There’s rarely as satisfying a moment on TV as watching someone strike it rich on Antiques Roadshow when a random item turns out to be worth a fortune. That’s exactly what happened on this evening’s episode when an Air Force veteran learned a rare Rolex he’d never worn was worth upwards of $700,000.
The episode was filmed in Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota, and as the story goes a member of the United States Air Force, who was stationed in Thailand in the ‘70s, noticed commercial airline pilots wearing Rolex watches and assumed it was a respected brand. A few years later while looking for a suitable watch for diving the veteran ordered a Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Reference 6263 from his base’s exchange for $345.97: a price that probably has watch collectors doing a spit take right now, but in 1974, when this timepiece was ordered, enlisted soldiers only made about $300-$400 a month so it was definitely a splurge.
When he took possession of the watch a year later, the veteran decided it was too nice to muck up with saltwater while SCUBA diving, and even too nice to wear at all. So he locked it away in a safe deposit box with the original packaging and paperwork, only removing it a couple of times over the years to admire his investment. It was that decision that will potentially leave this veteran with a nice chunk of change should he decide to put his Rolex up for auction.
The Rolex Daytona, as this timepiece is also known, is coveted by watch collectors for many reasons, including the fact that Paul Newman wore a similar model in the film Winning. This Rolex Daytona is considered a step up from the model appearing in that movie, however, with improved water resistance as denoted by the word “Oyster” on the face, making this model especially rare.
But because this veteran never actually wore his Rolex, preserving even a foil label on the back of the watch that usually rubs off over time, the watch is essentially in brand new condition even though it was manufactured back in 1971. That, with the original packaging, paperwork, receipts, and warranty documentation that was never filled out, led the Antiques Road appraiser to estimate that it could fetch anywhere from $500,000 to $700,000 at auction, given the recent popularity and demand for this specific Rolex model. That is a significant return on investment, and a good enough reason to rifle through your grandparents’ watch drawer the next time you stop by for a visit.