The Unlikely Watch (And Car!) Collector: Rowan Atkinson
You might know him as the haphazardly curious Mr. Bean, or the bumbling and inept British secret service agent, Johnny English. However, over his decades-long career, Rowan Atkinson has built quite the automotive resume alongside his acting credits.
You may have been introduced to Rowan Atkinson’s famously animated comedy stylings via the adventures of Mr. Bean, the sycophantic tendencies of Blackadder, the accidental heroism of Johnny English, or one of his other roles from a decades-long career. What you might not know is the British comedy actor is a serious car enthusiast with a subtle penchant for watches. And, as you can imagine, his wildly successful career has afforded him the opportunity to indulge in his vices.
Atkinson is fortunate enough to have owned a handful of cars and watches, both new and vintage, throughout his career, and we picked out a few that deserve a spotlight.
1997 McLaren F1
Of all his cars, Atkinson’s ‘97 McLaren F1 might be just as famous as he is. Powered by a 627 horsepower 6.1-liter BMW V12 and wearing a £640,000 price tag, Atkinson bought his Mclaren brand-new in 1997. Only 106 versions of the British supercar were built between 1992 and 1998. However, those aren’t the stats and figures that make Atkinson’s McLaren, in particular, so famous.
In 1999 Atkinson rear-ended a Rover Metro hatchback, then in 2011, he crashed his F1 into a tree. While Atkinson walked away relatively unscathed, the insurance company footed a $1,400,000 bill for repairs, which took a year to complete. Atkinson eventually put the car up for auction where it crossed the block for $12,200,000, which no doubt put a smile across the comedian’s face.
Casio Data Bank
When it debuted in 1983, the Data Bank was one of the very first digital watches to hit the market. Future models later gained features like schedule and world time, electroluminescent backlight, radium keypads, a touch screen, voice recording, and atomic time reception functions. Looking back, it’s easily considered a precursor to the smartwatch. Which begs the question: If Mr. Bean made a comeback in 2020, do you think he’d wear an Apple Watch?
1952 Jaguar Mk7
A passion for cars often goes hand in hand with an affinity for motorsport. Such is the case with Atkinson. But he’s not the type to admire from the sidelines, he’s an avid racer and even once shared driving duties with the late Sir Stirling Moss, piloting his own 1952 Jaguar Mk7 at the Goodwood Revival in 2002.
The Mk7 is essentially a four-door version of the sportier Jaguar XK120 powered by the same 160 horsepower 3.4-liter inline-six. While the Mk7 didn’t have the same 120mph top speed as the coupe, it could still reach the faster side of the 100mph mark.
1939 BMW 328
If you needed further proof of Atkinson’s appreciation for motorsport, look no further than his Mille Miglia-winning 1939 BMW 328. The 2.0-liter inlight-six produced just 79 horsepower, but it only had to worry about hauling 1,830lbs worth of car. It was a lightweight sports car through and through and easy to see why Atkinson was drawn to it.
If the BMW’s styling looks familiar, it’s not just coincidence. The German coupe enjoyed a heap of success in its day and went on to inspire other sports cars of the era, most notably the Jaguar XK120.
Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer
In Johnny English Reborn, there’s a rather entertaining fight scene where Atkinson’s character has to do battle with, well, himself. The movie’s villain is controlling Johnny English against his will via his mind. At one point, English regains control of only half his body and fights back.
Naturally, the “hero half” is the half wearing a timepiece: a 45mm Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer. It’s a silver-tone titanium and stainless steel case with a black leather strap. The black analog dial features luminescent skeleton hands, Roman numeral, with seconds and power reserve sub-dials.
1981 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Although it might seem like a no-brainer that the guy who plays a comedic version of 007 bought a slightly different version of a Bond car, Atkinson acquired his in 1984 as the car’s third owner.
While Timothy Dalton’s James Bond drove a Q Branch custom V8 Vantage Volante in The Living Daylights, Atkinson opted for the standard 5.3-liter V8 coupe. Fans of the Johnny English movies will note the hapless MI7 agent drives a 1984 Vantage in Johnny English Strikes Again. Yup, that’s Atkinson’s personal Aston.
2011 Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe
There should be a clarification here, Atkinson owns a Johnny English edition Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, just not the Phantom Coupe used on-screen in Johnny English Reborn. The road-going coupe generates 453bhp and 531lb ft from a 6.75-liter V12. The Phantom from the movie has a highly secretive 9.0-liter V16.
Calling the engine “top secret” isn’t simply a play on secret agent lingo either. Not many people outside of Rolls were aware the engine even existed. But, using a little star power, Atkinson swayed Rolls-Royce to fit the little-known experimental V16 powerplant under the hood of a Phantom Coupe for the film. Rolls-Royce has since denied answering any questions about the engine’s details. It really is on a need-to-know basis.
IWC Pilot’s Mark XVIII “Le Petit Prince”
In the most recent movie, Johnny English Strikes Again, Atkinson’s title character dons an IWC Pilot’s Mark XVIII “Le Petit Prince.” Compared to Agent English’s previous timepiece of choice, the Mark XVIII is a much more subtle machine.
At 40mm, the polished stainless steel case houses a beautiful blue dial, with white hour markings and a date adjust. The complications are limited, but it makes for easy legibility when you’re on the run or being chased by nefarious international criminals.