A Vietnam Vet Is Literally Floored by the Value of His Rolex on 'Antiques Roadshow'

David, Vietnam Veteran Antiques Roadshow
(Antiques Roadshow/PBS)

One Air Force veteran literally collapsed when he learned how much the $345 watch he bought from a base exchange in 1974 is worth now.

The veteran, called "David" on the show, was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the Air Force rather than be drafted for the Army, because his draft number was 7, and became an explosives ordnance disposal airman.

It's a good thing David was in the bomb squad, because "Antiques Roadshow" appraiser Peter Planes had a bomb to drop on the veteran: His watch's current value is upward of $700,000.

Between 1973 and 1975, David flew on Air America and Continental Airlines and noticed in his travels that the pilots often wore Rolex watches, he told Planes. Then, he became interested in scuba diving and learned that Rolexes are supposed to be the ideal watch for divers, he said.

That sealed it for David. He purchased one for himself for $345.97, almost a month's salary in 1974 and equivalent to around $1,275 in today's money.

It proved to be a good investment.

David decided the luxury watch was "really too nice to take down in the salty water."

Rather than using it for diving -- or for anything at all -- he kept it in a safe deposit box for the next 45 years. The veteran only took it out to admire it, or to bring it to the "Antiques Roadshow" stop at the Bonanzaville USA history museum complex in West Fargo, North Dakota.

Planes began to describe the model watch "David" had kept for so long, saying it is usually worth around $400,000.

The revelation caused the former airman to fall backward in shock, his legs visibly on the edge of the screen. But there was more.

"You OK?" Planes asked over the laughs of the camera crew and onlookers. "Don't fall. I'm not done yet."

David not only kept his BX receipt, he also kept all of the warranty paperwork and everything else that came with the watch, including its original brochure. All of it is collectible, increasing the watch's value.

The Palm Beach, Florida, appraiser told David the Oyster Cosmograph Rolex he kept so meticulously all these years is extremely rare, especially because it was never worn. Planes thanked David for bringing him "one of the greatest watches to ever see on 'Antiques Roadshow.'"

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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