3 Stories of Rare Vintage Watch Finds

We’re fascinated by stories of people finding hidden gems, whether it’s antiques at car boot sales, forgotten pieces of history in storage lockers, or long-lost heirlooms in attics. Through the ancient art of storytelling, they awaken parts of us that are deeply embedded in our psyche.

One of those parts is the possibility of the unknown. We can spark this simply by digging through old cardboard boxes under the stairs. It’s the feeling that you never know what you might find, whether it be an invaluable memory from your childhood or a set of Pokemon cards that are now worth a fortune.

The second is a sense of connection with history and our roots. Everyone wants to be the proud owner of a genuine piece of their heritage; something that’s no longer made and cannot be bought no matter what the price. Other than robbing a museum, the closest way most people experience this is through passed down heirlooms and the occasional lucky find.

One of the ways that both the above sentiments and more can be sparked is through stories of vintage watch finds. Here are three of the best that will undoubtedly give you a sense of wonder of the possibilities and awaken your curiosity to get out there and discover your own.

A Charity Shop LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm

It’s one of the most desirable watches ever produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre, one of the most prestigious watchmakers in the world, and it was found face down in a miscellaneous box in a Goodwill charity shop.

After unsuccessfully searching for a golf cart, Zach Norris decided to dig through a pile of old watches on his way out the door. It was there he came across the Deep Sea Alarm and was pleasantly surprised by its price tag of $5.99. He knew the watch must be worth more than that, although at that point he had no idea it would fetch him as much as it did.

What makes the Goodwill Deep Sea Alarm so special is that as well as being from circa 1959 and one of less than 1000 to be made, it was one of the first to feature alarms for divers. A true piece of history that made one lucky guy a quick profit to the tune of $35,000 — minus the $6, of course.

A Car Boot Rolex-Panerai

It sounds like a fairytale to come across an old Rolex at a car boot sale, but this story proves it can and does happen.

Picked up at a car boot by his late father in Northwest England,  a Cheshire man found the Rolex-Panerai stowed away in an old chest of drawers some 20 years later. After learning it may sell for about £500, he was happy to let the watch go. However, to his great delight, due to the rarity of the particular model, the watch blew its estimate out the water and went on to sell for over £55,000.

The watch was made by Panerai — a company that collaborated with Rolex for its movement — and issued to Italian navy divers during World War II. It was one of just 618 to be made during the early 40s and is particularly sought after for certain features like its waterproof case and large face for nighttime visibility.

A Bargain One-off Breitling Top Time

As if finding a rare, vintage watch at a bargain price isn’t enough, then how about picking up something that’s also a one-off piece of filmmaking history worn by none other than James Bond, or Sean Connery, himself.

That’s exactly what happened to one fortunate punter when they picked up a Breitling Top Time worn by Connery in the 1965 Bond film Thunderball, for just £25. The watch, made by Breitling in 1962, was specially adapted by the James Bond art department for the film and so is one of a kind. The buyer later sold it at Christie’s in London, smashing its estimation of £30,000 to £60,000 by fetching an astounding £103,875.

The watch was featured during Bond’s mission to find two NATO atomic bombs and attracted particular attention at auction as it was the first ever modified gadget watch issued by ‘Q’ and the only Q gadget ever to be worn by Connery.