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Veteran joyfully collapses after learning his old Rolex is worth up to $700K

The 1971 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph, similar to a watch worn by Paul Newman in the 1969 auto racing movie "Winning," was purchased for $345.97.
Antiques Roadshow PBS/YouTube
/ Source: TODAY

Learning the value of his old Rolex watch swept this military veteran right off his feet.

An Air Force veteran who went on "Antiques Roadshow" to have his 1971 Rolex Oyster Cosmograph appraised had his legs turn to jelly when he learned the watch he paid $345.97 for in 1974 is now worth up to $700,000 at auction.

"You gotta be sh----g me," he says after getting back on his feet. "Unbelievable."

The veteran brought the watch to Bonanzaville in West Fargo, North Dakota, where appraiser Peter Planes of Luxe Auctioneers in Palm Beach, Florida, informed him that it was a rare piece worth exponentially more than he paid for it.

The unidentified veteran said he was stationed in Thailand from 1973-75 and thought a Rolex would be good for scuba diving. However, once he ordered it in 1974 and received it in 1975, he changed his mind.

"I looked at it and I said this is really too nice to take down into salty water,'' he said on the show.

He put it in a safe deposit box for 40 years and only took it out two or three times to look at it. At the time, the $345.97 he paid for it was a steep price considering military salaries ranged between $300 and $400 a month.

The veteran also kept the original brochure, two receipts, the original box, the outer box and even the original foil sticker on the back of the watch.

Planes said that type of watch is in demand from collectors because Paul Newman wore a similar one in the 1969 auto racing movie "Winning" that became known as the Daytona Rolex. Newman's wife and movie co-star, Joanne Woodward, gave him the Daytona as a gift, according to Phillips auction house.

Paul Newman sighting at the Riverside Raceway during the LA Times/Toyota Grand Prix - April 26, 1981
The Air Force veteran's classic watch is a rare version of the famous Daytona Rolex worn by Paul Newman in the 1969 movie "Winning." Ron Galella / Getty Images

However, Planes said the Air Force veteran's version is rarer because it has "Oyster" printed on the face, referring to the screw-down buttons on the side of the watch.

Once the appraiser told him it could be worth $400,000 at auction, the man took a tumble to the ground in shock. Then Planes informed him that that was a low price considering the man never wore the watch, making its value as high as $700,000.

"In this condition, I don't think there's a better one in the world,'' he said.

"I can't thank you enough for bringing me one of the greatest watches to ever see on 'Antiques Roadshow,'" Planes added. "And thank you very much for your service."