Skiing down Mont Blanc, sailing the Pacific Ocean, and sitting lost in a septic tank for over a year. These are just some of the incredible adventures that Ric Outrim’s Rolex Submariner has endured, and it has kept ticking without complaint. But its greatest adventure has just wrapped up, and this one took almost five years. 

The lost and found vintage Rolex Submariner

Back in July, we brought you the incredible story of Ric’s lost Rolex Submariner. Australian professional surfer Matt Cuddihy found the watch while he was snorkeling and collecting rubbish off the Queensland coast near the surfing town of Noosa. Ric saw our story on Fratello, and before long, he had proven his connection to the lost Rolex thanks to an inscription on the back of the watch, which simply reads “R. Outrim, Presented 1971.” It turns out that it had been under the ocean for four years — first lost in 2019, then found in 2023. (A quick side note, dear readers: we came across a separate story of a Rolex found in Queensland, which we covered here. It is unrelated to Ric’s story.)

The moment Ric knew that someone had found his watch, he broke down and wept.” When he realized that he would get the watch back thanks to Matt’s honesty and efforts, he said, “I am so grateful for this to be returned. It’s unbelievable. You would never think this could happen. I am so emotional.” 

Life’s adventures with a Rolex strapped to the wrist

Ric had a special attachment to his Rolex Submariner. It had accompanied him on every twist and turn of his life’s journey since he received it at 18 years old from his father, a sailor and former member of the Royal Australian Navy. Those adventures included tying the knot, winning a few sailing races, backpacking across Europe, and working in Switzerland. The watch was a connection to his father, who died in the early 2000s. “It’s finally come back home; it’s a big thing,” Ric said.

Overjoyed, Matt told Fratello that he was “stoked” that Ric had gotten his Rolex back. “I am so stoked for Ric. His Rolex is right back where it should be — on his wrist telling time and ready for more adventures. I told him I didn’t want to see it in my aquatic garbage collection again!” In addition to sharing his find on Fratello in an attempt to find the owner, Matt had also posted on his social media to more than 25,000 followers. At the time he was overwhelmed by the response, but it was only by chance that Ric had seen the Fratello story and reached out. 

Rolex refurbished and back at home again

When Ric was able to prove his ownership of the watch, Matt helped put him in touch with Rolex so that he could have the barnacle-encrusted timepiece repaired. In December, the watch returned from Rolex. At Ric’s request, the brand had completely refurbished it and included the original parts with the watch. Inside one of the zip-lock bags was even one of the barnacles that was attached to the watch when Matt found it in the ocean. The watch also arrived on a period-correct Oyster bracelet from Rolex (Ric had lost the original and was wearing the watch on a Velcro band when it fell off his wrist in the surf). 

Fratello understands that just one watchmaker at Rolex was the dedicated expert on the refurbishment from start to finish. The process took the greater part of six months, something that touched Ric. “I would like to say ‘thank you’ to that watchmaker because it’s clear how much love and effort went into this project,” he said. “We had lunch together with the Rolex team in Brisbane. It was missing for such a while that I had sort of reconciled with this sense of deep loss. I never thought it would come back to me, but Rolex was amazing. The people there were so good to me. They gave the watch so much special attention.”

“A friend for the rest of my life”

Ric always wanted to have the watch completely refurbished while keeping as many of the original components as possible so that he could take it surfing and swimming again. Not only has that happened, but the watch has also become a story of friendship. Matt and Ric met for lunch in Noosa and now are regularly in touch, sharing a passion for nature, the sea, and surfing. “I’d like to have Matt as a friend for the rest of my life. He’s a person of very high caliber,” Ric said. 

The next plan? Ric wants to take the refurbished Rolex Submariner to the spot where he lost it and go surfing with Matt. “Now that it’s back, I’d like to go back to National Park where I lost it surfing, go surfing with Matt, and retrace my steps with it on my wrist.” So perhaps, in a sense, the watch’s adventures are just beginning again, not ending with this chapter of the story. 

Final thoughts

We don’t like to inject ourselves into stories like these too much at Fratello. However, Ric insisted that he add a “thank you” to the author and the editorial staff for helping him in the journey that reunited him with his watch. “You are one of the people who brought this whole thing together with your stories on Fratello, Henry. The whole experience was surreal. Thank you,” he said. Personally, it has been a touching experience for this writer to have shared some of this journey with Ric and Matt. I am so happy to have seen the watch returned to its rightful home. Thanks to RJ and Fratello’s managing editor Nacho for championing this series too and setting up the articles and photographs for publication.

This experience has given Ric a new appreciation for Rolex, watches in general, and the community of enthusiasts. And while Matt, who has become a Fratello reader since the first part of the story broke, would love a Rolex, he says he likes the approachable vibe and designs of modern Tudor, a fitting watch for the wrist of a professional surfer and someone who spends his private time in the water cleaning up his local beaches. This is how the story ends. For now, I wish you all a happy holiday season and look forward to bringing you more stories next year.