Bonding With Time – The Wristwatches of James Bond 2.2

Part 2.2 – The Other Watches of Bond Including Allies and Villains

A Breitling 806 Navitimer and Rolex 6238 Pre-Daytona ChronographA Breitling 806 Navitimer and Rolex 6238 Pre-Daytona Chronograph
Welcome back to part 2.2 where we will discuss the other watches that James Bond, his allies and villains have used throughout the films up to and including The Man With The Golden Gun. Thereafter, Bond began sporting Seiko LCD watches until Timothy Dalton returned as Bond wearing the classic Rolex Submariner.

It should be noted that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every watch worn by Bond in every scene, but rather a list of watches that the filmmakers intended that Bond wear and that the audience be aware of. Likewise, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every watch that every villain or ally major or minor has worn, but rather a listing of the more interesting watches that can’t help but be noticed on the wrists of Bond’s allies and villains

This is part 2.2 of two articles, continuing the watches of Thunderball to The Man With The Golden Gun in case you missed part 2.1 it covered the watches From Russia With Love to Thunderball. Don’t forget part 1 of Bonding With Time looks at the Rolex Submariner watch.

Thunderball’s Breitling Top Time

The Breitling Top-Time is the only other watch besides the Rolex Submariner that Sean Connery as Bond is noted for wearing. This watch is also the first issued watch by Q-Branch in the Bond cannon. In the movie Thunderball, the Top-Time has the Q-function of working as a Geiger counter. I have spent many years looking for the Top-Time as worn by Connery in various books as well as on-line all to no avail. After having several conversations with various Bond aficionados including the doyen of Bond props and co-creator of Yoda’s lightsaber Ed Magianni, I have concluded that although the Top-Time is an actual watch, the case of the watch as it appeared in Thunderball was custom made by the EON prop department.
My belief in the custom cased Top-Time is based on:

  1. The Thunderball Breitling Top-Time does not appear in any reference material that I’ve seen related to Breitling.
  2. The Breitling Top-Time as made by Breitling is a two register chronograph and has two pushers on the case at approximately two O’clock and 4 O’clock on either side of the crown, however the Thunderball Top-Time has no pushers evident on the outside of the case. Moreover, the Thunderball Top-Time has no crown.
  3. Chronographs of this nature are susceptible to water incursion at the pushers, and it is a reason why Rolex ultimately started using screw down pushers on its Daytona’s. A fully encased Top-Time used by Connery in and around the water in Thunderball would suffer little water damage with a customized case devoid of pushers or crown.
  4. The bigger watch case simulated the geiger counter Q-function as well as the diver function as imagined by EON productions.

It should be noted that in Thunderball the novel, Bond is given a geiger counter watch, after a fashion, by Felix Leiter. However, the watch itself is really just the display for the actual Geiger counter which is a Roliflex camera. The watch is connected to the camera via wires up the sleeve and out through holes in a jacket pocket to the camera while slung over the shoulder. A waterproof version is later used by Bond while looking over the hull of the Disco Volante. The watch, the brand of which is never mentioned, then takes the radioactivity count via the sweep hand. A very ponderous affair. It’s no wonder the movie producers chose to make these two separate and autonomous Geiger counters, a Calypso/Nikonos camera that Bond ultimately gives to Domino and the Breitling Top-Time that Bond uses.

The Top-Time as issued by Breitling existed in both round and cushion cased varieties with alternate case, and dial colors as well as different style pushers. There is also a three register version of the Top-Time with various dial and pusher configurations. One of the most handsome of the Breitling issued Top-Time series is the stainless steel, round case, round pusher variety with black dial, twin silver sub-dials, and silver outer tachymetric scale. I suspect that it was this version used by EON and that the whole watch was encased in an outer faux case designed by the props department. On its own, the watch has an understated elegance fit for both the boardroom and the bedroom, and will work equally as well in the field. If you want to sport the Bond look but want to stand out from the sea of Rolexes and Omegas while doing it, the round case/round pusher silver/black Breitling Top-Time sans faux case is the way to go.

The Count Lippe Watch

The watch Count Lippe wears in Thunderball, is one that is rarely talked about by watch aficionados or Bond aficionados for that matter. The watch itself has always appeared to me as a gold coin watch. Although I have no definitive proof of this, close-ups of the dial reveal irregularities consistent with a gold coin. It’s anyone’s guess what make or model, but I suspect it was something cheaply manufactured by the EON prop department. The watch along with the unique split twin gold band/bracelet, apart from covering Lippe’s “Tong sign” tattoo (a red square with a spike through it), served as a device for the audience to follow who was messing about with Bond’s motorized traction table, refereed to as the “rack” in both the movie and the novel. The Count Lippe watch can be replicated expensively using a 20 dollar gold coin watch from Corum or Piaget, although these appear somewhat larger than the watch Lippe wears in the movie. An economical and probably more appropriate way to go would be to use any number of inexpensively made coin watches and a modicum of gold paint or gold leaf. The real trick is getting a jeweler or metal-smith to make that unique bracelet.

Again, I have no direct knowledge of what in fact the Count Lippe watch is. The Thunderball novel is not much help either, because it simply refers to a watch used to cover a red tattoo that “looked like a small zig zag crossed by two vertical strokes” on Lippe’s wrist. My belief in the gold coin watch is merely an informed guess based on close-ups of the watch and knowledge that many of Fleming’s villains are often expensively, if ostentatiously, turned out. Chapter 4 of Thunderball says the following with respect to Count Lippe’s personal effects while Bond is doing a reconnaissance of Lippe’s room at Shrublands:

“All he learned-from the clothes-was that the Count was a much traveled man-shirts from Charvet, ties from Tripler, Dior, and Hardy Amies, shoes from Peel, and raw silk pyjamas from Hong Kong. The dark red morocco suitcase from Mark Cross might have contained secrets, and Bond eyed the silk linings and toyed with the Count’s Wilkinson razor.”

I believe EON took a cue from Fleming’s description of Lippe’s personal effects in creating a movie version of the novels non-descript watch. A watch made out of a gold coin would certainly be expensive and ostentatious, at least according to Fleming’s sensibility. However, if any of you have direct knowledge and supporting documentation to the contrary with respect to the Count Lippe watch please let me know.

George Lazenby’s Pre-Daytona Cronograph Model Reference 6238

Rolex 6238 Pre-Daytona Chronograph
Rolex 6238 Pre-Daytona Chronograph

In the movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, George Lazenby as James Bond is seen wearing two different Rolex watches. Bond’s main watch was a Rolex Submariner model reference 5513. Since the 5513 Submariner was one of the subjects of my previous article, it will not be discussed here. Bond dons another watch when going undercover as Sir Hilary Bray Baronet. That watch was a Rolex chronograph model reference 6238.

The 6238 is often referred to as the pre-Daytona because it preceded the 6239, the first chronograph in the Rolex stable to be called a Daytona. Initially, the 6239 had only “Cosmograph” printed on the dial. Later, the 6239 had both “Cosmograph” and “Daytona” printed on the dial. The 6238 shares the same case as the 6239, however the 6239 had the tachymetric scale engraved on the bezel rather than on the outer edge of the dial like the 6238. Apart from dial colorations, this is the only real difference between the 6238 and the 6239. The 6239 was apparently the model worn by Paul Newman in publicity photos for the movie Winning and also apparently appeared on his wrist much later while on the cover of an Italian magazine. The 6239 worn by Paul Newman had an exotic colored dial with the base dial one color and the sub-dials a contrasting color. Today Daytona Cosmographs with an exotic dial are referred to by some collectors as Paul Newman dials regardless of the model reference number and are particularly sought after, commanding outrageous prices.

I’ve always thought the 6238 was an interesting choice for Bond to wear undercover as an expert in heraldry because chronographs are associated with race car drivers and pilots. It is used for timing or stopping time and is not something one would associate with a stodgy academic. However the 6238 worn by Lazenby as Bond undercover as Bray is a particularly understated watch especially with its silver dial and silver sub-dials. So, its understated elegance works very well within the context of the movie. It’s also interesting to note that the Rolex chronographs, including the early Daytona’s were the only watches that Rolex ever discounted because they just did not sell very well. It’s a watch that an academic might very well buy particularly during the time frame of 1969.

The Rolex 6238 Chronograph existed in three series and lasted from approximately the mid 1960’s to about 1967. The first series had dials similar to the 6034 and 6234 reference numbers and existed with or without the tachymetric scale. The second and rarest series had the handsome two tone dials with the dial being one color and the three sub-dials being another contrasting color (the precursor to the so called Paul Newman dials), for example a black dial with silver sub-dials. The third series is the one with the monochromatic dial, where the dial and sub-dials are all one color. It is from this third series that EON culled the 6238 that Lazenby wore for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This third series 6238 existed with three different dial variations. One was a black dial and was the rarest of the third series dials, one was a dark silver dial, sometimes referred to as graphite and one was a light silver dial and is the one Lazenby wore.

The hand wound movement in the 6238 was either the 72B or the 722. Both movements are based on the hand wound Valjoux Caliber 72A. Rolex essentially took the base model Valjoux 72A and modified it by upgrading and engraving certain parts. The 6238 housed the 72B until approximately 1965 and was replaced by the 722 from 1965 on. It is interesting to note that all Rolex chronograph movements were based on the Valjoux Caliber 72A from about 1960 until roughly 1987, and that’s quite a testament to the greatness of the caliber. It powered the various later Rolex chronograph model references as the 722-1 and lastly the 727. The Valjoux 72A was also widely used by other watch companies in their chronoraphs including but not limited to Heuer (now Tag Heuer), and Longines. For a short while the Valjoux 72 even powered the Breitling 806 Navitimer and is considered a rarity amongst Navitimer collectors. Rolex finally replaced the Valjoux 72A based movement in their chronographs by the heavily modified automatic Zenith caliber 4030 in 1988.

Apparently, the 6238 that was purchased for Lazenby by the production department was supposed to have an additional Q type function beyond timing the Piz Gloria cable car ride. As the story goes, the watch was to also function as a compass. The red sweep hand was to function as the compass pointer. Since 6238’s were not made with red sweep hands, and the Lazenby/Bond/Bray 6238 does have it, this appears to be an accurate statement.

Roger Moore’s Hamilton/Time Computer Pulsar P2 Model 2900 Astronaut

Hamilton Pulsar P2 model 2900
Hamilton Pulsar P2 model 2900
© www.oldpulsars.com – Z Holtelius

The Hamilton Pulsar P2 model 2900 was the first watch to appear on the wrist of Roger Moore in his first outing as James Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die. Bond/Moore checks the P2 while cradling Miss Caruso in his arms after he is awakened at an early morning hour by M and Miss Moneypenny at his front door.

Although I am not a big fan of digital quartz watches, the P2 is one of the must haves for any watch collection either Bond related or otherwise. The fact that it was the first of its kind and initial models were marketed in high-end stores and jewelry shops and sought after by celebrities and politicians only adds to its mystique. The April 2004 article in WatchTime Magazine entitled Pulsar A Space Odyssey by Lucien F. Trueb had this to say:

“The Pulsar triggered a worldwide sensation. The emperor of Abyssinia, the shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, U.S. presidents Nixon and Ford, Soviet head-of-state Leonid Brezhnev, actors Jerry Lewis and Roger Moore, as well as numerous other celebrities had already ordered their Pulsars in 1970 – and were obliged to wait nearly two years before they could accept delivery. The first series of 300 specimens sold out in just three days. This model was equipped with a solid gold case and an integrated wristband and retailed for an extravagantly high $2,100. Despite the steep price, Hamilton received thousands of orders. A version in a steel case was soon launched, selling for the more moderate price of $275.”

I’d like to point out that despite the fact that Hamilton was at the time one of the most successful watchmakers in the United States they actually purchased the technology for the P2 and its predecessor models form a small electronics company called Electro/Data located in Garland, Texas for hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was done as a time saving measure because Bulova had already made incursions into Hamilton’s market share with their Accutron’s tuning fork technology and the Swiss and Japanese were about to make significant inroads with their own new quartz technology. Hamilton was behind the eight ball in terms of electronic watches when Electro/Data called Hamilton and said they had, according to the aforementioned WatchTime article:

“A functional model of a digital clock with a point-matrix light-emitting-diode (LED) display.”

After entering into a contract with Hamilton, this technology was subsequently shrunken down to watch size by Electro/Data and the clock’s creator an electrical engineer named Willie Crabtree. The name Pulsar had previously been registered after John Bergey, Hamilton’s research director, had recognized Pulsar as a great sounding name for a new electronic watch that had been envisioned for Hamilton’s future. It was thus that the Hamilton Pulsar was born.

Unlike the later LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) watches made by Seiko and others, the Hamilton the P2 had an LED display (Light Emitting Diode). Different than the constant on feature of LCD watches, the LED watch could only display time by the push of a button. It makes the watch a cool gadget and can be considered gee whiz technology especially within the context of 1973. The case, bracelet and dark red display are very pleasing to the eye and have a very organic shape. Although I don’t presently have a Hamilton Pulsar P2, I do intend to add one to my collection because, apart from it being in a Bond movie, it represents a first in the world of horology.

Scaramanga’s Rolex King Midas Model Reference 9630

In The Man With The Golden Gun, Scaramanga obviously has a penchant for all things golden. Apart from his golden gun (made of a pen, a lighter, a cigarette case and a cufflink), gold bullets, and gold rings, Scaramanga also sports a solid 18 karat gold Rolex King Midas with asymmetrical case and integrated gold band. As I said earlier, the villains in Fleming’s world are often expensively, if ostentatiously, turned out, and the screen version of Scaramanga is no different. Kudos to EON for having insight into Fleming’s world and getting it right. Although the King Midas is not in keeping with my particular taste, it certainly broadcasts to the world that you have money, new money probably, but money nevertheless. Having said that, if I inherited one, I certainly would not throw it away.

The Rolex King Midas model reference number 9630 had a hand wound movement and the integrated gold bar link bracelet had a double deployant clasp. The King Midas was a limited edition of only 1000 watches originally introduced by Rolex in 1964 but apparently available into the 1970’s. Apart form the serial number, the King Midas also had a separate edition number. The watch was engraved on the side of the case on either side of the crown with the words “KING” and “MIDAS”. At the time, the King Midas was the most expensive Rolex watch money could buy. It was also the heaviest gold watch money could buy. It’s no wonder that Elvis Presley owned one. The King Midas was named after the king in Greek mythology that had the golden touch and was presented in very unique packaging. The outer box was decorated with Greek motifs and the inner box, made of wood, was shaped like an urn with more Greek motifs. A very special watch indeed, made for people with money to burn. Please note that the King Midas was later introduced as an unlimited edition as part of the Cellini line. Although similar looking, it is a different watch.

A Word About Books & Sources

If you have any questions or comments on the article visit the Absolutely James Bond Forums and the Bonding With Time Topic.

I am not a watch expert my knowledge of watches rests firmly on the hard work and determination of real watch experts who sought to commit their hard work and research to the written word. I am more or less a person who coalesces information taken from various and disparate sources. It does help a great deal, however, to like what you are writing about. And boy, do I like watches.

When I began to write this article, I came across the article about the Red Grant watch in the October 2007 issue of Hr: WATCHES LUXURY LIFESTYLE while browsing the watch magazines in the bookstore. It was indeed a fortuitous occasion because I was not looking for information about Girard-Perregaux. The article is titled “Girard-Perregaux’ Lasting Value A Fully Functional Full Calendar. I don’t know if you can purchase back issues but it’s worth a try and you can check on line at www.hrwatches.com.

One of my all time favorite Rolex books is the Best Of Time Rolex Wristwaches An Unauthorized History by Jefferey Hess and James Dowling, ISBN: 0-76430011-3. I borrowed generously from this book regarding the creation of Pussy Galore’s GMT Master reference 6542 and its association with aerospace. James Dowling still has his own website at www.ukwatches.com where he sells watches and continues to be a contributor on www.timezone.com and www.vintagerolexforum. Likewise, the book Vintage Rolex Sports Models A complete visual reference & unauthorized history ISBN: 0-7643-1496-3 by Martin Skeet and Nick Urul helped round out my knowledge of the GMT 6542 as well as its replacement the GMT 1675 of Casino Royale fame.

My references concerning the Breitling series of watches including the Navitimer and Top Time are many and varied. My first source was the second edition of BREITLING THE HISTORY OF A GREAT BRAND OF WATCHES 1884 TO PRESENT by Benno Richter ISBN: 0-7643-1006-2. I also consulted www.navitimer.net, a fantastic site about the various incarnations of the Breitling Navitimer. In the “50 years” gallery you can determine that the Derval Navitimer falls into the IV generation of the Navitimer issue because of the bezel, and the small size of the sub-dials. Luckily my personal Navitimer from 1967 falls into this IV generation. If you are looking for certified service or restoration work on a vintage or modern Breitling watch, look no further than www.horologicalservices.com. Mark and Theresa Heist along with Ronald Pfleger will do your ailing Breitling justice. I bought my vintage 806 Navitimer from them in September of 2005, and it was damn near new in appearance. It seems, however, after recently talking with Theresa Heist, that they are focusing more on repair and restoration work rather than sales.

The absolute best reference with respect to the Rolex Chronograph model reference 6238 was the book Rolex Daytona a legend is born by Carlo Pergola, Steffano Mazzariol and Giovanni Dosso. The book does not list an ISBN number but I purchased it directly from www.alfowatch.com. Although it is presently out of print, the last time I checked Amazon.com, there was a used one for sale. Do whatever you can to get this book, it is presented in both Italian and English and is wealth source of information about the Rolex Daytona including the Pre-Daytona. The original print date was 11/2006, Best Edizioni SRL, V. Londonio 22, 20154 Milano (MI), ITALIA. I must also mention the Christies auction catalog for a close up and description of the actual 6238 as worn by George Lazenby that went up for auction. The accompanying picture clearly shows a red sweep hand. The catalog is dated December 16, 2003 (Christie’s South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD).

My information regarding the Pulsar P2 Model 2900 came from, as noted above, the April 2004 article in WatchTime Magazine entitled Pulsar A Space Odyssey by Lucien F. Trueb. I’m not sure if they sell back issues, but you can check their website here www.watchtime.com. More information than you could ever imagine about the 2900 is available at www.oldpulsars.com. It also has links to other sites regarding LED watches.

Trying to find information about the Rolex King Midas was very difficult. Although the Dowling/Hess book had a picture of the asymmetrical Cellini version of the King Midas, not much is said about the watch. Then I found Jakes Rolex Watch Blog www.rolexblog.blogspot.com, and it had a mint of information regarding the original limited edition Rolex King Midas. Apart from just words the blog is liberally sprinkled with pictures. Moreover, Jakes blog also contains information about Rolex’ association with Astronauts as well as interesting articles concerning famous people and Rolex. Did you know that Chuck Yeager has worn a Rolex for over 50 years, or that he also at one time wore a 6538 Submariner of James Bond fame? If you didn’t now you do, go check out the picture and more information regarding all things Rolex at Jake’s Rolex Watch Blog.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the book 1001 Wristwatches From 1925 To The Present ISBN 978-1-4054-9463-2 (Editor: Martin Hausserman). I used it as a general reference and the book is separated into sections by watch type. The great things about the book are the numerous pictures and the low price I obtained it for in the bargain book section of my bookstore.

I have of course used other books, websites and references in writing this article that I may not have mentioned. However, the above represents what I feel are the best sources for obtaining real world information on the watches in Bond’s world. As the saying goes “scientia potentia est” which roughly translates to knowledge is power.

Article Copyright © 2009 Richard Dos Santos

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