Yeah, I know—. Gruen.
You were expecting some other watchmaker, perhaps?
It’s now been confirmed that the first-ever watch worn by Sean Connery as James Bond in the movies was in fact made by Gruen Watch Company (Gruen Industries), circa late-1950s.
We’re talking about the watch that was on Mr. Connery’s wrist when he arrived at the airport in Jamaica, where the very first scenes of Dr. No were filmed on location in January of 1962.
We’re also talking about the first watch to appear on-screen in the finished movie — even before reveal on the face of “James Bond” himself — in the famous casino scene where Sylvia Trench and audiences are introduced to Ian Fleming’s Agent 007 with the line, “Bond, James Bond.”
But wait! you say. “If Sean Connery is wearing this Gruen dress watch in scenes shot on the first day of filming for Dr. No, at the airport in Jamaica, how is it that we clearly see James Bond wearing a diver’s wristwatch during the car ride he takes immediately thereafter when leaving that airport?”
In terms of how movies are made, the bald answer to this “how?” is “continuity error.” While the sequence is depicted as having taken place without interruption, it was in reality filmed over the course of different days. Film editor Peter Hunt speaks directly to such inconsistencies during parts of his contribution to the so-called “banned commentary” track that is part of The Criterion Collection LaserDisc packaging for Dr. No.
Of course that’s not really what some stalwarts want to have debated; they have other interests. Even if accepting the idea of error, protecting their foregone conclusions requires that we agree on which watch showed up in the wrong place. Was it wrong for Bond to have arrived at the airport wearing his personal dress watch from the scenes in London? Or was he prematurely accessorized with the diver’s watch for his car ride?
Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that the Gruen watch came first on all accounts as James Bond’s watch in Dr. No. That this Gruen was an intentional James Bond watch choice made before the first frame of movie-film was run through a camera.
With that settled, here’s what we now know about this James Bond watch.
It is a Gruen Precision model, 17-jewel movement, caliber 510. Housed in a 34-millemeter, gold-filled case. Lugs are straight and pronounced, extending well-over half-a-centimeter out from the side (contact-to-tip), with approximately 17 millimeters between each pair. The bezel is a scant millimeter or so wide, giving the white dial (just shy of appearing pearlescent) a strong, classic presence.
Gold-colored hour- and minute-hands are alpha-style, with shallow angling, minute-hand ending a bit short of where dial is covered by bezel, hour-hand extending a few millimeters less-far, but clearly differentiated from the minutes. This Gruen has tallish, narrowly-proportioned, full-Arabic numbers applied at the 12-, 3-, and 9-o’clock positions; all that is given of the number “6” is its closed bottom portion, the top cut-off by large, slightly recessed sub-seconds dial. All other hours are referenced by angled stick-markers. Other than the further additions of writing that show “Gruen” as watchmaker and “Precision” as model, the dial is quite straightforward. Tasteful. Classic.
In terms of thickness, the James Bond Gruen can’t be more than 8 millimeters from caseback to apogee of its slightly-domed plastic crystal, featuring rounded edges. Not to be confused with the diver’s watch more visible through most of Dr. No after James Bond leaves London and undertakes his mission proper, it seems obvious that Sean Connery’s formal wardrobe for this movie was tailored during pre-production in order to accommodate his Gruen dress watch, as opposed to the Rolex Submariner.
Through close examination, I’ve found that the Dr. No dress watch is worn on a single-piece, slightly-undersized 16mm black strap. (Where else have we seen that sort of fitting on a James Bond movie-watch?) The Gruen James Bond watch strap is fabric, all one color, but with an interesting weave-pattern that is tighter along its center, more coarse along the outer 2- to 3mm edges on each side. Metal buckle matched to watch case.
As followers of my James Bond Watches websites, blogs, and social media channels know, I have been actively pursuing a definitive identification of this first 007 movie wristwatch for quite a few years now. Labeled the “Sylvia Trench watch” for James Bond. With each passing re-release of the United Artists and EON Productions James Bond movies at increasingly higher visual qualities, the possibility of ID by any sort of freeze-frame examination was always hoped for, but never realized.
For a long time it seemed I could only add to a list of exclusive negatives: Reporting on sources that told me what was never kept, what didn’t exist, what I was not going to find.
To be continued.
- Part 2 of “Gruen made James Bond’s first movie wristwatch” will be published here on Wednesday, December 18
- Part 3, the conclusion, will be published here on Friday, December 20