The best James Bond gadgets ever

James Bond gadgets
(Image credit: Danjaq/Universal Pictures)

No Time To Die has finally arrived after a long pandemic-induced delay. As James Bond movies go, it's destined to be ranked as one of the better entries – even if it doesn't reach the lofty heights of Casino Royale and Skyfall. 

Still, one thing No Time To Die does have – like every Bond movie – is gadgets. We won't spoil what they are at this stage, but cool gadgets are as key to a great Bond film as the cars, suits and vodka martinis. In this list, we've picked out the best James Bond gadgets from the character's decades of history for your consideration. 

Want more 007? Check out our best Bond actors list if you want our ranking of the seven leading men to take on the role, and have a look at our candidates for the next James Bond for predictions about the future of the spy franchise. 

Attaché Case – From Russia With Love (1963) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Bond may have used a standard issue geiger counter in Dr. No, but this black leather attaché case is the first true gadget of the franchise, establishing the trope of an everyday object loaded with lethal surprises. Concealed inside are 20 rounds of ammo, 50 gold sovereigns, a knife, an AR7 folding sniper's rifle with infra-red sights and a tin of talcum powder packed with tear gas. "A nasty little Christmas present," observes gadget guru Q, with professional pride. 

Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Yes, we know, technically it's a vehicle. But there's an argument to be made that this gleaming silver beast is the greatest gadget of all, one giant Swiss Army knife of a car. The passenger ejector seat's a design classic, of course, but other road-ruling extras include tyre-slashers, hydraulic rams, front-loaded machine guns, revolving license plates, bulletproof shield, oil jets and an onboard radar for tracking enemy movements cross-country.  

Mini-breathing device – Thunderball (1965) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Bond heads underwater in his fourth big-screen adventure, pitched against man-eating sharks and the harpoon-crazed hordes of SPECTRE. Filled with an emergency oxygen supply, this gizmo allows him to breathe for up to four minutes. The British Navy were so impressed they asked the filmmakers for the specs, only to be told it was a non-functioning prop. In a nostalgic touch Pierce Brosnan busts it out again for Die Another Day, the 40th anniversary Bond film. 

Rocket-firing cigarette – You Only Live Twice (1967) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Smoking kills. But never as swiftly as this extra-deadly gasper, part of the Japanese secret service's own undercover arsenal. Bond's Tokyo contact takes him to a Ninja training facility and alongside the traditional razor-edged throwing stars we're shown this cigarette, capable of launching a tiny explosive missile at speed. Trading it for his usual brand, 007 deploys the high-tech death-stick against a SPECTRE operative in the film's climax. Any chance of a vaping version?

Finger clamp – Diamonds are Forever (1971) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Not all of Bond's accessories are future-facing visions of the gadget-master's art. Here's one especially low-tech solution, possibly the single most vicious item 007's ever carried. Concealed inside his jacket, this spring-loaded, razor-edged clamp is essentially a mouse trap, finger-mangling bait for anyone bold enough to try and remove Bond's pistol from his shoulder holster. In the pre-titles sequence an unwary goon suffers the predictably bloody consequences. 

Rolex watch – Live And Let Die (1973) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

This Rolex Submariner 5513 is an object of desire in itself. Q's cunning modifications make it even more of an aspirational timepiece. The watch generates a magnetic field capable of deflecting a bullet at long range – and, more intimately, unzipping a dress in a clinch ("Sheer magnetism, darling," purrs eternal lounge lizard Roger Moore. It was the '70s). There's also a miniature buzz-saw built into its bezel, allowing 007 to slice his bonds and escape imminent shark-shaped death. 

Golden Gun – The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

For once the villain has the coolest bit of gimmickry in the movie. Master assassin Francisco Scaramanga assembles his custom-built, gold-plated, 4.2 calibre pistol from an ingenious collection of parts: the handle is disguised as a cigarette case, the bullet chamber a lighter, the barrel a fountain pen, the trigger a cuff-link. His signature golden bullet – the only one he needs, given his expert marksmanship – is smuggled in his belt-buckle. You suspect Bond had a bad case of gadget-envy. 

Seiko watch – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Bond had already embraced the quartz crystal revolution, rocking the digital Hamilton Pulsar P2 in Live And Let Die. This upgrade includes a personal messaging device that spews a strip of ticker-tape, informing him that world-saving duty awaits. Sure, it's essentially a pager, and easily overlooked in a film that also includes a submersible sports car. But decades before WhatsApp this simple bit of functionality delivered a genuine shiver of the future. 

Wrist gun – Moonraker (1979) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Q Branch equips Bond with this wrist-mounted dart gun. It comes complete with five blue-tipped armour-piercing darts and five red-tipped cyanide darts, capable of dealing death in 30 seconds. The firing mechanism is activated by nerve impulses from the wrist muscles, which would surely be a design flaw if Bond had ever been presented to us as an altogether lonelier figure. The gun delivers a terminal one-off-the-wrist to the villainous Hugo Drax. 

Identigraph – For Your Eyes Only (1981) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Roger Moore's fifth mission as 007 puts the gadgetry on the back burner, opting for a more grounded vibe after the space shuttles and laser-rifle skirmishes of Moonraker. This piece of Q-tech feels just on the edge of possibility for 1981, able to generate an image of a wanted person from a rundown of their physical characteristics. Once the mugshot is tweaked to perfection it's matched against the data files of the world's intelligence agencies. So, an old-fashioned police photofit meets the internet, essentially. 

Fountain pen – Octopussy (1983) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

This upmarket Montblanc fountain pen is crammed with espionage-friendly goodness. Its slim 18 carat-plated exterior hides a receiver that allows Bond to track the plot-crucial whereabouts of a Fabergé egg. An earpiece works in conjunction with the bug in the egg, letting 007 eavesdrop on equally plot-crucial conversations between the bad guys. The barrel also contains a measure of nitric acid, capable of burning through the bars of a window. 

Camera ring – A View To A Kill (1985) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Now here's an old school item of spycraft. Infiltrating a party at Max Zorin's estate, Bond uses a concealed camera to take photographs of the crooked industrialist's noteworthy acquaintances. The peek-a-boo lens is encased in a fake jewel, mounted on a silver signet ring - aimed by a hand that's wrapped around a glass of Bollinger, naturally. It's a flashy bit of bling for the usually classy Bond but it gets the job done. 

Bug-detecting shaver – A View to a Kill (1985) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

It's one of the occupational hazards of any spy's life: the innocent-seeming hotel room that's wired for sound by the opposition. In the early films Sean Connery would conduct a manual sweep of his surroundings, peering under lampshades and checking the backs of picture frames. Roger Moore's incarnation cuts down on the fuss with this labour-saving solution, disguised as a Philips electric shaver. Nowadays, of course, we just let Alexa listen in… 

Exploding key-fob – The Living Daylights (1987) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Novelty key-fobs that bleeped when you whistled at them were a tedious fad in the ‘80s. The Bond version is a little more ingenious, naturally. Another weaponized piece of Philips product placement, it billows stun gas when you whistle the opening notes of Rule Britannia. A wolf-whistle, meanwhile, triggers some highly concentrated plastic explosive. Its keys are also capable of opening 90% of the world's locks. You're just showing off now, aren't you? 

Signature gun – Licence To Kill (1989) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

For once it's Q who goes rogue, heading to Mexico to equip Bond, who's been stripped of his license while pursuing a personal vendetta against a local drug lord. MI6's gadget king smuggles in such delights as a laser-firing polaroid camera and exploding toothpaste along with this cunningly bespoke weapon. Designed to resemble a Hasselblad camera, it assembles into a high-velocity rifle whose optical palm reader ensures only the registered user is permitted to fire it. A license to kill indeed. 

Exploding pen – GoldenEye (1995) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

For his debut mission Pierce Brosnan is provisioned with this seemingly innocuous Parker. In reality it incorporates a class four grenade – enough to ruffle even Pierce's coiffure. It's armed by clicking the pen three times in quick succession. Three more rapid clicks disarms the weapon. By the laws of movie irony it falls into the hands of compulsive pen-clicker Alan Cumming, gifting us one of the cinema's more suspenseful scenes involving writing implements. 

Ericsson phone – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

The mobile phone phenomenon finally makes its presence felt in the Bond universe. This multi-tasking Ericsson scans fingerprints and shoots a laser beam capable of cutting through steel. The antenna is detachable and doubles as a lockpick while a touchpad control allows Bond to remotely control his BMW through a monitor screen. Oh, and there's a 20,000 volt security system installed to fry light-fingered chancers. Bet the camera's rubbish, mind. 

X-ray specs – The World is Not Enough (1999) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Forget that plastic tat with the swirly lenses. Making good on all those comic book ads that traded on the dreams of gullible readers – only $1 plus 25¢ postage and packing! – these blue-tinted miracle-goggles allow Bond to scan a room to see who's carrying concealed weapons. Including ladies packing guns in their undergarments, it turns out. A scene that doubtlessly wouldn't fly in today's climate, if only for Brosnan's barely concealed schoolboy smirk.  

Sonic ring – Die Another Day (2002) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

More formally itemised as a "single digit sonic activator unit", this rather tacky bit of finger-ornamentation actually emits a frequency so high that it can shatter bulletproof glass. Bond uses it to escape from the villain's lair by destroying a glass floor and also splinters the windscreen of his own Aston Martin to save Halle Berry. 

Defibrillator – Casino Royale (2006) 

(Image credit: EON Productions)

Daniel Craig's rookie Bond pretty much dispensed with the tech in back-to-basics reboot Casino Royale. Here's the exception: a defibrillator unit stashed inside his Aston Martin DBS. Poisoned by digitalis during a game of high-stakes poker, Bond stumbles to his car, very much shaken not stirred, and uses the unit to jump-start his heart. For once a piece of MI6 technology is a response to a medical emergency, not the cause of one.

Nick Setchfield

Nick Setchfield is a writer and features editor for SFX, Britain’s best-selling magazine of genre entertainment in film, TV and books. A regular contributing writer to Total Film, he’s also been a movie reviewer for the BBC and a scriptwriter for ITV’s Spitting Image. Combining a lifelong love of spy thrillers, international adventure and occult weirdness, The War In The Dark is his first novel.