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An Air Force Veteran Paid $350 for This Rolex Daytona in the ’70s. Now It’s Worth Up to $700,000

The watch was purchased while the man was stationed in Thailand in the '70s.

rare Rolex Daytona Paul Newman watch Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

We talk about the ravages of time, but sometimes the effect it has on something is quite the opposite. Take, for example, a Rolex purchased back in the 1970s for a little less than $350. Five decades later, it’s worth more than 2,000 times that.

Last July, a United States Air Force veteran showed up for a taping of Antiques Roadshow at Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota, with the timepiece in question, an Oyster Paul Newman ref. 6263, according to Hodinkee. And while it seems safe to say he had an idea the watch might be worth a bit more than he originally paid for it, he clearly had no idea how valuable it would turn out to be.

That’s because the man never wore the Rolex he purchased while he was stationed in Thailand during the ‘70s. Having noticed pilots wearing the crisp timepiece, he purchased one of his own through the base exchange for $345.97 after a 10-percent discount. While he intended to wear it while SCUBA diving, he nixed the plan after receiving the watch, deeming it to be too elegant for the activity or to wear in general, and instead packed it—and its box and papers—away for decades.

While the Rolex may have initially seemed like a waste of money, it’s more than redeemed itself now. According to the Antiques Roadshow appraiser, the watch itself could easily fetch up to $400,000 at auction. The shocking news left the man crumpled in a heap on the ground.

But the appraiser wasn’t done. When the man stored the watch away in a safety deposit box decade earlier, he also stored everything that came with it away, including the warranty papers (which were never filled out), the brochure, two receipts, its display case and the box it all came in. Because of that, the appraiser said he could actually expect to sell the watch for somewhere between $500,000 to $700,000. Not a bad return in the end.

The Bonanzaville episode of Antiques Roadshow, which is the fourth of season 24 of the long-running PBS mainstay, is set to air tonight. Until then, enjoy the man’s reaction to the appraisal below:

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