Article by David Salter
Although his notoriety, today, stems entirely from his creation of Britain’s foremost literary spy, Ian Fleming was, essentially and first-and-foremost, a journalist. It was his skill in reportage, honed in his early years during a period with Reuters and polished in his forties as Foreign Manager at the Sunday Times, that enabled him to write books in which the incredible seems credible, in a way that few of his forebears writing thrillers and adventure stories had been able to achieve. Creating a clearly rendered background of real places, real journeys and believable people, he then went on to use two original ideas to develop stories that sometimes veered towards the fantastic. The first of these was to divide many of his novels into two halves.
The first half often deals with the mundane, James Bond’s day to day life, his office routine, his flat in Chelsea, worries about his health and then moves on to a summons from M to be briefed on a problem that needs his attention and finally his journey to and arrival at the scene of action – the War Zone, if you like. This journey often gives the reader an insight into more of his Iikes, dislikes and fears.
The second half deals with Bond’s engagement with the villain, often an exotic and frightening aberration. This will usually be in a far off and dramatic location with little connection with the average reader’s experience (certainly at the time of publication). However the reader has been lulled into accepting the direction of travel of the story by Fleming’s use of journalistic skills to place all this in an entirely credible landscape.
His other technique was to provide and equip Bond and some other characters with an array of “real” products and accessories that while often expensive and luxurious, were available to anyone who wished to experience them. As far as I know, Fleming was the first writer of popular fiction to do this and it is this “product placement” that this piece sets out to examine.
JAMES BOND”S MORNING ROUTINE
After rising and performing various exercises, Bond showers and shaves in his big white-tiled bathroom. We are told little about the products used during this routine except that Bond uses first of all a Gillette open-toothed razor and later, a heavy open-toothed Hoffritz razor. In From Russia with Love a tube of Palmolive shaving cream is mentioned as a concealment for a silencer but I think it is unlikely that Bond uses this brand. Shaving soap from Trumpers in Curzon Street is more likely. In “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” he uses Pinaud’s ‘Elixir’ – “that Prince of shampoos”.
The Hoffritz razor is interesting. Hoffritz was a cutlery store at 331 Madison Avenue, New York, which eventually had 30 stores around America before collapsing in the 1990s and being absorbed by International Cutlery Inc.. They sold all sorts of knives, kitchen equipment, tools – and razors. Hoffritz razors (stamped with the company name) were made for them by Merkur of Solingen, Germany.
This is a currently available Merkur open- toothed razor (with space to conceal a microdot in the handle), reproducing the design of the original 1904 Gillette invention and is probably the same, or very similar to that used by Bond.
In New York Bond buys Owens toothbrushes. These appear to be no longer produced but a used one is available on-line for $23.
After dressing in his familiar clothes – white shirt, dark blue trousers black moccasins with steel lined toes (and sometimes knives in the heels) and a black knitted silk tie, Bond sits down to breakfast. No clothing brands are mentioned. However I doubt that Turnbull and Asser were his shirtmakers; this myth was established following the films.
Even in the ’50s and ’60s T&A were quite flamboyant, aiming at a younger fashionable crowd. I would suggest that New and Lingwood, the Eton suppliers, were his haberdashers and that he had opened an account there during his brief spell at the school and maintained it ever since. This black knitted silk tie was purchased from N&L at a time when they were one of the few London stockists.
Bond’s breakfast is interesting. It is known that Fleming consulted his friend and ‘gentle reader’, the poet William Plomer as to what Bond would use and consume at breakfast – and I think it shows. Bond drinks strong black coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street (long gone), brewed in an American Chemex coffee maker – and served in a Queen Anne coffee pot. This makes little sense. The Chemex is a simple glass filter jug that indeed makes fine coffee and keeps it hot due to its thin glass walls. Brewing the coffee in a Chemex and then transferring it to a metal coffee pot would result in rapid cooling. The rugged simplicity of the Chemex would have been much more to Bond’s taste than all this Queen Anne silverware suggested by Plomer.
Bond uses dark blue china with a gold ring round the rim, made by Minton. This is fair enough, considering Bond’s fondness for dark blue butI have been unable to find any record or photographs of this particular Minton design. Bearing in mind Bond’s the fondness for France and generous portions, I suggest that he would have been more likely to drink his coffee from a traditional, large French Apilco coffee cup.
He consumes a brown speckled Maran egg, boiled for a faddish and impossible three and a third minutes followed by two slices of whole wheat toast with Jersey butter and a choice of Cooper’s Vintage Oxford Marmalade, Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ Strawberry Jam or Norwegian Heather Honey from Fortnum & Mason.The Cooper’s marmalade is an excellent choice. Little Scarlet might be thought a bit over the top, in my opinion not being sufficiently superior to the plain Tiptree Strawberry jam to justify its price. This is because Little Scarlet is made from small wild strawberries only available for a short period, so the jam is produced in small batches and availability is variable. Fortnum’s do not currently stock Norwegian Heather Honey and enquiries show that they have no record of ever having done so. I have feeling that Bond’s breakfast tells us a good deal more about the gentle William Plomer’s tastes than it does about Bond’s more masculine and functional approach.
JAMES BOND’S CARS
James Bond owned only Bentleys. I am not going to discuss here the Aston Martin that figures in “Goldfinger”, as this was borrowed from the office pool and therefore does not reflect Bond’s taste, except to say that it is, obviously, a fine car and is appropriate for Bond’s use when his Bentley is unavailable or too conspicuous.
There appear to be three Bentleys in Bond’s life:
1930 Bentley 4 1/2 litre convertible with an Amherst Villiers supercharger. This magnificent vehicle was produced in a limited run of about 50, in order to qualify as a production car. Two were entered in the 1930 LeMans 24 hour race by the Hon. Dorothy Paget. The cars were disowned by W.O. Bentley, founder of Bentley Motors, when the Paget team added superchargers as he felt that using these would damage the cars. Despite this and although not completing the 24 hours, both cars performed well.
Bond bought his Bentley, almost new, in 1933. Despite Fleming’s opportunistic alteration of Bond’s age in the “You Only Live Twice” obituary, there is plenty of evidence in “Casino Royale” and “Moonraker” to suggest that Bond was born in 1918 (I like the neatness of Bond being exactly ten years younger than Fleming and re-living in a fictionalised version, Fleming’s wartime life, ten years earlier). This would make Bond 15 years old at the time of buying the car. Just about credible at a stretch. Or did Fleming mean 1935? This car was, possibly, the last echoing link between James Bond and the heroes of Fleming’s childhood reading – Dornford Yates’s Jonathan Mansel, Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond and Leslie Charteris’s Simon Templar. After smashing it up in Casino Royale and having it rebuilt, Bond finally wrote it he car off in Moonraker and replaced it with a MK VI Bentley.
The MK VI Bentley, painted battleship grey, like the ‘Blower’, with dark blue upholstery, did not last long. At the end of Moonraker it is shipped over to Calais to await Bond’s arrival with Gala Brand for a month at a Normandy farmhouse. Gala Brand declines Bond’s offer – what happened to the car (and driver) waiting in France?
Bond’s final car appears in Thunderball. It is a rebuilt MK II Bentley Continental, which Bond buys as a wreck, for £1500 and has fitted with a MK IV engine with 9.5 compression and a new battleship grey custom body from Mulliner’s, with black Morocco upholstery. This car which Bond calls his ‘Locomotive’ appears again in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, described as having an ‘R’ type chassis, a big-six engine and a 13:46 back axle ratio.
JAMES BOND’S WATCHES
A man’s watch is a very personal piece of equipment and it can often reflect his way of life as well as his style preferences. At one end of the scale are “tool” watches such as Rolex and TagHeuer and at the other “jewellery” timepieces such as Patek Philippe and Cartier. That is how these brands are positioned although all of them make watches across the spectrum.
Surprisingly, Ian Fleming mentions Bond’s watch in only two of his books: “Live and Let Die” and nine years later “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (in which he smashes his watch, using it as a weapon). Surprisingly because, as a result of the films, Bond’s watch has been one of the products most closely associated with him. The watch Fleming mentions in his books is a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal strap. In “LALD” this is all we learn. Bond has a Rolex because it is suitable for underwater swimming and luminous, so useful in the dark. For the following eight years no watch brand is mentioned, although watches and timekeeping are.
Fleming bought a Rolex in 1962 after seeing Sean Connery wearing a Rolex Submariner on the set of “Dr. No”. Fearing that he was losing control of his creation Fleming made his own decision and chose a different Rolex – the 1016 Explorer. This watch has large luminous numerals at the 3, 6 and 9 positions and matches the description given in “OHMSS”. And when he smashes it he decides to replace it with a new one, reflecting Fleming’s recent purchase.
Fleming’s Rolex Explorer was displayed in the Bond Centenary exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in 2008 and we can be pretty certain that this is the only watch that he actually identified for Bond. The portrait of Fleming, by Amherst Villiers used in the special limited edition of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” shows him wearing an identifiable Rolex Explorer.
There is much to be said on this subject and for those wishing to learn more, an interesting piece appears here:
Fleming knew a bit about watches and used premium brands to define characters in his books. Sir Hugo Drax, in Moonraker, wears a gold Patel Philippe, in FRWL the assassin Donovan Grant has a plundered Girard Perregaux and in “Thunderball the treacherous NATO pilot Giuseppe Petacchi, wears a ‘flashy’ gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
JAMES BOND’S TOILETRIES
There is probably more misinformation at large on this subject than on any other aspect of Fleming’s Bond and his world. Here I will attempt to put the record straight. Various products are mentioned in Fleming’s books – very few of them actually used by Bond:
This esteemed perfumer was founded in Jermyn Street, in London’s West End, in 1730, by Juan Floris and is still owned by his descendants the Bodenham family. Floris is mentioned twice in Fleming’s books. Firstly in “Moonraker” when he says that their products are provided in the bedrooms and bathrooms of the London club Blades and then in “Dr. No” where Bond finds Floris Limes bath essence ‘for men’ in the bathroom at the clinic in which he and Honeychile Rider are imprisoned. That’s all.
I believe Fleming did drop into Floris from time to time and was acquainted with members of the Bodenham family and a myth has grown that Bond used their No. 89 toilet water. Fleming never mentioned this and I think that it is improbable. In “From Russia With Love” Bond tells Tatiana that English men do not use scent ‘because we wash’. No.89 is quite a robust scent, un-Bond-like and it would leave a trace by which his presence could be traced easily by an enemy. Floris Lime bath essence (not specifically ‘for men’) may well have been in Bond’s bathroom (although he preferred showers to baths) – Floris certainly presented Fleming with a bottle after his mention of their name.
This men’s hairdresser was founded earlier but ‘established’ in 1875, in Curzon Street London by Geo. F Trumper and remains in the hands of his descendants. This is where Fleming often had his hair cut. Trumpers produce a wide range of hair dressings, shampoos, shaving soaps, after-shave lotions, colognes and bathroom hardware.
Their Eucris Cologne has been mentioned as ‘used by Bond’. This is impossible. In the 1950s and ’60s the only Eucris product produced by Trumpers was a heavy oil hair lotion (launched in 1912) scented with their Ajaccio Violets. It is still produced. The product in Marc-Ange Draco’s guest bathroom, in “OHMSS” was hair oil. Note that Fleming states that Bond did not use hair dressing. Late in the 20th. Century (long after Fleming’s time), Trumpers launched Eucris Cologne, a quite different scent, heavy in black currant and oak-moss. In the 2000s they added further products including shaving soap, deodorant and shower gel.
This company, originally French but later English and similar to Yardley’s and Bronnley produced men’s and women’s toiletries. Their Tweed Cologne was very popular with traditional minded women. They produced a very good range of men’s shaving products and toilet water. Sadly they disappeared many years ago. Lentheric After Shave Lotion is another product to be found in Dr. No’s guest bathroom.
Pinaud Elixir Shampoo
This ‘prince among shampoos’ was used by Bond near the beginning of “OHMSS”. It was an excellent product, containing quinine, although not noticeably effective in fulfilling the claim on the bottle to ‘prevent hair loss’. I still have a good supply bought in France before it was discontinued in the 1990s. Fleming, who often visited France would have bought this product there although back in England he probably used Trumpers shampoo. Edouard Pinaud founded his perfume company in France in 1830.
It became incredibly successful and spread throughout the world. At one time it ranked as one of the top five companies in its field. It is still around and, I believe, thrives in America, where their “Clubman’ range of products is popular.
Palmolive Shaving Cream. A tube of Palmolive Shaving Cream is mentioned in “FRWL” as a concealment for Bond’s pistol silencer, packed in cotton wool. Obviously he did not actually use this tube and I doubt that this commonplace product was used by Bond. I would favour a Trumpers shaving soap as Bond’s choice.
*** As a footnote I would like to suggest that bearing in mind Ian Fleming’s patronage of Trumpers Barber’s shop, he and Bond would probably have used Trumpers products: shaving soap and West Indian Extract of Limes – a cologne based product which carried the following inscription on the pre-1990s bottles ‘Most refreshing in the bath and for all toilet purposes’. Used as an after shave or scalp massage, first thing in the morning, this gives a pleasant wake-up burst of limes and after an hour or two has faded to a very faint scent.
JAMES BOND”S CIGARETTES
It is well known that James Bond smoked cigarettes made for him from a Macedonian blend, a mixture of Balkan and Turkish tobaccos, by Morlands of Grosvenor Street. Morlands was a small shop at 83, Grosvenor Street, London W.1. This shop was less than fifty yards along on the left hand side going from Bond Street. It closed sometime soon after 1970.
The shop itself was tiny. Its window was full of exotic hand-made cigarettes, using different blends of tobacco, some were even ‘cocktail’ cigarettes with coloured paper wrappers. Inside the tiny counter was tended by a lady, probably middle-aged, although to my young eyes she seemed to be elderly. Behind her, hidden by a curtain, a man worked, making the cigarettes. I imagined him to be her husband. They made cigarettes to suit individual customers’ tastes and would make up samples on the spot for you to try. This is how Fleming established his Macedonian blend. The cigarettes were decorated at one end with three gold bands. These gold rings were gradually added to indicate his rank in the RNVR – three representing Lieutenant Commander.
By the time I visited the shop in 1962, with Fleming’s agreement the cigarettes were made in quantity and generally available. Later the words ‘James Bond Special No.1’ were added along the length – but you could still get the original unbranded version. The truth is that, compared with mass produced cigarettes, they were not that good – and very expensive. Variable packing in terms of density and blend consistency; tobacco tended to fall out of some of those more loosely packed. Probably they were better when made to order but making them available to all customers meant that the chap making them had to work at speed. The dark blue and gold boxes, however, were extremely elegant.
As well as their own special cigarettes, Morlands also stocked all the well-known mass-produced brands.
OTHER CIGARETTES SMOKED BY BOND
- Duke of Durham king-size: 10 a day, when trying to cut down in “Thunderball”
- Shinsei: in Japan. “You Only Live Twice”.
- Royal Blend: Jamaica.
- Diplomat: Istanbul. “From Russia With Love”.’ The most wonderful cigarette Bond had ever tasted’. Were they better than his beloved Morlands?
- Senior Service: “Thunderball” “The Spy Who Loved Me” “The Man With The Golden Gun”.
- Lauren’s Jaunes: In Paris. French cigarettes made with Caporal tobacco and wrapped in yellow papier mais.
- Chesterfield king-size: In America. “Live and Let Die” “Diamonds are Forever” for instance – all Bond’s cigarettes were plain, without filters.
JAMES BOND”S SMOKING ACCESSORIES
Bond carried his cigarettes in a flat gunmetal cigarette case that would hold fifty and lit them with an oxidised Ronson lighter. Unlike Ian Fleming, he does not use a cigarette holder. Fifty cigarettes form a considerable bulk and it seems questionable if Bond would really have carried around such a large case; certainly not in his trousers hip pocket.Research has not thrown up any examples of such a cigarette case in gunmetal or any other material.
The Ronson lighter was probably similar to this 1950’s model. The finish is ‘satin’ chrome which might well be described as ‘oxidised’.
JAMES BOND”S DRINKS
James Bond did not drink beer (by which I mean good British Bitter). He missed a lot. However Bond was a hard liquor man and apart from Champagne, he did not get much involved with wine, either. On al fresco occasions and in Paris cafes he sometimes indulged in what he called ‘musical comedy’ drinks like the Americano or the Negroni. He did not care for pastis – (Pernod or Ricard) because ‘its liquorice flavour reminded him of childhood. Odd that – at the beginning of “OHMSS” he enjoys reflecting on childhood, seaside holidays and Cadburys Dairy Flakes.
We can assume that he considered sherry beyond the pale.
A myth has grown up that Bond travelled around the world drinking Dry Martinis, rapping out instructions for their construction to an attentive (or bemused) barman followed by ‘Got it?’ Well yes, from time to time he did but by far his preferred drink was Whisk(e)y – either Scotch or Bourbon. The idea of the ubiquitous Dry Martini probably originates from his invention of the ‘Vesper’ cocktail in “Casino Royale”. Bond raps out: ‘In a deep Champagne goblet. Three measures of Gordon’s (Gin), one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet (Vermouth. – no longer available). Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large slice of lemon peel.’ According to those who have tried it, this is not a pleasant drink. Kina Lillet was not a suitable choice of Vermouth.
This subject has been covered in detail in the excellent book ‘The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond’ by David Leigh of ‘The James Bond Dossier’ website, so rather than try to compete with this comprehensive piece of work I will merely produce a list, not necessarily complete, of the drinks Bond has consumed:
- Dimple Haig (sometimes referred to as ‘Haig & Haig’) – a premium blended Scotch Whisky.
- Old Grandad Borbon
- I.W. Harper Bourbon
- Walker’s De Luxe Bourbon
- Jack Daniel’s
- Virginia Gentleman
- Japanese Whisk(e)y:
- Wolfschmidt Vodka – in “Casino Royale” Bond offers the opinion that vodka made from grain is superior to a potato based version. In “Moonraker” he surprises M by sprinkling black pepper in his vodka, in order to disperse the poisonous fusil oil (found only in gut-rot vodka) – a trick he learnt in Russia.
- Kina Lillet
- Cresta Bianca
- Mouton Rothschild
- White Bordeaux
- Taittinger Blanc de Blanc
- Dom Perignon
- Miller High Life – American lager
- Red Stripe – Jamaica. Pale lager
- Slivovitz – Central European Plum Brandy
- Ouzo (In “FRWL”) – Greek. Odd this, as it is similar to Pastis that Bond claims to dislike.
- Sake – Japanese rice wine. Consumed in prodigious quantities in “YOLT”.
JAMES BOND”S LUGGAGE
When travelling Bond carries a battered pigskin Revelation suitcase. Good piece of luggage. These days most of us have succumbed to a lightweight wheeled trolley bag. They appear a bit wimpish and it is difficult to see Bond using one. However there is no doubt that they make progress through an airport or railway station much easier and avoid stretched arms and an aching hip on one side or the other.
Revelation, now a sub-brand of Antler Luggage, is still available although I doubt that they offer a pigskin suitcase in this age of lightweight air-travel friendly baggage.
Bond also uses a briefcase from Swaine Adeney, in “FRWL” This has been adapted to hold:
- 50 rounds of .25 ammunition
- 2 Wilkinson flat throwing knives
- Cyanide death pill
- Palmolive Shaving Cream tube, containing silencer
- 50 gold sovereigns
This weighs eight pounds and immediately he has the opportunity, Bond flushes the suicide pill away. It is amusing to imagine Bond, these days, trying to get this bag past Customs.
Swaine, Adeney & Brigg is a famous company making and selling saddlery, luggage and famous for their ‘Brigg’ umbrellas – possibly the finest in the World, closely followed by those of James Smith in New Oxford Street. During the time covered in Fleming’s books they were located in their original premises in Piccadilly where they had been since 1750. The shop had a metal sign hanging outside, with a bullet hole from some riot in Piccadilly. Subsequently they moved to Bond Street and then, later, to St. James’s Street and now they are to be found in the Piccadilly Arcade.
There we are: my survey of the material world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. No doubt there are a number of errors and omissions and I look forward to receiving any additions and corrections, so as to make this survey as comprehensive as possible.