Have you ever bought yourself something special, but then were too afraid of how nice it was? So instead of happily parading around with it or displaying your new prized item for all to see, you keep it stored somewhere?
After saving up and treating himself to a beautiful $350 Rolex watch during his military service back in the ‘70s, this war veteran refused to wear it for almost 50 years because it was “too nice.” However, once he spoke to the antique appraisers at the Antiques Roadshow, he dropped to the floor when he learned his watch’s real value—both historical and financial.
So, what made this specific Rolex watch so valuable and unique after all these years? Keep on reading to find out what left this war veteran so speechless.
Half a century ago, people from all walks of life were called up and drafted to serve and protect their country. It was the start of the new year in January 1971, when this particular man discovered that he would be drawn into the military.
Little did he know that as frightening as it was to think about drafting, some of the things that he would experience during his service would come back to enlighten him years later.
With his low drafting number of 7, he chose between serving with the United States Air Force or joining a different unit. So, which did he choose?
Working in Munitions
When we think about the Air Force, we automatically jump to thinking about pilots. But there are all sorts of jobs out there, and this veteran had quite a unique and dangerous one. The veteran had chosen to draft to the U.S. air force unit, working in the ammunition sector.
“I worked in munitions, but there’s, like, four different branches, and I worked in explosive ordnance disposal. To put it simply, I helped clear roads of land mines. Munitions storage areas that had been blown up or sabotaged, we cleaned those up,” the veteran shared with Antiques Roadshow. Talk about intense!
“I Was Intrigued by Them”
Between 1973 and 1975, the veteran was stationed across the world in Thailand. It was during his travels overseas that he discovered something interesting about the pilots there.
“I flew on Air America Airlines and Continental Airlines, and I noticed that most of the pilots that were flying those aircraft wore Rolex watches, and I was intrigued by them. I always wanted to purchase them, but they were costly,” the veteran shared with Antiques Roadshow.
It wouldn’t be until he was transferred to a new base, though, that he would figure out a way to get himself a watch.
The Average Wage of a Soldier in the ‘70s
While serving as a soldier is an honorable duty, unfortunately, it doesn’t always pay as high as you would think. “[Soldier salaries] ranged between $300 and $400 a month, if I have it correct,” the veteran revealed.
$300-$400 in the ‘70s, is equivalent to about $2,000-$2,600 now-a-days. Overall, it seems like a stable salary but makes it tricky to buy extra luxuries like a high-end Rolex watch. Right?
But this young soldier had his heart set on having a watch just like the pilots in his unit and was determined to save up for it.
A Watch Fit for His Needs
When it comes to buying a great quality watch, or any technological device, it’s always good to do your research in advance.
So even though the other pilots had Rolex watches, did that mean that their brand and model would be the right one for him? During the middle of his mission in Thailand, the young, more solid discovered that he wanted more than just a fancy watch—he wanted one that would fit his needs.
“When I was transferred to another base, I did some scuba diving, and I knew that the Rolex watch was good for scuba diving,” the veteran eagerly explained.
Ordering the Watch
Before the eager soldier could get his hands on a beautiful watch, he ended up transferring bases and realized that a look that would do well in the depths of the ocean’s water would be the perfect fit for his needs. Luckily enough, he found a Rolex model that fit those needs! But what about the price tag on it?
“I found this particular watch where I could afford it … I ordered it in November 1974 through the base exchange,” the veteran further explained. So how much did the watch cost?
A 10% Discount
Given that his salary wasn’t that high, this wasn’t a light-hearted purchase. “[The watch] was a lot of money for myself,” the veteran confessed.
However, he could find a place to provide him a 10% discount on the original price, which totaled out to $345.97 (about $1,818 nowadays).
He was because this watch cost just as much as a paycheck or two, it’s safe to say that even with the discount, it cost a pretty penny for the hard-working soldier. Still, though, he was over the moon about his purchase. How exciting!
Yet, once he received and looked at the watch in person, all of his feelings suddenly changed.
“I Never Used It”
The young soldier was excited about his new purchase, and finally received it about six months after ordering. It was around April of 1975 when he finally received the watch, but once he witnessed it, all of his thoughts and feelings changed.
“I never used it. I looked at it, and I said, ‘You know, this is too nice to take down in salty water.’ I just kept it,” the veteran confessed.
He thought that the watch was too lovely to wear and use it, so he decided to do something else.
Rolex Oyster Cosmograph 1971
The veteran had bought himself a remarkable Rolex Oyster Cosmograph watch, 1971 edition – which was one of the hottest models on the market at the time!
However, he cherished this prized possession so much and was so proud of how he could purchase it that he decided to keep it in a safe place for the time being.
“After I got out of the service, I had other watches I wore, and I just put this one into a safety deposit box,” the veteran explained.
But as year after year went by, the once young soldier and now senior veteran didn’t know what to do with the watch. That is, until 2019.
“It stayed [in the safety deposit box] for 30 or 40 years,” the veteran confessed. But once 2019 approached, he was ready to finally take it out for a spin for some wonderful folks.
In June 2019, the Antiques Roadshow made a stop at Fargo, North Dakota, which seemed to be in the veteran’s neck of the woods.
The veteran had thought that his watch was such a treasure, and further revealed, “I only took it out, like, two or three times to look at it, and that was about the extent of it before I brought it [to the roadshow].”
Can you believe it? Talk about some good self-control!
So what did the appraisers have to say about it all?
What is “Antiques Roadshow”?
For those of you who aren’t too familiar with the Antiques Roadshow series, have no fear, we’re here to help make things clear. The famous Antiques Roadshow has been an internationally televised show since the ‘70s—just as long as the veteran’s watch has been around!
It’s centered on highly knowledgeable and experienced experts providing special appraisal services for people from all walks of life, who bring in their potentially prized possessions and valuable, vintage items. PBS sums the show up correctly, stating its “part adventure, part history lesson, part treasure hunt.”
And this opportunity seemed like the perfect chance for the veteran to get the truth about his 50-year-old watch.
Expert Appraiser Peter Planes
How exactly does the appraisal service work? First of all, when someone brings in their item to the roadshow, it’s cataloged into a category that pairs with an appraiser whose specialty is the same category—ensuring an authentic, genuine, and real value for your item.
And for the veteran, his expert appraiser pairing was with Peter Planes, a certified and highly skilled authenticator for jewelry, silver, and, of course, watches.
And right ‘ol Peter had a whole bunch to say about the veteran’s retro Rolex.
The Whole Package
It turns out that the veteran didn’t just bring in his treat-yo-self treasure with him to the roadshow—he brought along the whole package. All of these years, he had kept both the warranty paper and the actual receipt of the Rolex itself, the original packaging box, the outer box, and a Rolex brochure for the Cosmograph model.
That meant that even before Peter Planes had a chance to analyze and look at the watch, he had some form of authentication for the eye at hand.
So even before looking at the watch, Peter was eager to inform the veteran that having these items was quite rare to start with.
The Value of a Blank Piece of Paper
“You saved everything, which is wonderful. The warranty paper was never filled out and was never numbered, so you have, actually, a blank guarantee, which is quite unusual. And even over here, this paper is blank,” Peter pointed out to the veteran.
What exactly did this mean, though?
It turns out that a blank paper like this can be valued at an upwards of $2,000. How exciting!
“Because it can be made to match any watch and add value to it, guys would pay money to buy a blank paper,” Peter further explained.
Level of Rarity
Right off the bat, it seemed like the veteran had a watch that was deemed to be far more valuable than he ever imagined. But just because he had all the extra parts didn’t mean that it was worth more than it once was.
There are usually a few factors that are in play when it comes to determining the proper appraisal offer. First is the level of rarity of the item, and given the fact that he had the whole package was a great start.
Overall, the model itself was quite the hot item back in the day, but what was its value 50 years later?
Was this Watch a Collectible?
“This particular model is referred to as an Oyster Cosmograph. They’re also referred to as Daytonas. This is a reference 6263,” Peter began to explain. Peter further explained that he and the other Antiques Roadshow experts know that watches like these are incredibly collectible and hold high-value, which was great news for the veteran!
Peter went on to talk about how this particular model has a few unique features that the others don’t have—including the part that got the veteran hooked on this watch all those years ago.
The True Water Resistance Level of the Watch
Beneath the Rolex crown logo on the front of the watch, the word “Rolex” appears. Below that, the term “Oyster” appears, and below that reads the story “Cosmograph.” Peter pointed out that this didn’t just refer to what model the watch was; it declared the version and build of it, too.
And it looked like one of its defining features was the water-resistance level that the veteran was so excited about when he first purchased it.
“They made this version with and without screw-down buttons. The ones without the screw-down buttons are still water-resistant, but this was a much better water-resistant case because you could lock down the chronograph buttons on it,” Peter further explained. How interesting!
Before continuing about how rare this watch was, he circled to the condition of the eye.
“It still has the foil sticker on the back with the reference number of the watch, 6263. Had it been worn, that would be the first thing that would wear off the watch,” Peter pleasantly revealed, seeing as it was still in excellent condition.
Words could not explain how the veteran was feeling so far. He still had no idea about the watch’s final value, but it seemed like he had made the right choice to keep it safe all these years.
Ironically enough, the appraiser mentioned that someone, in particular, wore this watch, making the value dramatically change.
“Collectors love this watch because Paul Newman wore it in a movie called Winning. It wasn’t this particular model; it did not have the screw-down buttons. [However], the one that Paul Newman wore, currently at auction, those watches are going for approximately $150,000 to $200,000,” Peter began to explain.
The veteran’s heart was racing, and he immediately went from through the roof, excited to completely devastated and disappointed that his watch wasn’t the Paul Newman model. That is until the appraiser followed that declaration with these five precious words: “Your watch is more special.”
There’s no doubt that the veteran was on an emotional rollercoaster during the whole appraisal session, from getting excited to hear about the rarity of the models to disappointed that his watch’s model wasn’t the same as the famous Paul Newman’s, to getting excited once again since his eye was in fact, even rarer than that of the legendary actor.
But before the veteran could hop off the emotional rollercoaster, there was still one last thing left to do: receive the final appraisal value. But right before that, Peter felt the need to mention one more important detail about the watch itself.
Mark II Dial
Peter prepared the veteran for the appraisal evaluation’s final step, revealing the prized possession’s absolute value. But hearing the fact that the famous Paul Newman model was worth an upwards of $200,000 was enough to keep him stunned.
But to keep the suspense going before the big reveal, the appraiser started to discuss one last important distinguisher that sets this particular antique model apart from the rest.
“It says ‘Oyster’ on it. They did that for a brief period. We refer to that as a Mark II Dial. And this particular model, being marked “Oyster,” is extremely, extremely rare,” Peter revealed.
Dropping to the Floor
“A watch like this at auction is worth about $400,000,” Peter revealed. Before he could even continue the evaluation, the veteran dropped to the floor from shock. As people rushed to make sure that he was okay, the veteran quickly got up and chuckled away in surprise.
“Don’t fall. I’m not done yet,” Peter reassured the veteran. “I said, ‘A watch like yours.’”
What did this mean, though? Was he insinuating that the watch worth more than $400,000? Or less?
After evaluating the item’s rarity, the object’s condition, and its current-day value, Peter was finally ready for the significant price value to reveal.
It All Comes Down to the Condition
At the end of it all, the final appraisal price came right down to the condition of the watch itself. And Peter had nothing but mind-blowing things to say about it.
“It’s a new old stock watch. No wear on it, the original foil sticker on the back of it, and the fact that we have all this complete documentation here, also, maybe one of the very few in the whole world that still was never worn,” Peter further disclosed.
How incredible! It looks like it’s a good thing that the veteran kept it locked away all these years!
Getting Ready to Hear the Offer
The veteran knew this vintage watch was unique to him—he elected not to even wear all of these years because of how “nice” of an eye it was, after all. But he had no idea that it was incredibly valuable to the rest of the world, too.
After making sure that the emotional and dazed veteran could stand up straight on his own, he confirmed that he was ready to hear the final appraisal value of his precious Rolex.
The Final Appraisal Value
With a serious as a heart-attack tone, Peter looked the veteran in the eye and graciously revealed, “Your watch, at auction, today, $500,000 to $700,000.”
Again, the veteran was completely stunned and blown away. He had no words to describe the utter shock and excitement that he felt, other than “Unbelievable.” He just took it all in and humbly chuckled to himself.
“It’s a fabulous find. It’s one of the rarest Paul Newman models, and in this condition, I don’t think there’s a better one in the world,” Peter further affirmed.
Keeping the Value High
When the veteran was an eager soldier back in the day, he spent $345 on this very same watch. Who would’ve known that the value would turn out to be two thousand times the original price!
But before the veteran could happily walk away with his $700,000 retro Rolex, he light-heartedly mentioned one of the most important take-aways from the evaluation: “You can’t wear it, though. If you wear it, it drops down to the $400,000 value.”
That’s right, the value of this watch solely relied on the fact that it was never-worn, and to keep the amount high, the veteran would need to keep on following his original gut feeling and keep it safe.
Everyone is Emotional About the Objects
One of the most significant parts about the Antiques Roadshow is that people get to discover that their family heirlooms, prized possessions, or lucky finds at the store are worth so much because of their historical value rarity.
But the owners of these fantastic artifacts aren’t the only ones who get emotional and excited about these objects.
Each expert appraiser on the show has a genuine interest in their specialty, and for Peter Plane, antique watches were one of the humbled passions.
While the appraisers do their best to keep their composure and act as professional as possible, their emotions can sometimes get the best of them. And while Peter kept a very calm demeanor throughout the entire evaluation, there’s no doubt he was incredibly excited to witness such a historically and rare artifact.
In fact, at the very end of the evaluation, he acknowledged how important and meaningful this session was for him. “I can’t thank you enough for bringing me one of the greatest watches to ever see on Antiques Roadshow. And thank you very much for your service.”
A Sentimental and Special Piece
Aside from the watch’s condition and rarity, this held sentimental value for the veteran. It wasn’t just a nice watch he purchased. This very watch had a strong backstory of his service and times during the war, and how flying around in Thailand inspired him to spoil himself with a beautiful look for himself—just like the pilots. How heart-warming!
So we can understand why he would’ve fallen to the ground from utter surprise and joy, after knowing that his watch was so rare and that its pristine condition was almost unheard of.
There were no further updates disclosed about if the veteran kept or sold the incredible antique watch, but it’s safe to say that as long as he follows his gut, he’ll make the right decision.