James Bond’s Thunderball Breitling Watch Fetches $160,175

It’s an exploit fit for 007 himself. This week the Breitling timepiece worn by Sean Connery in the James Bond film Thunderball sold for £103,875 (US$160,175) at Christie’s Pop Culture auction in South Kensington, London.

Although the 1965 Breitling watch sold for more than double its estimate, what’s even more remarkable is that this piece of film history was originally purchased for a mere £25. (No, that’s not a typo.) An eagle-eyed watch collector spotted the watch at a car boot sale (a British version of the garage sale where goods are sold from the back of a car) with a price tag of just £25 (approximately US$38). The watch had been considered lost since the movie wrapped filming.

During the Pop Culture auction on June 26, the price tag was considerably higher. Known as the Breitling Top Time, this 1965 timepiece was the first ever specially-modified watch issued by Q to James Bond. The watch was equipped with a ‘Geiger-counter’ to detect radiation during Bond’s hunt for two atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE. And it’s no mere background prop; Bond and Q discuss the watch during Thunderball in an exchange where Q explains the useful Geiger counter with its unobstructive sweep hand to measure the radioactive count. Oh, and it’s waterproof too, Q notes, to which Bond sarcastically responds, But of course… Later in the film, Bond is seen using the watch during a nightime underwater dive beneath the villain Largo’s boat Disco Volante and at his Nassau estate.

The art department on Thunderball worked with the Valley Tool Company to create the bespoke underwater ‘Geiger counter’ case, which features a glazed bezel for the original Breitling timepiece. Only one was created for the film, making this particular custom timepiece totally unique. According to Christie’s, the Breitling Top Time was the only watch Connery wore as James Bond other than a Rolex Submariner.

Photo credit: © Allstar/United Artists, 1965 via Christie’s.

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