Just in case you thought the sun had forever set on the days of plucking horological treasures from flea markets and roadside antique sales, check out this recent account, which comes to us from reader Kyle F.
As Kyle tells it, he was poring over a table of mostly pedestrian wares at a Philadelphia flea market when, almost out of nowhere, he noticed a watch “behind the vendor’s table, resting on a concrete ledge, basically in the dirt.”
Kyle says all he could see was the watch’s bezel, and he was careful not to allow himself to become too excited. It was probably nothing, right? In this day and age, pretty much everybody – especially someone sitting behind a counter at a flea market – knows the Rolex name, right? In all likelihood this was one of hundreds of similar-looking dive watches whose case, bezel, and bracelet designs were effectively purloined from Rolex.
He took the watch in hand-which, as you can see from these pictures, is more than a little beat up – and gave it a closer look. Peeking out from beneath that scraped plastic crystal was what appeared to be one hell of a collectible four-line gilt dial with a patina that would have been very difficult to fake.
“How much?” Kyle asked the seller.
“I don’t know, $10?” the apparently clueless person behind the table replied.
Despite sensing the find was too good to be true, Kyle rolled the dice and forked over $10, assuming that he was getting a fake, but that for just $10 he kind of had to take the risk. Once he got the watch home, however, he took the bracelet off and searched for the serial number online. Lo and behold, it came back as a 5512 dating from 1968.
Kyle says the watch is now at Rolex being restored and he’ll keep us informed as the process of getting it back in shape unfolds.
We haven’t had a chance to look at this watch in person, and really all we have to go on in this case are Kyle’s supplied images and the story he tells. But from the looks of it, he’s a very lucky flea-market shopper who now has a killer watch and one hell of a story to go with it.
Update: We’ve heard back from Kyle, who elected not to have the watch serviced by Rolex.