The Breitling watch worn by Sean Connery in a Bond flick from the mid 1960s, Thunderball, was sold at the Christie’s auction for $160,175 which is almost twice as much than it was its estimated value. Interestingly, the watch was recently discovered at a flea market where it was bought for just $30. The watch in question is actually a Top Timer model by Breitling which was modified in order to be equipped with a fake Geiger counter for the measurement of the radiation. This was most likely the reason why the watch was sold at the pop culture auction organized by the famous auction and where it was sold together with a host of other Bond memorabilia in the final days of June.
As it turned out, the Bond timekeeper fetched far more money than it was expected (the estimated value of the piece was $60,000-$90,000) and far more than it was paid when it was discovered at one of the flea markets in England. Undoubtedly, the original owner must be very irritated for letting such a treasure go for just a tiny fraction of the price that the watch eventually was sold for. One of the major reasons why the item was sold for such a steep price is the fact that this was the first watch offered for sale that was actually worn by Sean Connery’s 007, arguably the most successful and convincing Bond ever.
The model in question is actually Top Timer by Breitling made in 1962, a timekeeper with a hand-wound mechanical movement (most likely Venus 188) and a chronograph complication. Since Thunderball tells the tale of 007’s efforts to recover stolen atomic bombs, the timekeeper was modified in order to include a fake indication of the radiation which would facilitate the search. The watch is presented to the famous spy character by the Q which supposedly makes this alteration. In fact, the modification was performed by the art department of the movie. Though it means that alas the watch does not include a proper and functional Geiger counter (which would be a very cool feature, but hardly a useful one), this also means that the watch is a unique piece, which has greatly contributed to its high value.
When presenting the watch to the most famous fictional spy ever, Q says: “Here we have a Geiger counter, useful and unobstructive, the sweep hand takes the radioactive count, it’s waterproof of course.” Apart from the scene where the watch is presented to Connery’s Bond, the timekeeper can be seen in various other scenes in the 007 movie from 1965. Crucial for the mission of tracking down the missing bombs, Bond uses it in when he inspects a suspicious boat (once while diving and the other time disguised as one of the crew members) owned by the “Number 2” of the infamous SPECTRE organization, just like when 007 browses his estate in the search for missing projectiles.
Top Timer timekeeper made by Breitling used in the film has the reference number 2002 and has a black dial with silver chrono counters, applied baton-styled hour markers and an outer tachymetric scale. Originally fitted into a 35 mm wide case, the housing was subsequently altered. The art department commissioned Vallet Tool Company which produced a larger case with a screw-down bezel, a back which features signature of V.T.C and a fake radiation measurement feature. Apart from Rolex Submariner, this is the only other model that was worn by Sean Connery while portraying 007. If you would like to read a bit more about more recent James Bond watches, we recommend our articles about the collaboration of Omega with 007, as well as reviews of two of its models: 50th Anniversary Seamaster 300 m and Seamaster Planet Ocean Skyfall.