A U.S. Army veteran spent $345 to buy a watch in 1974: He collapsed when he found out what it was worth 45 years later

Anita Durairaj

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For one U.S. Army veteran, a Rolex watch he bought at discount in 1974 turned out to be an immense boon. When he found out its value, he collapsed in shock.

In 1974, David was in the military. He became fascinated by the Rolex watches that pilots wore and decided that he would spend his salary on a 1971 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph.

One month's salary in the U.S. Army was around $345 in 1974. David decided to purchase the watch through the army base exchange at a 10% discount.

The 1971 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph is part of the company's iconic Cosmograph collection, which was first introduced in 1963. The model features a stainless steel case and bracelet, a tachymeter scale on the bezel, and three chronograph sub-dials for measuring elapsed time. The movement is powered by Rolex's Caliber 727, a mechanical self-winding movement.

When David purchased the watch, he decided to keep it in pristine condition with all its documentation and paperwork intact. He kept it in a safety deposit box for the next several decades.

Around 2020, David decided to get his watch appraised at the Antiques Roadshow which was being filmed in West Fargo, North Dakota.

He was in for a shocking surprise. The appraiser on the show valued his "$345 Rolex" at $500,000 to $700,000.

The value of a 1971 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph can vary depending on a number of factors, such as its condition, rarity, and market demand. On average, one in good condition can sell for anywhere between $30,000 to $60,000. However, prices can go much higher for a rare or exceptional example.

In David's case, his watch was in the rare or exceptional example category. For one, he had kept his watch unused and in pristine condition with its original foil sticker and complete documentation.

For the Antiques Roadshow appraiser, it was one of the best watches he had ever seen on the show.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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