Air Force vet on 'Antiques Roadshow' collapses when he learns the real value of his $345 watch
By HANNAH KNOWLES | The Washington Post | Published: January 28, 2020
The “Antiques Roadshow” guest kept his cool as an appraiser said his watch, snagged decades ago in the Air Force, was no ordinary Rolex. Informed that it was a lot like a model once worn by Paul Newman that auctions for $200,000, the camouflage-bandanna-clad owner just nodded.
Then the appraiser noted the tiny word “Oyster” inscribed on the clock’s face. That made the trinket “extremely, extremely rare,” the kind of watch that sells for $400,000.
The man toppled backward to the ground with enough force that his feet flew up into the air.
There was laughter and a mildly concerned “You OK?” — but also more good news to come. The Rolex was also in nearly perfect condition, the grinning watch-owner heard next. The discount purchase that set him back $345.97 in 1974 — in the range of a month’s military salary — was now worth between $500,000 and $700,000.
Appraiser Peter Planes declared it one of the greatest watches he’d ever seen on “Antiques Roadshow.” The moment, filmed on tour in a North Dakota pioneer town, would top the season’s finds and would delight staff who said they’ve never seen a guest literally floored, even on a TV show that thrives on stunning people with the value of objects often tucked away for years.
“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,” Planes said in Monday’s kickoff for the program’s 24th season.
The watch’s owner, whom “Antiques Roadshow” has identified only as David, greeted the final dollar estimate with closed eyes and a word that was bleeped out.
David explained on Monday’s show that he became interested in a Rolex while stationed in Thailand in the 1970s, working to clear roads of land mines and to clean up munition storage spots. He noticed that airline pilots seemed to wear the watches — but they were out of his price range.
A fan of scuba diving, he said, he eventually decided to spring for a watch that could survive under water and ordered a Rolex through his base exchange at a 10% discount. But when the fancy accessory arrived, he ended up locking it away in a safety deposit box.
“I looked at it and I said, ‘you know, this is really too nice to take down in the salty water,’ ” David said.
He claims he only took it out two or three times until the summer that “Antiques Roadshow” came to the Fargo area’s historic Bonanzaville. That’s part of what makes this particular Oyster Cosmography, also known as a Daytona, so valuable, said Planes, of Luxe Auctioneers. The numbered foil sticker on its back, normally the first thing to wear off, was still intact.
Also a boon, he said: the fact that Newman popularized the Daytona Rolex in the 1969 drama “Winning.” The watch became intertwined with the actor and race car driver’s image, as Travis Andrews reported for The Washington Post:
“The mechanical watch radiated coolness, much like its owner. It was a constant companion to Newman’s left wrist in magazine shoots, paparazzi photos and while he was speeding around in his racecars. The model, which was ‘made famous by him thanks to this very timepiece,’ was eventually nicknamed the ‘Paul Newman Daytona,’ Phillips Auction House said in a news release.”
Newman’s actual watch was auctioned off in 2017 for a world-record-breaking $17,752,500 after 12 minutes of bidding.
The “Antiques Roadshow” guest’s watch might not have graced a star’s wrist, but it’s actually more special than the model Newman wore, Planes told David. The word Oyster indicates that this accessory had a particularly water-resistant case, he said.
And with the immaculate condition and the saved paperwork to boot — the blank warranty paper alone is probably worth about $2,000, Planes guessed — the watch was a season highlight.
“Unbelievable,” David said on the show.