When did James Bond use his watch as a knuckleduster?

It was Ian Fleming who first had 007 buckle his knuckles. But Daniel Craig’s James Bond also tried out the technique in Casino Royale…

Time after time, James Bond’s watches have helped him out of tight spots. On the big screen, gadgets were hidden in the spy’s timepieces as early as Thunderball, when Sean Connery’s Bond buckled up a Breitling ‘Top Time’ with a built-in Geiger counter. 

Since then, Roger Moore’s watches have made room for bullet-deflecting electromagnets, miniature circular saws and radio transmitters — and Pierce Brosnan’s Omega collection was tooled up with grappling hooks and laser beam cutters. 

Daniel Craig, however, was different. His fourth Bond film, Spectre, saw his Omega Seamaster conceal a small explosive charge. But, in his first three Bond films — Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall —  Craig didn’t use his watch for anything other than time-telling. Or did he?

In 2006’s Casino Royale, a fairly faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel, Craig’s 007 does in fact wield his watch as a weapon. It’s a brief moment — and one even eagle-eyed viewers are likely to have missed — but it’s there. Before we take a look at the scene in more detail, however, it pays to flick back to another of Fleming’s Bond books to see where the filmmakers drew their inspiration for the scene.

In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, first published in 1963, Bond finds himself trapped in Piz Gloria, the mountaintop lair of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Because he is impersonating a College of Arms representative, 007 is without his trusty Walter PPK, and is forced to stage a daring escape using the only tools at his disposal:

“Bond surveyed his weapons. They were only his hands and feet, his Gillette razor and his wrist-watch, a heavy Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet. Used properly, these could be turned into most effective knuckledusters.”

That’s right; knuckledusters. After transferring his Rolex to his right hand — “the bracelet clasped in the palm of his hand and round the fingers so that the face of the watch lay across his middle knuckles” — Bond employs his hugely expensive watch as a thug’s weapon:

“He took the two steps into the room and crashed the hand down on the back of the offered neck. The man’s face hit the table top with a thud, bounced up, and half turned towards Bond. Bond’s right flashed out and the face of the Rolex disintegrated against the man’s jaw.”

After “slipping the shattered Rolex back over the knuckles of his right hand,” literary Bond never tries the tactic again. But, when Daniel Craig stepped into 007’s shoes, the filmmakers decided to resurrect the close-quarters attack strategy for the climax of Casino Royale.

During the denouement of the film, while Bond is battling his way through a collapsing house in Venice, we briefly see him lower his Walther P99 and reach for the clasp of his watch. In the next shot, Bond strikes one of Mr White’s accomplices in the face repeatedly with the watch buckled over his knuckles. The sequence, however, was edited in such a way that masks Craig’s use of his Omega Seamaster Professional Diver as a weapon.

So why did this nod to literary Bond not make the cut? The filmmakers even created a rubber watch to facilitate the stunt — so it clearly wasn’t just a spur of the moment idea on-set. Looking at the facts, it’s likely that Omega objected; not wanting their luxury wristwatch associated with such thuggery. Or perhaps studio representatives vetoed the idea, for fear it would encourage Bond-loving brawlers to try the tactic in real life.

Whatever the reason, the tale makes for a nifty bit of trivia — and an assurance that the franchise’s filmmakers are true fans and admirers of the source material. It’s just a shame we didn’t see Craig’s bruising Bond more clearly swinging his Seamaster. Because, as Fleming’s 007 says when replacing his wristwatch in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: “Another Rolex? Probably. They were on the heavy side, but they worked”.

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