The original James Bond wore a Rolex. That much we know, because author Ian Fleming made note of it in his Bond novels. Beyond that? Well, it’s a bit of a mystery. Fleming himself wore an Explorer, but the best description to be found in the pages of his books is that 007’s watch was a “Rolex Oyster Perpetual,” which, as it turns out, is not the name of an actual Rolex model. So, when it came time to film the very first Bond movie, Dr. No, the specifics of the watch weren’t the biggest concern.
Still, a Rolex it had to be, and according to lore, one was lent to Sean Connery for filming by producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. That watch was a Big Crown Submariner, ref. 6538, which subsequently earned another nickname: the James Bond Submariner. First introduced in 1955, the 6538 ceased production in 1959, making it a highly collectible piece; the Bond connection just ramps up the desirability. So when I tell you that the watch that’s about to hit the auction block (in a team-up between Sotheby’s and the secondhand Rolex experts at Bob’s Watches) is one hell of a find, know that I’m not exaggerating in the least. Even if it’s not the actual watch that Connery wore on set.
This particular 6538 is particularly rare. Aside from the reference number, there’s also the tropical dial, which has faded to a warm shade of brown. (This was initially considered a manufacturing flaw, but has become prized by collectors.) And adding to both its rarity and collectibility are the four lines of text on the dial, indicating that the watch is COSC-certified (tested for precision and accuracy by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), unlike the first “two-line” Big Crown Submariners. All told, 007’s first on-screen watch is estimated to fetch $180,000 to $280,000 at auction, which runs from August 14 to 20—though it should be noted that actual final prices often exceed estimates.
The online auction also includes 17 other watches, all of which draw inspiration from collectible cars being displayed by RM Auto Restoration and Sotheby’s in Monterey, California from August 15 to 17. And if you think the Big Crown Submariner is a lot of vintage Bond goodness to take in, consider this: They’ve also got his car. Yep, the Aston Martin DB5, complete with functional props like a smoke screen and gun barrels hidden in the fenders, is up for auction.
The car was originally created to help promote Thunderball and has been fully restored, even bringing the special effects into working order. Now, that doesn’t mean you can actually drop an oil slick while fleeing from bad guys, but it’s still pretty damn cool. And if you’ve got an extra four to six million bucks lying around, you might be able to afford it.
Or, like us, you can just gaze at it, along with the watch. Then you can mix up a martini (stirred, not shaken, because that’s the one thing Bond was wrong about), and appreciate how well 007’s style has aged over the years.