of any sort. With a history of highly-visible Rolex models evidenced on James Bond’s wrist in the books and movies. And with Omega the official product placement partner for high-grossing Eon Productions 007 films from 1995 onward.

This was the situation as it existed when Luigi Macaluso of Girard-Perregaux said “collectors were always requesting to purchase Nash’s watch” from his company (emphasis added). Picking up again, now, at his very next sentence:

And having done some research, we got in touch with Ian Fleming’s family. They explained that these novels were very autobiographical and we came to the conclusion that the timepieces featured in his novels were inspired by watches that Ian Fleming owned. So we decided to recreate this timepiece in his honour.’

On January 19, 2010, WatchTime.com, listed an MSRP of $19,800 for the update of this watch anticipated to go on sale in June of that year. That’s quite an “honour,” and with a price tag that’s now considerably more than the Breitling for Bentley from Carte Blanche (which is, as a reminder, the ultimate subject of this Blog post).

Back again to “From Switzerland with Love,” by Wei Koh for The Rake:

In 2008, Nash’s watch finally saw the light of day, introduced as the second in the series of sublime 1966 round-cased watches created by the brand. The first watch was a simple 38mm-diameter dress timepiece offered in ruthenium, white or grey dials with rose- or white-gold cases. For the Full Calendar ‘Nash’ model, the watch case, available only in rose gold, was enlarged to 40mm, and side-by-side day and month windows were added, with a combination date and moonphase indicator appearing below it — almost exactly as described by Fleming in his book….

Definitive James Bond watch identifications

Even after half-a-century had passed, Girard-Perregaux continued to enjoy, and ultimately responded to, the incredible commercial value of associating its watch brand with the James Bond icon. How do we know this for sure?

The president of Girard-Perregaux said so, less than 2 years ago.

The “Girard-Perregaux” brand name having appeared just one time; only in a book, never (so far as we know) in any of the movies. It was not at any point a James Bond watch, didn’t wind up anywhere near James Bond. Even less auspicious, Agent 007 later describes the man who had worn it as someone who “showed too much vanity,” “a cad.”

Sounds a lot like “flashy” and “gaudy,” doesn’t it?

Red Grant wore a gold signet ring as Captain Nash. Just like James Bond did in his cover as Eugene J Theron, in Carte Blanche. Both coordinated their rings with silver-colored wristwatches — further testimony to Jeffery Deaver’s incredible attention to detail.

We needn’t discuss petty attempts to impose “vulger thug” imagery onto the Carte Blanche Breitling for Bentley, which were clobbered here last Wednesday. Donovan Grant makes Ian Fleming’s Giuseppe Petacchi of Thunderball and Jeffery Deaver’s unnamed drug dealer in Carte Blanche look like two choir boys with crew cuts.

Another example of how it’s all-but completely irrelevant who wore the watch or what words were used to describe it. The value proposition is set 100% in simply being associated with the fictional James Bond character.

Not because Dell Deaton says so. Rather, because the marketplace has proven it, time after time.

Thanks to Jeffery Deaver, it only took 34 days since the book was first published before he declared the Breitling for Bentley Motors T Speed A2536513 chronograph with “Neptune Blue” dial and Speed bracelet as “the” James Bond Breitling watch in Carte Blanche.

Watch collectors and James Bond fans unquestionably benefit from satisfaction of demand that in similar situations Omega has quantified, as I noted here last Friday, and Girard-Perregaux has calculated in considering new product introductions, as detailed in the paragraphs immediately above.

Last but not least: Breitling benefits, at a minimum, from not having to create a James Bond Carte Blanche watch from scratch 50 years from now.