'Great Escape' prisoner's watch to auction for $40,000?

A Rolex watch owned by a prisoner of war involved in "The Great Escape" will sell on November 6 at Bourne End Auction Rooms in London.

Rolex POW watch
Rolex founder Hans Wildorf donated watches to POWs on the provision that they paid him back after the war

The watch belonged to RAF pilot Gerald Imeson, who was one of those imprisoned at the Stalag Luft III camp - the POW camp made famous in the 1963 Steve McQueen film. It is expected to sell for £15,000-25,000 ($24,000-40,000).

The Rolex was apparently given to Imeson by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, who donated watches to British prisoners who had had theirs confiscated while captured. Wilsdorf did so on the agreement that those who received a watch paid up after the war.

Imeson POW watch
Imeson pictured at the camp (4th from left)

Imeson was directly involved in the plan to dig tunnels out of Stalag Luft III, serving as one of the "penguins" - the men who dispersed soil from the tunnels around the compound from their pockets.

However, he was number 172 on the list to escape, and was awaiting his turn when the Germans rumbled the plot. 76 prisoners made it out of the tunnels, although 73 were rounded up and 50 of those were subsequently shot.

Imeson was among those that were forced to leave the camp on what became known as "The Long March", as the Soviet forces approached. Many died on the gruelling march, but Imeson made it home.

True to his word, Imeson then settled his £170 (now around £5,500) debt with Hans Wilsdorf and treasured the watch for the rest of his life, until his death in 2003.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a wonderful selection of militaria for sale, including items from some of the second world war's greatest heroes.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock