In this article, we will discover the most memorable, iconic and sometimes crazy world of James Bond gadgets from inside Q Branch. With twenty-four movies released through five decades, Bond has seen and used his fair share of incredible gadgets. It all started with the Geiger Counters and Cyanide Cigarettes in Dr No through to the extremely beautiful and exquisite Omega Seamaster Wristwatch in SPECTRE, they have become an iconic part of the James Bond series. What are the most memorable, iconic and damn right crazy James Bond gadgets used in the series, here are my favourites – what are yours? let us know in the comments below.
From Russia With Love (1963)
The briefcase was introduced to James Bond in M’s office by Major Boothroyd of Q-Branch. He explains how the case functions and notes its hidden features, such as a flat throwing-knife at the top corner of the case, 20 rounds of ammunition stored in 2 cylinders hidden in its base, and fifty gold sovereigns concealed in the lining of the case (20 in either side, accessible by pulling the inside straps). The case also contains an anti-tampering mechanism with a magnetised tear-gas cartridge (disguised as a tin of talcum powder). The mechanism is disarmed by turning the case’s catches to a horizontal position and opening normally. Inside the case was also an Armalite AR-7 folding sniper-rifle with an infrared scope and .25 ACP ammunition.
From Russia With Love (1963)
One of the many gadgets used in the James Bond series considered to be ahead of their time was the personal pager, issued by MI6 to their agents on assignment to enable contact. Although developed in the 1950s and 60s, it wasn’t until 1980s they became widely used. Although Bond couldn’t reply via the pager as it was a one-way communication device, he could through the use of his in-car phone. At the time these were not mainstream options for people and it wasn’t until the 1980s when the use of mobile telephones really started to take off.
From Russia With Love (1963)
In From Russia With Love, we were treated to many different weapons utilised by SPECTRE operatives. After a plan to humiliate and then kill James Bond, Kronsteen became the first victim of Rosa Klebb’s poison-tipped knife shoe known to kill a victim within twelve seconds. She is sent to retrieve the Lektor decoding machine from James Bond, where she attempts to kill him with the shoe only to be shot by Tatiana Romanova. The shoe made a brief return seen in the Q Branch laboratory during the 2002 release of Die Another Day alongside other previous Bond gadgets.
From Russia With Love (1963)
Another weapon from the SPECTRE arsenal and used by Red Grant. The watch equipped with a hidden extractable wire is used to strangle his victims to death and first used in the opening scene of the movie to kill a man disguised as James Bond. Red Grant tried to use his watch to kill Bond on the Orient Express when Bond over powers and kills him using his own garrote watch. Like the shoe before, it also made a brief appearance in a later film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Bond was looking through his desk draw, reminiscing about the past.
Perhaps one of the most famous gadgets is Oddjob’s steel rimmed bowler hat. Use initially as a threat to Bond, when he wins a game of golf against Goldfinger and to warn him gets Oddjob to decapitate a statue with it. Oddjob uses the hat to kill Tilly Masterson, who tried to assassinate Goldfinger as revenge for the death of her sister, Jill Masterson. Used a means to kill the villain Oddjob, not through decapitate but electrocution when the hat becomes lodged in between steel bars. The hat was made by famous St. James hat-maker Lock & Co, who in homage to Bond was featured in Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Seagull Snorkel Suit
A seagull moving across the water but where is Bond? He is ludicrously hidden beneath it with scuba gear. It was used by James Bond to enter a narcotics complex undetected. In a classic Bond moment and even more comical is after grappling over a wall and beating up a guard to enable him to stash some dynamite, he removes his scuba gear and reveals a perfectly crisp, pressed and white tuxedo complete with a red carnation. Crazy!
As iconic as the Aston Martin DB5 is, when you ask for James Bond gadgets there is one image that comes to mind: Sean Connery with a jetpack strapped to his back. In 1960, the Bell Rocketbelt was presented to the public and used as inspiration in Thunderball when James Bond uses the jetpack to escape from Jacques Boitier’s château during the fast paced pre-title sequence. After escaping James Bond quips, “No well-dressed man should be without one” before completing his escape in his Aston Martin DB5.
Issued to James Bond by Q in the Bahamas was the underwater breather or rebreather because it supposedly recycles air. Used by James Bond to famously infiltrate Largo’s lair through the shark infested pool. Although we often referred to it as a rebreather, the gadget was never actually named in the film. Q simply says “In the event of a rebreather not being available you can use this device”. The rebreather also made a reappearance in a later film, Die Another Day, when Bond uses it to swim under the ice to enter Gustav Graves lair in Iceland undetected.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
The cigarette darts had a capability to fire a rocket-powered projectile accurately up to 30 yards. Given to Bond by Tiger Tanaka, after taking a trip through Tiger’s ninja training grounds, which mix martial arts with modern weaponry. Bond unimpressed by a demonstration, when Tiger quips “This cigarette can save your life!”. Used by James Bond to kill a technician inside Ernst Blofeld’s volcano who was standing by the entrance controls enabling Tiger and his allies to storm the base.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
When going undercover as Peter Franks, a professional smuggler and murderer, James Bond is issued with false fingerprints by Q. He uses them to fool Tiffany Case who uses another gadget, a fingerprint scanner, to identify her guests in her Amsterdam apartment into thinking he is Peter Franks. She takes the glass which Bond was drinking from, dusted the fingerprints and run the prints against a sample to confirm the identity of her supposed guest.
Rolex “Buzz Saw” Submariner
Live and Let Die (1973)
Used by Roger Moore in his screen debut as James Bond, after being given to him by Moneypenny, following its repair by Q branch. The specially modified Rolex Submariner is equipped with a powerful electromagnet that can not only deflect a bullet or retrieve a compressed air gun just in time but can also help to unzip ladies’ dresses. The Rolex has a spinning bezel which acts as a rotating buzz saw, which enables Bond to cut through his rope restraints and escape a pool full of man-eating sharks leading to Solitaires rescue.
Live and Let Die (1973)
Before his mission, Q Branch supplied James Bond with silver pellets of compressed gas fired from a special anti-shark gun. James Bond uses the gadget to not kill sharks but to kill villain Kananga. Bond makes Kananga swallow a compressed gas pellet making him inflate before exploding. There is evidence that this pellet contains helium or hydrogen (a gas lighter than air) as Kananga rises to the ceiling while inflated before he explodes.
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Scaramanga assembles his Golden Gun using a pen (which acts as the barrel) screwed into a cigarette lighter (which acts as the firing chamber), a cigarette case (which acts as the handle), and a cuff link (which acts as the trigger). This gun, however, is only a single-shot weapon. In the opening song from the film the Golden Gun is described as “One golden shot means another poor victim has come to a glittering end”. The golden bullets were handcrafted by speciality munitions manufacturer Lazar, these are 4.2mm (an unusual size, slightly smaller than a .17 ACP) and made of 23-karat gold. The bullets flatten upon impact. This action, combined with Scaramanga’s extraordinary marksmanship, expedites the rate of death of the victim. The golden gun is used in numerous assassinations of officials, political enemies, gangsters, and 002, Bill Fairbanks. Scaramanga later uses the golden gun to kill British scientist Gibson and his own employer, Hai Fat. Following a gun duel with James Bond, Scaramanga is killed.
Ski Pole Gun
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
With James Bond being chased down a mountain by the pursuing KGB agents firing at him with no weapons other than skis and ski pole, what is a secret agent with a licence to kill meant to do? Of course, use his ski pole gun. He twists the top of the pole to reveal a trigger, and then turns around and shoots one of his pursuers, Sergei Barsov, who is Major Anya Amasova’s lover. Bond then stylishly flips himself over a bump to face the right way again.
Wrist-Mounted Dart Gun
Although Moonraker is considered one of the poorer James Bond films it is arguably packed with it own range of futuristic weaponry. From the laser gun that can be shot into space to personal laser firearms used by Drax’s henchmen. Before 007 donned a spacesuit he had some more earthly gadgets to play with, the dart gun being the best. Strapped to Bond’s wrist, the gun uses pressurised gas to fire either cyanide-coated darts that are capable of killing in thirty seconds or armour-piercing blue tipped darts. Bond fires the cyanide-coated darts at Drax’s henchmen, Chang and uses the armour-piercing dart which is made from depleted uranium to save himself in the centrifuge. He later uses the gun to shot Drax before he sucked into outer space.
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
When taking a walk through the Q Branch Laboratory, you are guaranteed to see some deadly gadgets being tested. When Roger Moore took a stroll through the labs in For Your Eyes Only, he witnessed the spike umbrella being demonstrated. A double agent would hand the umbrella to the victim they wished to assassinate as the rain clouds gathered overhead. When it rains, the umbrella would grow sharp spikes and closes around the head of the victim, dispatching them immediately. Crazy!
James Bond uses this one-man crocodile submersible to gain access to Octopussy’s private island called the floating palace without being seen. He later uses it to escape from the palace after falling into the surrounding lake from a balcony of the palace with one of Kamal Khan’s henchmen. The crocodile made a brief return when seen in the Q Branch laboratory during the 2002 release of Die Another Day alongside other previous Bond gadgets.
Seiko TV Watch
The era of Roger Moore as Bond featured some of the most advanced gadgets seen in the series. This included the advances in one of James Bonds particular gadgets, his watches. In Octopussy we see two different Seiko Watches; the first contains a multi-directional antenna which Bond uses to track down the Fabergé Egg after it is stolen by Magda and works in conjunction with the listening device found inside James Bond’s fountain pen. The second is an LCD TV watch, which Bond uses when he is chasing Kamal and Gobinda who have kidnapped Octopussy. Q’s hot air balloon has a video camera mounted which beamed the images directly to James Bond.
As the name suggests this is a circular saw which runs up and down a wire like a yo-yo. Belonging to one of the assassins hired by Kamal Khan and Gobinda’s to kill James Bond while he is under Octopussy’s protection on her private island. This was a horrific weapon that was used to kill Vijay before he tried to assassinate James Bond in the thrilling fight scene. It still amazes me that this saw was actually made into a children’s toy!
A View to A Kill (1985)
When James Bond is sent to investigate the crooked industrialist, Max Zorin you don’t get many opportunities to snoop around. When he attends Zorin’s countryside horse auction under the false identity James St. John Smythe, he takes a look around his office after dodging the attentions of May Day, Zorin’s lover and chief henchwoman. He uses the ring camera to take photos of various suspicious guests. Even by today’s standards the camera is tiny and shows how advanced 007’s gadgets can be.
The Living Daylights (1987)
The Bond producers used the gadgets in Bond’s fifteenth outing to comment on western culture. When Q takes 007 around the laboratory, he points out a new gadget; a rocket launcher built into a boom box. After the weapon is fired Q the states that the weapon was designed “for the Americans” and dubs it the “ghetto blaster”, pointing out the differences between British and American terminology. The special effects for the rocket launcher were triggered off-screen, by Prince Charles who was on a behind-the-scenes tour of the production with his then-wife, Diana, Princess of Wales. The actual footage was used in the film post production.
The Living Daylights (1987)
A 3-in-1 device that contains a capsule of stun gas effective up to 5 feet and is activated by whistling the first bars of “Rule, Britannia!”. Q explains to Bond that the gas disorientates any normal person for up to 30 seconds when 007 quips “You don’t find too many normal people in this business, Q…”. It also contains an explosive charge which is activated by Bond wolf whistling something that Q commented was “most appropriate” for 007. Lastly, it contains a lockpick which was claimed by Q to be able to “open 90% of the world’s locks”. James Bond uses the keychain to escape from jail on the Soviet air force base in Afghanistan and to kill Brad Whitaker.
Cigarette and Toothpaste Bomb
Licence to Kill (1989)
Armed with the Signature Camera Gun, which is a camera put together to became a sniper rifle and programmed to be fired by one person with a scanner built into the grip, the cigarette and toothpaste bomb is used by James Bond in the assassination attempt of Franz Sanchez. Dressed in his dinner suit, Bond abseils down the side of Sanchez’s casino using the ropes hidden in his stylish but practical cummerbund. Armed with a tube Dentonite toothpaste and Lark cigarettes which double as the explosive and detonator to destroy the armoured glass and enable the shot to be taken on Sanchez.
Licence to Kill (1989)
While in Isthmus City, Q brings Bond an arsenal of new gadgets. One is the Polaroid Spectra System Camera which is armed with a deadly laser beam. Although James Bond never uses the camera, he and Q get to see its power when CIA agent Pam Bouvier almost shoots them both while taking a picture of them, accidentally shooting the laser beam. The photo the camera takes shows a skeleton x-ray image of Q and Bond, even the picture on the wall is in an infrared form.
Used while infiltrating the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility, a fictional Soviet weapons research laboratory located in the northern Soviet Union during the Cold War. The opening scene where Bond completes a 220m bungee jump from the top of the facility’s dam before utilising the gun to fire a grappling hook onto a section at the base of the dam and pull him towards an entrance point. He then used the pistol’s built-in laser to cut open a panel which prevents access to the chemical warfare facility’s ventilation system.
Omega Seamaster Professional Watch
Goldeneye sees the return of the Bond wristwatch. When Bond was equipped with the Rolex Submariner in Live and Let Die which features a powerful electromagnet and circular saw, Q went one better with the Omega. Features on this watch include a remote bomb detonator and a laser beam cutter which enables Bond to escape from the armoured Soviet Missile Train with Natalya Simonova before it explodes. The Omega Seamaster in various different incarnations would be used throughout Pierce Brosnan stay as 007.
Ericsson JB988 Mobile Phone
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
A concept mobile phone created by Ericsson, the model JB988 was manufactured for the film. After being modified by British intelligence research and development division, Q Branch, the gadget had an abundance of features added including a 20,000 Volt stun gun which also doubles as an effective disabler to high-tech door locks. A fingerprint scanner capable of analysing and transmitting fingerprints for opening high-tech, fingerprint-identification door locks. An antenna lock-pick, which detaches from the phone and once inserted into the keyhole enables the lock to be opened on the pressing of a key. The best part of the phone was the flip-open remote that enabled 007 to control his BMW 750iL with directional steering pad, LCD monitor for front and rear view, controls to fire the onboard rocket launchers and operates the car’s other defence mechanisms. The phones style was later incorporated into the Ericsson R380, an early smartphone.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
When Pierce Brosnan takes a walk through Q branches testing facility, we get to see some of the more stranger gadgets currently in development. One is the bagpipes, a weapon ready for front line international espionage in the Highlands. Other than playing music the bagpipes come equipped with an inbuilt flamethrower and a machine gun, ready for getting out of those tight spaces when you are caught masquerading as a musician. Crazy!
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Definitely, one of the all-time best spy gadgets and a significant improvement on previous x-ray gadgets like the Polaroid camera in Licence to Kill or the Safecracker in Moonraker. Whilst in Q’s laboratory, James Bond tries on a pair of glasses that provide x-ray vision. Later in the film, he uses them as he enters Valentin Zukovsky’s casino to see how many people are carrying guns. The added benefit, allows the user to see through clothes, much to Bonds delight when he looks at some of Zukovsky’s female casino staff who are carrying guns in their underwear.
Car Invisibility Cloak
Die Another Day (2002)
The Aston Martin V12 Vanquish featured as the car in the twentieth James Bond film, the Vanquish has the usual Bond gadgets including adaptive camouflage which rendered the vehicle virtually invisible to the human eye. Q playfully nicknamed the Aston Martin as the “Vanish”. Using tiny cameras and screens to essentially “reflect” what the view from the other side of the vehicle. The car features heavily during the film, most notably in the scenes in Iceland, where the car is involved in an elaborate chase scene with a Jaguar XKR driven by the villain’s henchman Zao.
Single Digit Sonic Agitator
Die Another Day (2002)
While watches have featured predominately during the Bond series, gadgets based on rings haven’t, We saw the first ring gadget in Diamonds Are Forever although not used by James Bond, it was by Q to hit the jackpot on several slot machines. As already featured, Bond was last given a ring by Q branch which featured a camera in A View To A Kill. While giving James Bond a demonstration, Q tells him that a sheet of unbreakable bulletproof glass is shattered when the ring is twisted, sending out an ultra high-frequency. James Bond uses the ring twice; firstly to aid his escape shattering the glass floor while being held at gunpoint by Miranda Frost and secondly, he uses the ring to break the glass of his Aston Martin V12 to save Jinx’s life.
Since the reboot of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale, the worlds best-known research and development division, Q Branch along with the character Q had been absent from the films until the release of Skyfall in 2012. The movies have focused on Daniel Craig’s Bond’s pragmatism, physical capabilities and skills in combat, as well as more focus on his quick-thinking and resourcefulness, than on gadgetry.
With Q’s reappearance in Skyfall, the gadgets have been comparatively simple, feeling generally more realistic, smaller and much less noticeable than those of the previous eras, but no less practical. The character of Q focused more on the subject of computer security to the point where he designed some of the most sophisticated security protocols in existence, where previous Q’s have been focused on the weird, wonderful and sometimes strange world of gadgets. I have chosen the most notable gadgets from the Daniel Craig era of Bond.
Sony Ericsson K800i
Casino Royale (2006)
When Casino Royale was released back in 2006, the Sony Ericsson K800i was a great piece of kit. It featured sophisticated GPS and a 3.2-megapixel digital camera with the ability to take multiple pictures very rapidly. Released as a special edition handset and came complete with a host of 007 themed content including James Bond wallpapers, music ringtones and the full video movie trailer.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The newer James Bond films have been a little light on the far-fetched gadgets of the past but Quantum of Solace gives us a sleek, cool take on existing technology. Similar in concept to the smaller-sized Microsoft Surface, the gadget shows an entire table with a multitouch interface where different documents and images glided around without a problem, while multiple users kept pointing out the most important documents. It was used by M and other members of MI6 to browse information about the criminal Dominic Greene and had the ability to relay information back to James Bond on his mobile phone.
The Walther PPK first issued to James Bond in the Ian Fleming novel, Dr No made the transition to the big screen and became his primary weapon. It featured from Dr No in 1962 through to Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. In Tomorrow Never Dies, the transition was made to the Walther P99 and this continued through Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as Bond. Despite promotional material for Casino Royale featuring a Walther PPK, it was only used during the pre-title fight sequence with Dryden’s contact, Fisher. The PPK made a welcome return in Quantum of Solace. For Skyfall’s release, a modified version of James Bond’s legendary firearm was made. It is fitted with a grip featuring a micro-dermal sensor that reads the user’s palm prints, allowing the pistol to only be used by a specific individual. The technology has been used previously by Q branch when they issued Bond with the Signature Camera Gun in Licence To Kill. It proves useful when one of Séverine’s bodyguards picks it up and unsuccessfully tries to kill Bond with it in a fight in the Macau casino Komodo dragons’ pit.
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