We all like the idea of finding lost treasure. Today, we get to speak to one of our readers who has turned it into a successful hobby. He has become a watch collector without ever buying a watch. Read on. 

In the spirit of reflecting our shared enthusiasm for this hobby, we have been featuring some stories from our readers. By doing so, we hope to keep positive and informative discussions alive and draw new enthusiasts into this fascinating world of watches.

Finding lost watches Jim Bruce

The diver finding lost treasures

Fratello reader Jim Bruce is a passionate diver. In his spare time, he hunts for treasures under the sea near his hometown in Sweden. His entire watch collection consists of unclaimed treasures, including pieces by Bremont, Seiko, and Citizen, and even an Omega Seamaster.

Jim (@havavguuld on Instagram) has never bought a watch for himself. Nevertheless, he has quite a collection of timepieces. He started diving many years ago as a personal passion. His main day job is working as an arborist, which he’s been doing for 15 years. But he combines his passion for diving with an incredible ability to find and recover all sorts of lost treasures.

At the depths of the sea, there is gold (and more)

Jim came across Fratello after a series of stories I uncovered about Matt Cuddihy, an Australian surfer, finding a long-lost Rolex Submariner. Cuddihy, a National Parks ranger by day, was picking up plastic rubbish when he discovered the Rolex on the sea floor. Long story short, he ended up reuniting the watch with its original owner, who had quite an epic history with the watch. Once again, we thank Ric (the owner) and Matt for sharing their story with us.

lost watches Rolex Submariner

The Rolex Submariner that Matt Cuddihy found

Jim said he saw that story and it resonated strongly with him, after which he began reading Fratello and appreciating watches. “I live in a small town (Frillesås) on the west coast of Sweden; I do most of my diving in Sweden but also Norway and Denmark,” he said. “I saw your Rolex story when scouring Instagram for lost-watch stories because I (obviously) love those! It was truly a lovely story with a happy ending. It’s astonishing how quality timepieces like the Rolex Submariner can withstand the forces of nature!”

finding lost watches Jim Bruce

A watch collector’s beginnings

The story resonated with Jim because he is a watch collector of sorts…if amassing unclaimed watches sitting at the bottom of the ocean counts as collecting (I think it does). “I never bought a watch for myself in my life. I only bought them for my family members as gifts before,” he said. Finding a Bremont started to get him interested in watches. “This unclaimed Bremont was my first good watch.”

Jim started diving and searching for treasures at a young age: “I’ve always been looking for lost stuff, starting with streets, in bushes and ditches. My family has often lived close to woods and the ocean, coexisting with nature and caring for it! Therefore, picking up trash along the way is a natural part of it all. I’ve been playing in the ocean since childhood, and looking for sparkly items beneath was thrilling!”

lost gold

Lost watches and sea gold

Among those sparkly items that Jim has found while diving off the Nordic coastlines are engagement rings, gold jewelry of all sorts imaginable, bullets, an anchor, a Swedish police officer’s badge, and many, many watches. I started appreciating watches when I found my first good one, a Bremont,” he said.

Jim’s hunt for treasure kicked into gear in 2016 when he bought a specialized underwater metal detector: “A few dives later, I found my first gold rings, and the gold fever hit instantly,” he recounts. “At first, I did it for myself, but I later started to search for lost-item posts on Facebook and reach out. The joy of returning emotionally valuable items and experiencing people’s true gratitude and happiness is just as, if not more, rewarding for the ego. I have a few reviews on my other Facebook ring-recovery page “Ringhittarna.” Seeing people in tears when reunited with family heirlooms is touching,” Jim explained.

Seeking treasures, finding lost watches

Jim has had many memorable finds, but we asked him to name a favorite or two: “One of my most memorable finds would be the old police badge because of the obvious coolness and all the thoughts of why and how it ended up on the ocean floor! The other is probably my first quality automatic watch, the Bremont Solo, because it’s what got me into appreciating watches and the craftsmanship behind them. I’m somewhat of a craftsman myself,” he said. “I still like it a lot. The simplicity of a good pilot’s watch is stylish and easy-to-read perfection.”

lost watches Omega Seamaster Diver 300M

Finding an Omega Seamaster 300M

And now we come to one of his most recent unclaimed finds, an Omega Seamaster 300M. Jim now considers himself an enthusiastic watch collector, and he had always wanted an Omega in the collection. “My most recent favorite find is the Omega Seamaster 300M. It is one of the transitional models between the Omega ‘Bond’ and the ceramic-bezel models. Omega has always been a dream for me, and finding an Omega dive watch is as good as it gets! I can use it as it was meant to be used — for diving.” 

Jim is getting the Omega serviced and pressure tested so that it can return to service as a dive watch on his wrist as he continues to hunt for more treasure. We applaud this approach to using dive watches. It is great to see them fulfilling the roles for which they were intended. This is also a great way to test lost watches!

The thrill of the hunt

So, how does Jim feel when he comes across these lost watches? “The best thing about treasure hunting is the thrill of the hunt and the few seconds after you know you hit the jackpot,” Jim said. “Finding high-karat gold is unbeatable because it is frozen in time. It doesn’t get corroded, even after thousands of years. It’s a fascinating material.”

“Many times, the spot for the day is decided by the course of the winds and storms days before because they stir things around. Then it’s about jumping into it and finding the hotspot in that particular place, low points, etc., swinging the detector methodically until it starts giving good signals.”

Final thoughts

For Jim, diving is not merely a fun hobby that fulfills his passion for adventure, but it also provides a bit of extra income when someone hires him to find a lost engagement ring or jewelry. Finding lost watches has happened by chance, and now Jim finds himself with probably one of the most unique collections in the world — an entire collection taken from the depths of the ocean! If you have lost something in the Baltic or need advice on finding treasure like Jim does, I’d encourage you to contact him directly.

On a deeper level, though, Jim’s hobby is about staying connected to the natural world: “I need the adventure and nature to survive and feel alive. As do we all, only many of us have lost the connection,” he said. Indeed, I think we can all relate to connecting to the natural world and a shared sense of adventure. Safe diving, Jim.

If you have an interesting watch story to share and would like to discuss it with me, you are welcome to reach out through Instagram.