For anyone who collects vintage watches, Antiques Roadshow is like whale song, or the sound of rain on a tin roof – ASMR for those with an undiagnosed hoarding condition. Don’t worry, I’m describing myself too. It’s the public sharing of an almost entirely forgotten history of rare and beautiful objects, the knowledge of which is carefully gathered and protected by the experts who work for the show. This knowledge is then passed on to the eager enquirer, who often delights not only at the sum of money they are told they have, but also the historical tidbits that tell the story of the antique they are displaying.
In a recent episode, a gentleman had brought his father’s watch to Antiques Roadshow expert Richard Price to understand a little more about what it was, as well as what it might be valued at. The watch in question was a Rolex “Red” Submariner ref. 1680, which is not only an interesting reference because it was the first Rolex Submariner to feature a date complication, but the line of red SUBMARINER text makes it one of the most desirable vintage sports watches on the market.
The story of the watch was that his father had bought it in 1972 when the guest himself was seven years old, spending £132 at a dealer in Birmingham.
His father had recently passed away, but not before passing the watch down to him, making it all the more special as a personal memento.
The specific watch that the man’s father had bought was a Mk 4 dial, which was accompanied by the original sales receipts and documents as well as two spare service bracelets.
How much did Richard Price estimate the watch to be worth? “It’s going to be around the £20,000 mark,” he said, leaving the gentleman and his family standing with him speechless.
It’s always a thrill to see anyone as emotionally connected to a watch as this man was, as it reminds us why the watches in our own collections are so special, no matter how much they might be worth. Despite its significant value, this watch has a more important purpose in this man’s life, not as a store of value or point of intellectual pursuit, but as a reminder of his father who was no longer with him. It was a lovely story and a reminder of the deeply emotional quality that watches have to so many in the collecting community and beyond. You can watch the full video right here.