Antiques Roadshow expert baffled by valuable mystery timepiece ‘I’d love to know’

Antiques Roadshow: Couple shocked by value of chronograph

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A recent episode of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow saw a couple wanting to find out more about an old timepiece. As Richard examined the large watch-like object, he was able to shed some light on it but couldn’t make out exactly how it had worked. As he stated he would “love to know” more about it, the guests responded: “So would we.”

“This really is quite an unusual timepiece,” Richard commented while inspecting the object.

“Just tell me briefly the relationship between this and this gentleman here,” he requested, pointing to a photograph of a young man.

The guest replied: “Well, the gentleman there is my father, he was in the RAF in the Second World War.

“He was a general dog’s body basically. He served in France and Singapore and so on.

“We came across it, sadly, when he passed away 34 years ago. It’s been basically in a drawer ever since.”

“I’m not surprised, really,” Richard admitted. “Because it’s not the sort of thing you could ever wear is it? Let’s be honest.”

Picking up the watch and placing it next to his own, he explained: “Just putting it to scale, it is significantly bigger than a standard wristwatch, and the size of these lugs are massive.”

He asked: “So why do you think the lugs are big?”

“[It’s] obviously not to go on a wrist,” one of the owners speculated.

The antique specialist explained: “The reason that the lugs are massive is because it would have had a very large, thick leather strap that went over a flying jacket.

“So it was worn on the wrist, but not conventionally. Okay, it says cronografta ritorno, so Italian – reverse chronograph.

“But it’s by Leonidas. The company are Swiss, they started in the 1840s, and they combined or merged in about the 1960s with Hoya.

“They became the primary timers for all the international sporting events. This was probably 1935 possibly towards the start of the war.

“I’m sure you’ve probably tried it out – you press the button at 3 o’clock, and off it goes in a clockwise direction and then you press again and it goes back.”

After demonstrating how it worked, Richard continued: “It’s an intriguing thing to use. I have to be quite honest, never having operated one before, I don’t know when you actually started it, when you dropped your bombs etcetera, etcetera.

“And if anybody could shed light on that, I’d love to know.”

“So would we,” the couple laughed, unable to solve the mystery.

“So,” Richard added. “Money. No one’s going to wear it on the wrist, it’s too big and it doesn’t tell the time anyway.

“So it would be a pointless exercise, so the military collectors will like it, particularly the Italians. So let’s say realistically for something like that, £2,500? Are you happy with that?”

“Very!” the guest stated excitedly. “Thank you!”

Antiques Roadshow is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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