Timepiece Chronicle

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Found: The real Rolex Pre-Daytona chronograph worn by Bond (and it's for sale!)

Found: The real Rolex Pre-Daytona chronograph worn by Bond (and it's for sale!)

Rolex Ref 6238 dial rectangle.png

"He could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex." – Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (1953)

Tens of thousands words, if not more, have been written about the watches of professional misogynist and amateur spy James Bond. The combination of sex appeal, nostalgia and vintage watches is a perfect cocktail that tastes better every time you drink it. Last November I wrote about the forgotten Bond watch seen on the wrist of the oft forgotten Bond, George Lazenby and how to the best of my knowledge it had ended up collecting dust for the last year fews at Beverly Hills Pawn shop. Apart from the Thunderball Breitling Top time, the On Her Majesty's Secret Service Rolex Pre-Daytona Ref.6238 is the only time that Agent 007 has ever worn a chronograph yet it is probably the least known of all the Bond watches. I'm very pleased to say that not only was I wrong about its location, but that it will be coming up for auction in July as part of the Artcurial Fine Watches auction

When I first discovered the watch at the The Dina Collection pawn shop, there was something that didn't sit quite right with me and I had a gut feeling that this wasn't the last I would hear of this watch. The serial number of that watch, 1206613, was the same serial number as the Bond Pre-Daytona sold by Christies in 2003 and the watch even had the unique red central seconds hand in place of the traditional black but the watch was missing the EON receipt from 1968 as well as the production still that accompanied the watch at Christies. This was unfortunate but frankly some people just don't care about those things; boxes and papers from new watches often get thrown away within a few years so two pieces of paper going missing over the course a decade doesn't stretch the imagination. 

Luckily for those dedicated collectors, those two pieces of paper weren't lost. In fact they never left the watch and unfortunately for The Dina Collection, the watch they have for sale is not the watch worn by George Lazenby on set of OHMSS. A typo in the Christies auction catalog from 2003 incorrectly listed the serial number of the watch as 1206613, instead of the correct 1206513. This is an unfortunate common occurrence in auction catalogs where human error trumps diligence, even the much publicized Rare Watches and Exceptional Complications auction from Christies had announcements mid sale correcting case sizes and references numbers. The irony of correct a mistaken auction catalog by referring to another auction catalog is not lost on me so luckily Artcurial has all the receipts and paperwork for the watch dating back to 1968.

Image courtesy of Artcurial.

Image courtesy of Artcurial.

There is a copy of the original invoice to EON productions from Bucherer Jewellers, dated October 23rd 1968 which has a hand written addition of "This is the watch for James Bond" and a copy of payment for a total of 790 CHF, today approximately $800. As further provenance for this watch being the Pre-Daytona worn in the film, a copy of the original invoice from the 2003 Christies auction is included as well as the invoice from the winner of that auction to the current owner which reads "Rolex Chronograph Ref. 6238 Serial 1206513. This is the actual watch worn by James Bond George Lazenby in the Bond Film In [sic] Her Majesty's Secret Service". 

On Her Majesty's Secret Service remains a polarizing Bond film, at the time it's frenetic editing and new leading man were received poorly and for years it was referred to as the worst James Bond film (That was before the invisible car, iceberg tidal wave surfing travesty that was Die Another Die). Thankfully in recent years the darker tone and superbly choreographed fight scenes have gained popularity with Steven Soderbergh writing an open letter declaring his love of the film. Perhaps this is why the Ref. 6238 isn't known as a Bond watch by the majority of people? It's a shame however as I believe it is the best watch Bond ever wore.

Those guys at Valjoux sure knew how to make a movement. Image courtesy of Artcurial.

Those guys at Valjoux sure knew how to make a movement. Image courtesy of Artcurial.

The Ref. 6238 is one of the great chronographs ever produced by Rolex and was in production from 1960 through to 1968. Lazenby's model has been dated to around 1965 when the new Caliber 722 started being used, a Rolex modified Valjoux caliber 72. It was in that year that the first Cosmograph Daytona was released whose popularity overshadowed the great 6238 and the earlier Ref 6239 Cosmographs that lack Daytona on the dial. The panda dial and steel tachymeter bezel defined the later models as sports watches whilst the earlier Ref. 6238 was an elegant dress chronograph that is far more suited to Bond.

Currently the auction estimate for this piece is by request only but given the recent increase of vintage Rolex chronographs at auction I'm sure this watch will be reaching very high prices. The 2003 Christies lot had an estimate of between $8700 & $12,000 and reached $39,936 but that was before the explosion in prices for vintage Rolex chronographs. The sale at Matthew Bain back in 2008 went for an unlisted sum with some blogs claiming a price of $250,000. Over the past few years sales of similar 6238s usually land between $18,000 to $35,000 however these are without any connection to Bond whose name can drive large premiums at auction. The Breitling Top-Time from Thunderball sold for $160,000 at Christies in 2013 for $160,000 and the prop Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 used in Live and Let Die sold for $372,000 at the Geneva Watch Auction Two and that was just an empty case with no movement inside. 

The Artcurial Fine Watches auction is on July 18th and this very special Rolex chronograph is Lot Number 400. Could this be a new record set for a James Bond watch at auction? There is only one way to find out.

For more information about this watch please visit www.artcurial.com

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