Top Time: James Bond’s Breitling

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Words by: JPS for duncan quinn


In 2013 one of James Bond’s watches sold for a staggering $160,000.

All the more of a coffee-spitter because it wasn’t one of the famous Rolexes – rather a relatively obscure Breitling model, the Top Time, that makes a relatively brief but important appearance on Sean Connery’s wrist in 1965’s Thunderball. Obscured of course by the “Big Crown” Submariner he also wears in the film, the Top Time, ref. 2002 made in 1962, should be considered the more significant of the two. It is in fact the first ever timepiece specially modified by Q Branch for 007. EON Productions commissioned the modifications from the Valley Tool Company which gave it a custom oversized, “underwater Geiger counter” case with a glazed bezel.

According to Christie’s’ lot notes at the time of the sale, Bond is seen wearing the watch during various scenes in the film, using it to search for the location of the atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE under the direction of Emilio Largo. He first uses it during a nightime underwater dive beneath Largo’s yacht, the Disco Volante, to check if the bombs are hidden on board. He later checks the watch for a radioactive count at Palmyra, Largo’s posh Nassau estate, wearing it for the famous skeet shooting scene, and again when he sneaks on to the Disco Volante disguised as one of Largo’s henchmen. The Top Time, which usually took on a dressier form in unmodified guise, isn’t as highly valued as some of Breitling’s other vintage models. But even without Q Branch’s makeover its a gentlemanly timepiece with a pedigree – and double-O style – like no other.

Words by JPS for duncan quinn