Unfortunately, like any hobby that attracts big money, vintage watch collecting has its share of scams and scumbags. For example, and it would be hard to think of a more odious seller angle, this so-called “Pat Tillman Rolex 5513 Submariner” showed its face on eBay the other day. Along with a lot of claims about how this was the heroic Pat Tillman‘s personal watch that he wore in Iraq and Afghanistan before he was tragically killed by friendly fire, there was a song and dance about Mr. Tillman’s Social Security number being engraved on the inside, with his rank and Ranger motto on the outside. And of course the obligatory “Support the Pat Tillman Foundation”… without any link, official endorsement or percentage contribution of the proceeds to said foundation or other veterans’ groups via eBay, which is extremely easy to arrange when you list an item for sale.
Probably Not Really Pat Tillman’s Submariner
So I had questions, as any properly skeptical observer would of a big money watch with specially claimed provenance, and they were: Why would Pat Tillman take a 1966 Rolex Submariner into action in Afghanistan when a G-Shock is the preferred equipment these days? Where was the actual provenance that this was the Pat Tillman’s watch, such as a letter from the family and/or an official family representative? Why would Mr. Tillman have engraved his Social inside the caseback — that is a very old fashioned concept that might have been done in 1966 but in 2003? And most importantly, where was a commitment to donating some of the proceeds from this sale to the Pat Tillman Foundation, the absence of which made this an extremely mercenary and unsavory endeavor even if the watch was genuine?
Probably Not Really Pat Tillman’s Submariner, back
When I raised these questions publicly on a very well known forum, and mind you I didn’t say the watch was phony just that these things seemed incongruous, I received the following blasts of opprobrium from a “Jack Dorsey” in reply:
Let me get this straight, after their loved one was killed in Afghanistan, you would narcissist [sic] enough to ask a grieving family to write a letter about their dead family member in order to satisfy your thirst, and you find nothing wrong with that? … Have you ever served in the military? Your comments suggest that you haven’t, Because in our world Name, Rank and Serial Number is enough. If Spc Tillman’s social security number is inside that case back, than in all likelihood that is his watch.
And it goes on like that. Not only that but I got wonderfully colorful personal emails from Mr. “Dorsey” and a compatriot (probably the same dude really) named “Jose Corrone” who also commented on the original post, so obviously they were not disinterested parties but in fact the seller(s) of the watch over there in Mullica Hill, New Jersey (an IP search of “Jose” confirmed that proximate location, i.e. close to Philly). I guess I touched a nerve and the only thing these bozos had to come back with was ad hominem, circular logic (If that’s Pat Tillman’s SS# then it’s probably his watch! — agreed, now prove it) and machismo posturing. And shortly thereafter the “Tillman Sub” auction was ended early before it could go to the hammer.
Yes, Pat Tillman was a hero but this watch probably wasn’t his
Now, I like to think that their little scam was made stillborn after a light was shone on these cockroaches who feed on the fame of a dead war hero to sell their questionable goods. But maybe someone less cautious or particular made an outside deal with them thinking he was getting the real thing. Hard to know for sure. But I do know that “Jack Dorsey”, “Jose Carrone” and their loathsome ilk have no place in this hobby. If you can’t defend your watches that you are seeking to profit from (and the spectacular claims you make for them) by any means other than threats, name calling and unsubstantiated bullshit then go back to your day jobs nickel-and-diming widows and mopping out the local porno and leave the watch sales to decent human beings.
As the old saying goes, and just as in all aspects of commerce but especially in collecting vintage watches: be careful — it’s a jungle out there. But in honor of these assholes, let’s all really make a donation to the Pat Tillman Foundation and that way something good will come out of their venality after all.