Treasure: Yard sale digging yields Heuer Skipper watch

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

It’s the kind of story that keeps pickers and collectors haunting garage, estate and rummage sales. “My wife acquired a Heuer Skipper watch at a yard sale. It was in a box of other watches, jewelry and miscellaneous items. She probably paid no more than $20 for the box,” wrote Kevin Cosgrove in an email. “It has a Valjoux 7734 movement with special Chrono runner. It does not have the original band. The crystal was replaced with a generic crystal (original no longer available). I do not have the serial number. Has original Heuer crown.”

The couple gave appraiser Corinne Henzi-Schultz additional background at a recent Trash or Treasure appraisal session held at DuMouchelles’ downtown auction house. “I go to a lot of garage and estate sales,” explained Maureen, who remembers the sale being somewhere in Westland or Garden City. “There were boxes all over the living room, and the ladies who were running it were sitting out in the backyard, not even in the house. ... I got myself a box and started putting things in it” — including the watch, which she found while digging.

Kevin once worked at the upscale watch maker Tourneau at Somerset Mall in Troy, and recognized the watch when she brought it home. The couple did research online to find out more. Afterward, a knowledgeable friend — a retired Detroit fireman now an auctioneer in Charlevoix — put them in touch with someone in Arizona who knew about restoring vintage watches. They invested $800 in the piece based on an Internet search that showed similar timepieces doing well at auction.

Henzi-Schultz confirmed that vintage watches are a hot collectible. “Skippers are an example of the line’s yachting watches,” she explained, adding that she found similar examples selling as much as $8,000. Based on research Cosgrove did and information she found on the Internet, the appraiser agreed that the piece was probably made in the early 1970s, probably 1972. She also mentioned that the Cosgroves’ model is similar to the Autavia model, which a bit more coveted by collectors. The lack of the original band — Maureen found it with a custom, Western-style band — would hurt the watch at auction, adding that she found evidence of a similar example with the original band selling for $6,000. For all of these reasons, she appraised the watch at $2,000-$4,000. “Even if you don’t get the highest value of $8,000, it was definitely a good investment,” she said.

Kevin said he wasn’t sure he’d be comfortable wearing such a valuable watch and the couple decided to leave it for auction at DuMouchelles, where it brought $2,500 in December. Maureen and her daughter attended and enjoyed their first auction. “It was so exciting, and so fast,” says Maureen.

The couple earmarked the money for a Caribbean cruise they took recently. “We’re thrilled with how it all turned out,” says Maureen, adding that she’ll keep going to garage and estate sales. “It’s my life. I’m retired. I’ve gotten so many nice things.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen, you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About this object

Item : 1970s Tag Heuer Skipper watch

Owner : Kevin and Maureen Cosgrove

Appraised by : Corinne Henzi-Schultz, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $2,000-$4,000 at auction