Rolex "Bubbleback" Wristwatch, ca. 1940
Appraised Value: $4,000 (2007)
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:29)
GUEST: I was at a local estate sale, and there was a big pile of jewelry, and right in the middle of it was this watch. So I picked it up and carried it with me through the sale, and when we were leaving, um, the man said, "That will be ten dollars." And I said, "Okay, thank you." And I walked out and put it away and... looked at it later and thought it was kind of special 'cause it says Rolex. But I didn't know if it was real or not.
APPRAISER: And have you had it appraised before?
GUEST: My husband, um, took it to a local appraisal fair, and somebody said to him that he would give him $800 for it. And my husband called me on the cell phone and asked me if I would like to sell it. And I said, "Well, I really wanted to know "how much it was worth, not really how much it could be sold for." And so he asked the man, "How much is it worth?" And he said, "Well, I'll give you $800." And so, at that point, I said, "No, I think we'll keep it."
APPRAISER: Well, to give you a little history on the watch then. It is genuine. Oh. It was made by the Rolex Watch Company in Geneva, Switzerland. They first launched this model in 1931. This, for example, was made around the early 1940s. It's in a 14-karat gold case. It's nicknamed the "Bubbleback." It was the first-ever good automatic wristwatch, and one of the first watches that made Rolex famous. It winds by the movement of your wrist. Very clever. The reason it's called a Bubbleback is ...it has this very bulbous-size case. It's a very thick watch to allow for the rotor to keep it running. Now, there are particular collectors that like these watches, um, principally, because it's such a famous design that they made. The bracelet itself is not original on it, unfortunately. It is later, but often with these type of watches, they were sold on leather straps, and that when bracelets became very fashionable-- mostly around the 1950s and '60s-- then people would put associated bracelets onto them. So the bracelet is relatively, um, inexpensive, and it doesn't alter the value of the watch at all.
GUEST: Oh, all right.
APPRAISER: I have to tell you, I think whenever you take it to get appraised and someone wants to buy it from you rather than appraising it, you have to be a little cautious. Your red flags have to start flying. But you definitely made the right decision.
GUEST: Oh, wonderful. For a watch like this, in this type of condition, I think realistically, at auction purposes, you'll be looking around $4,000.
GUEST: Wow! That is great.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2013 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.