The original Bond watch wasn’t a Rolex
It’s that time again. The release of another Bond film. Of course, for the last two decades, this has also coincided with the release of a new Omega watch as well. However, until now, the watch world appears to have been slightly underwhelmed by the first watch ever worn by Bond: James’ first watch — and therefore the Bond watch — was a Mido Multifort.
James Bond was born c1920 (November 11 in either 1920 or ’21, depending on your source), and famously lost his parents in a mountain climbing accident in the Aiguilles Rouges, near Chamonix. While it took some years before his antics reached the public eye (the books largely chronicle the period between May 1951 and February 1964), his earlier life is just as interesting, and is documented in a series of novels by Charlie Higson.
Most interestingly from a #watchnerd point of view, Higson has gone into a great deal of detail in describing the young Bond, including his timepiece. According to Higson, the first watch Bond wore was not a Rolex, nor indeed an Omega, but rather a Mido Multifort — “the first automatic, anti-magnetic, water-proof (up to 100 feet; perfectly sufficient back in those days), and shock resistant watch of its time**”.
Charlie Higson explained to the Young Bond Dossier, “I think for the real Bond purists I should have given him a Rolex because that’s his iconic watch. But I sort of love the idea of the Multifort. It just looked like a really interesting watch. And I think, for the time, it is the right watch for him to have. And it’s a nice little nod to CBn.” hence James is given, and wears a Mido in By Royal Command.
While I have attempted to find a photo of this watch being worn by James in 1934, my search has not been fruitful. It appears that James’ Aunt tried to keep him out of the limelight and away from cameras. It was only in his latter years that James reluctantly allowed his missions to be filmed, and to be seen wearing a Rolex, Breitling, Seiko, Omega or (indeed) Pulsar.
What I have been able to find are a few adverts (via ATG Vintage Watches) that illustrate a time only and chronograph version of the Multifort. One of these — an advert for a chronograph — even suggests that these watches are perfect for aviators, doctors, engineers, chemists, sportsmen, physicists and explorers. Strangely, it doesn’t mention spies.
In a stroke of luck that I can only describe as bizarre, I think I’ve also discovered the second Bond watch.
While trying to find an appropriate birthday present for a dear friend (and talented writer) @Dublonothing, I came across a copy of Mary Wickham Bond’s 1966 book, How 007 Got His Name. In it, there’s a photo of James wearing a watch that is almost certainly *not* a Rolex.
Although there have been Rolexes with horned lugs, it’s certainly not the Explorer that so many assume Fleming wrote into the 007 novels. Rather, this pretty, small, relatively discrete dress watch is more in keeping with the *real* James Bond, the noted ornithologist. It reminds me of the early Smiths 12–15 watches, and that would certainly fit the timeframe (Fleming stole Bond’s name at some point before 1953). Could the second Bond watch be a Smiths?
I’ve never seen either of these watches mentioned elsewhere, even though they are part of the Bond canon. Most odd.
**The original suggestion for the Multifort came from Trident on CommanderBond.net
Originally published at www.thewatchnerd.co.uk on December 2, 2014.