In the 1968 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, one-time Bond George Lazenby wore two Rolex wristwatches. The first, a simple Submariner diving watch, he had actually purchased himself to wear during his audition for the role – a testament to the power of a good watch. The other was a stainless-steel chronograph, also a Rolex, now dubbed the “Pre-Daytona”, as it was the immediate predecessor to the brand’s iconic Daytona chronograph.
Lazenby, as Bond, can be seen wearing the silver-dialled timepiece throughout the latter part of the film (third picture); it was even animated into several of the film’s promotional posters. Now, through a heaping dose of horological sleuthing, the very Rolex seen in the movie (first picture) has surfaced and is being auctioned by one of the world’s most prominent vintage watch dealers, Miami-based Matthew Bain Inc; and the watch-collecting world is in a minor tizzy.
The connection between James Bond and his watches has long been an expensive one. Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner (Reference 6538/1A) in the original Bond films, and now similar watches fetch an average price of $35,000 for original examples. But to own a watch actually worn by James Bond – that is something special. Bain, the man who located the Pre-Daytona, said: “I’ve been doing this over 20 years, and this is the most excitement we’ve ever seen about one of our watches; the level of interest is amazing.”
We in fact wrote about the find last month on Hodinkee, and the post has since become our most trafficked of the past six months. Bain added, “This isn’t a handkerchief or a pair of shoes worn by James Bond – this is his watch, a tool that is a cornerstone object – the focal point of the movie.”
And the matter of price? This very watch was sold via Christie’s to an unidentified collector in 2004 for approximately $40,000. Since then, the world of provenance-driven watch-buying has taken a dramatic turn towards the sky. In late 2008, a small Longines timepiece owned by Albert Einstein sold for $596,000. Five months later, a broken Zenith pocket watch that belonged to Mahatma Gandhi sold for more than $2m. More recently, a Rolex Submariner that belonged to Steve McQueen sold for $234,000, and in 2008, another James Bond watch was sold at auction: the Omega Planet Ocean worn by Daniel Craig in Casino Royal. It fetched $250,250 (you can buy a Planet Ocean at your local authorised Omega dealer for around $4,000).
“Considering [Craig’s] Omega, which is a current production model, pulled $250,000, we think a vintage Bond watch, especially a Rolex chronograph, is worth the same, if not more,” says Bain. “This is a once in a lifetime find and I’ve even thought about keeping the watch for myself – it’s that special. But,” he adds, “for $250,000 I’d probably let it go.”