"James Bond Wore Quartz Wristwatches. You Noticed," by Dell Deaton, 2015, page 427.

“James Bond Wore Quartz Wristwatches. You Noticed,” by Dell Deaton, 2015, page 427.

The essence of every James Bond story has always been — beginning with Ian Fleming’s first book back in 1953, and including Skyfall in 2012 — man against the clock.

For example, in his 1955 novel Moonraker, we only thought the enemy was Hugo Drax. But it was actually the countdown to rocket launch, with Agent 007 and the Bond girl trapped in a path destined for ignited engine exhaust.

This is what hooked readers and kept bringing them back for more.

The world of James Bond was conceived as fantasy that reflected real-world fears, cast in starker contrasts, offered up through a flawed hero who took control of circumstances dealt to him. He invariably prevailed with aplomb.

He wore a wristwatch and used it as a tool. As such, its reliability was important. Even so, his watch choices throughout the 1950s and on into the early 1960s were essentially no different from those of the public: Anything functionally accurate to within a few minutes at any given point was accurate enough.

One might think that a pivotal moment like the Sputnik launch would have changed this. It was a singularly terrifying and all-but-universally-obsessed-over event when the Soviet Union appeared to have taken the lead in the Cold War when it put the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit in 1957. Reactions begat reactions. Successive launches by the USSR and the Americans led to Vanguard 1 about six months later.

For our purposes, recall that the US satellite Vanguard 1 carried a time device onboard, produced by watchmaker Bulova. And that instrument departed from established balance wheel-type mechanics in favor of a metal tuning fork.

The result was a tenfold improvement in accuracy.

— Dell Deaton
James Bond Watch researcher, author