Today is the tenth anniversary of Casino Royale, a film that reignited many people's love affair with 007, and one that's emerged as not only the best James Bond film of the past decade, but maybe the best Bond film of them all. To celebrate, we're rerunning a couple of pieces built around this new classic. Here's the second.
James Bond has been associated with name brands long before he was filling up movie screens with product placement. Author Ian Fleming liked to name-drop real world commercial brands into his stories in order to make them feel more authentic, more of the real world, and fans have come to know these brands by heart. The literary 007 likes his Vesper martini made with Gordon’s gin; he drives a Bentley (and, ever the brand loyalist, when he totals it in Moonraker, he immediately goes out and buys another one); he smokes Morland cigarettes, a specially-made blend of Balkan and Turkish tobacco; and on his wrist he wears a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Bond cites at one time or another the usefulness of the watch’s stainless steel construction, noting it can always double as a makeshift “knuckle-duster.“
007 uses his Rolex for just that purpose in Chapter 16 of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, wrapping the expensive watch across his fist and smashing it to pieces on the jaw of one of Blofeld’s goons. That wonderfully, so-very-Fleming moment - the author’s blunt instrument using one of the finest watches in the world to smash a guy’s face in - took such hold of literary Bond fans that to this day the phrase “knuckle-duster” is synonymous to many with a Rolex stainless steel watch. Seriously, it's a whole thing now.
When it came time to put James Bond on the big screen in 1962, legend has it that producer Cubby Broccoli, his offer of product placement roundly rejected by Rolex, affixed his own personal Rolex Submariner to Sean Connery’s wrist, and the actor wore it through Thunderball. (That's also the film in which Bond employed his first real "gadget" watch, a Breitling Top Time which doubled as a Geiger counter). 1973’s Live And Let Die saw Bond's horological bling really lean into the fantastical; Roger Moore’s Rolex not only deflected bullets and unzipped dresses, but could also handily saw through rope. Moore's Bond would later abandon the Rolex for more of-the-moment digital quartz watches, and more often than not these would be outfitted with snazzy homing devices, ticker tape messages, etc. By the end of the '70s, 007’s watch was expected to have a Q Branch-engineered special feature or two in every film.
Fast-forward to 1995. After running through many Rolexes, Seikos and other brands, 007’s producers partnered him with the Swiss watch company Omega, starting a relationship that's lasted for 20 years and counting - perhaps the longest unbroken stretch of brand loyalty the superspy has ever sustained. Goldeneye was the first film to give dedicated screen time to Omega’s distinctive Seamaster, and across four films, Pierce Brosnan’s watches were never without a showcase moment that unveiled a hidden feature of some kind: laser beams, detonation devices, grappling hooks, etc. A tricked-out Seamaster had become such a fixture that when Daniel Craig took over the role in 2006, fans wondered how Omega, still a product placement partner, would feature in Casino Royale. What they got was a second Omega (the sportier 007 sported a sportier Planet Ocean for the sporty first hour of the film), a clunky name-drop in the middle of Bond and Vesper’s initial meeting, and that was about it.
However, that was not the original plan! Here at Birth.Movies.Death. we've uncovered a bombshell: Casino Royale did in fact, at one point, feature a memorable watch trick, one very in keeping with 007 tradition. Shot but omitted from the final film, it could have been an absolutely iconic moment for Daniel Craig's take on the character.
It happens during the film’s climactic set piece in Venice. As the building comes down around him, Bond works his way through Gettler and his goons, using firearms, nail guns, electrical cables and whatever else is handy to dispatch his enemies. But THEN! If you look carefully, you can see Bond briefly put down his Walther and turn his left palm upward, as if to undo the clasp on his watch’s bracelet (see above), but the shot quickly cuts away. That's why it's taken some of us nine years to notice that, in the ensuing confrontation, if you step-frame through the scene and look at Bond’s right hand, you’ll see Bond’s Omega Seamaster (ref. number 2220.80.00, SRP $3800) being used, Ian Fleming-style, to beat a man’s face in.
This revelation might elicit a big ol' “so what” from the normals out there. But for us Bond nerds it’s kind of delightful and amazing that for Casino Royale’s grounded reboot of 007, the filmmakers came full circle, walking the “watch-as-weapon” trope all the way back to Fleming’s pages. It's both a clever refutation of the Brosnan era and a faithful riff on the character's roots. It's, in a word, perfect.
What remains a mystery is why the detail was cut out (or cut around, at any rate). There’s a chance it was determined to be a bit of violence too easily replicated at home by children, creating problems with a ratings board or two. It’s also possible that while Omega might be fine with grappling hooks and laser beams as fictional add-on features, they'd prefer that their luxury product wasn't showcased as an effective way to break someone’s nose. It’s more likely that it was just excised for time, a casualty of editors streamlining a rather busy action sequence. Whatever the reason, all that remains of the moment are a dozen or so frames in the finished film.
This info was recently discovered when a collector obtained the original prop watch used for the scene (a soft rubber replica affixed to a steel bracelet), prompting the rest of us to go back and freeze-frame our Blu-rays to uncover a cool lost moment. Thanks to 007 collector “Donk” for sharing the below pics and sending me down this rabbit hole.