On Nov. 8 in Geneva, Phillips is selling the actual Rolex Submariner that Roger Moore wore as James Bond in 1973’s Live and Let Die. Yes, this watch touched 007's suave wrist.
Looking at the watch, it seems like a simple enough 1972 Rolex Submariner (ref. 5513 for the nerds), but it's far from that. Production designer Syd Cain—basically a real-life Q—got hold of it prior and heavily modified it for filming. Nowadays, Bond watches are usually promotional items and the Daniel Craig films have all heavily featured various Omega watches. The watch even gets a straight call-out during a tension-filled train ride in Casino Royale, during which Craig flat-out states that he doesn't wear Rolex, much to Eva Green's chagrin.
Unlike other Bond watches, though, this Rolex is more than a stylish accessory. Cain recut the teeth on the bezel to look like those on a circular saw, so they face the clockwise direction instead of sticking straight out. Bond uses the saw to cut through some ropes holding him and a heroine hostage at a critical point in the movie.
The secret agent is also told that his new watch can generate a strong magnetic field on command, but he needs to test it out. Obviously 007 opts for using it to unzip actress Madeline Smith’s dress. If you look at the bottom of the watch, on the bracelet's endlink, the secret to this effect is revealed: There’s a tiny hole where a wire could be placed to hook onto the zipper pull.
Looking inside the watch, there's a surprise: no movement, just a weight. So no, this watch doesn’t actually tell time, it’s purely a movie prop. That's going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of collectors, but as a consolation prize the inside is signed "Roger Moore 007."
Provenance is everything for a lot like this, and in addition to the autograph, whoever buys the watch will get some original stills from the film’s production along with some of Cain’s hand-drawn sketches for the watch’s modification. They're little extras that make this feel a lot more like a complete package.Prior Sales
This isn't the first time we've seen this watch at auction. It first sold publicly back in 2001 at Christie's in London as part of a memorabilia sale. It brought in $38,000, about 30 percent above the $29,000 high estimate. Christie’s sold the watch again 10 years later in November 2011, this time at a watch-specific auction, and it fetched $245,000—a not insignificant jump after just a decade. Now the estimate is $150,000 to $250,000, so it’s entirely possible the watch sells for less this time around.
It might sound all too simple, but not being a functioning timekeeper is a serious knock. In 2012, a watch worn by Steve McQueen on the set of Le Mans sold for almost $800,000, and it's not crazy to think that if this watch still had the original movement inside, but just aesthetic modifications, it might be worth $1 million or more.
Still, if you’re looking for a real James Bond watch, it doesn’t get any more legit than this.
This Rolex Submariner worn by Roger Moore inLive and Let Die is Lot 290 in Phillips's Nov. 8 Watch Auction: Two in Geneva. It carries an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.