Though Daniel Craig’s tenure as the spy with the license to kill, which concluded with No Time to Die in 2021, has been a far more grounded affair with a lot less to get excited about in the gadgets department, high-tech toys are still a defining part of the massive James Bond franchise. From 007’s ridiculous jet pack in Thunderball to his submarine/car convertible in The Spy Who Loved Me, gadgets have made for some of the spy’s most iconic moments.
Of course, technology is always improving in the real world and that means a lot of what once seemed like science fiction is now more than possible. These are just some of Bond’s high-tech tools that now exist in the real world.
Bond’s Rocket-Propelled Jetpack – Thunderball (1965)
Despite being one of Bond’s most futuristic gadgets at the time when the movie was released and though it may look like a cheesy effect to a modern audience, the jetpack that Sean Connery equips in Thunderball is also surprisingly one of its more realistic ones. In fact, according to production designer Ken Adam in an interview with The Guardian, the one used in the movie was real.
Of course, it was a lot more limited than the movie suggested so there’s still the question of how close jet packs are to being a viable escape tool in the real world. The Washington Post reports that human flight start-ups like the appropriately British company Gravity are making the dream more realistic, albeit for no less than $400,000 a suit for the moment.
Bond’s Messaging Watch – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Considering digital watches had only just begun to appear on the market at the start of the decade, 007’s clever wristwatch in The Spy Who Loved Me took some imagination indeed. Luckily, technology has far surpassed the archaic device that Roger Moore donned for that movie.
Whereas his watch needs a ticker to print out messages, sending and receiving messages is now a feature that’s taken for granted even for budget smartwatches. Likewise, the watch that displays a live video feed in a now poorly-aged scene from Octopussy (1982) is a glimpse into a future where you can watch YouTube videos on an Apple Watch, as ScreenRant reported this year.
Bond’s Tiny Spy Camera – Moonraker (1979)
Few Bond movies abandoned realism in favor of all-out sci-fi technology more than the divisive Moonraker which saw Roger Moore’s Bond caught in a space battle to save the human race. Whilst the real world is still a long way from having giant space stations and laser battles in outer space, the penlid-sized spy camera Bond uses in the same movie isn’t so far-fetched.
According to Digital Camera World, the smallest camera ever created is about the size of a grain of sand and far beats out the one 007 makes use of. Of course, a camera that small is impractical for everyday use and likely to be exclusively for medical purposes, but there’s no shortage of affordable micro-cameras on the market.
The GPS Sat Nav In Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964)
The Aston Martin DB5 is still considered by many to be the quintessential Bond car and it was so laden with technology that it deserves to be considered a Bond gadget in its own right. However, one tool that the car also contained that is often forgotten about was something akin to a Sat Nav system.
Described by Q as the “reception” for the homing devices he gives Bond when showing off the car, there’s no mistaking that, with a digital map appearing on the screen and a blinking light to indicate where the device is, it’s an actual GPS Sat Nav. Once a fantastical device, Sat Navs are now ubiquitous in the motoring world.
The Fake Fingerprints Bond Wears – Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Assuming the identity of a real person can be a tricky task but Sean Connery’s Bond pulls it off in Diamonds Are Forever despite being subject to a fingerprint test. That’s because he uses a plastic covering over his fingers so that his prints appear to be those of assassin Peter Franks.
The science of fingerprint scanning is a little more complex in the modern world but that doesn’t mean fingerprint spoofing devices aren’t out of the question. Science Friday actually ran a segment all the way back in 2016 discussing the potential of a 3D-printed glove that could fit the user with someone else’s fingerprints.
Bond’s Convertible Submarine Car – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
The time when Bond concluded a car chase by driving his incredibly stylish Lotus Esprit into the ocean only for it to become a working submarine was one of the franchise’s most iconic moments. According to Bold Entrance, the stunt involved using a submarine kitted out to look like a Lotus Esprit as well as a variety of miniatures, meaning the idea remained complete fiction.
However, that changed with the creation of the Rinspeed sQuba in 2008 which claimed to be the world’s first fully submersible car that can “fly” underwater in the same way as 007’s Esprit, according to Rinspeed‘s website. Whilst the car is slightly different from the Bond version, it’s close enough to be an incredibly cool piece of technology.
The Gun That Can Only Be Fired By Bond – Skyfall (2012)
The Daniel Craig era of James Bond has been lacking in gadgets, but there are some notable exceptions. In Skyfall, Q hands the spy a Walther handgun with a sensor encoded to Bond’s palm print, meaning only he can fire it.
A similar effect is replicated by fingerprint trigger locks for guns as they likewise use biometric data to ensure a gun can only be fired by its owner and no one else. However, for something as discreet as Bond’s weapon in Skyfall, The Telegraph reports that Idaho company LodeStar Works has created exactly that in what could be a step forward for gun safety.
Bond’s Remote-Controlled BMW – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Whilst the controller that Pierce Brosnan’s Bond uses to pilot his BMW in Tomorrow Never Dies looks woefully inadequate for the job, that doesn’t necessarily mean the technology itself isn’t possible. In 2015, Autoweek reported that Jaguar Land Rover had unveiled a smartphone app that allowed the user to do exactly what Bond does in the movie.
Of course, that technology still seems like a pipe dream 7 years later but something similar has emerged instead. Nowadays, cars that can be remotely instructed to park are increasingly common. When BMW revealed its own version of this technology, it acknowledged that Bond had already done it long before.
Bond’s “Little Nellie” Autogyro – You Only Live Twice (1967)
Whilst You Only Live Twice is now more famous for the movie’s iconic quotes than its technology, that doesn’t mean the heavily-armed autogyro aircraft Bond flies in the movie wasn’t an incredible piece of tech for the time. Known as “Little Nellie,” the vehicle differed from a small helicopter in that the rotor blades rotate freely rather than being powered by a motor.
Amazingly, whilst the weapons were replicas, the vehicle itself was very much real, a creation of British engineer Ken Wallis. Not only that but Little Nellie actually went on sale in 2014, which was reported by the BBC at the time.
Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964)
With bulletproof doors, revolving number plates, machine guns, and even an ejector seat, 007’s Aston Martin DB5 car was packed full of advanced technology. Whilst it would be a little difficult to create a car that could do everything the Goldfinger DB5 was capable of, that doesn’t mean people haven’t tried.
According to Top Speed, an Aston Martin DB5 complete with tons of gadgets really does exist. Called the Aston Martin DB5 Goldfinger Continuation, the company made just 28 units. The car comes complete with battering rams, a rear smoke screen system, a simulated oil slick system, and even replica machine guns that emerge from a secret hatch.
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