TV formats such as "Bares for Rares" or the "PBS Antiques Roadshow" regularly land viral hits with old watches. No wonder: the noble timepieces are coveted goods that even professionals like Horst Lichter ("I think it's unfair that I'm not allowed to bid on the dealers here from time to time") still inspire. The latest find appeared on the BBC's "Antiques Roadshow", as reported by the "Daily Star", among others.
Last Sunday, an elderly gentleman was a guest who wanted to present his watch to the expert. It was a Rolex Submariner, reference 5512, which he says he bought in 1961 in the port of Aden, the fourth largest city in Yemen.
During the show, the veteran tells his story. At that time he served on the naval ship HMS Anzio and used a short stay in Aden on the voyage from Malta to Bahrain.
It fits the time: According to "Bobswatches", the reference 5512 was manufactured between 1959 and 1979 and is now considered by collectors to be the first Submariner to sport the design that is still familiar today. For the first time, the diver's watch was built in 40 millimeters, which was then considered to be the norm for the model for decades. In addition, Rolex equipped the watch with a crown protector to prevent impacts on the crown.
The elderly gentleman who bought the watch as a young soldier not only brought the watch with him, but also the important papers, which tend to get lost with such old models. He was able to show the original invoice, the guarantee card, the instructions and the box in which he received the watch at the time.
According to the bill, he paid 640 East African shillings, the currency of the British colonies in East Africa at the time. The older gentleman himself says it was around £32 at the time. According to the Bank of England's inflation calculator, that would equate to around £570 today, or €640. "It used to be a lot of money," he explains.
The watch appears to be in good condition. Typical for its age, it has a so-called "ghost bezel", which means that the inlay in the rotating bezel is badly faded. A coveted detail for collectors. Most importantly, the clock is still running.
The trader jokingly says that he could give him £50 today, which would already have made him a profit. "No deal," replies the seller. Then comes the realistic estimate: expert Mathew Haley states that the watch should fetch between 22,500 and 33,700 euros. This surprises the owner. He doesn't say more than "Wow" at first.
In fact, even the expert is a little below what is currently paid for such a watch. At "Chrono24" there are currently only three copies from 1961 that offer a comparable scope of delivery. The prices are between 38,000 and 48,000 euros.
In contrast to "Bares for Rares", there are no dealers waiting for the sellers at the "Antique Road Shows", where the appraisal can be immediately put to the test. Whether the veteran has already sold his watch - and at what price - is not known.
Two other veterans had similar luck. A Rolex "Daytona" was valued at over half a million euros in America years ago, a Rolex "GMT-Master" was priced at around 70,000 US dollars.