Trying to stay positive despite feeling cheated out of his
1958 gold Rolex watch by a Dunedin jeweller is Wellington
resident Malcolm McCaw, with his daughter Caroline McCaw in
Malcolm McCaw, of Wellington, is warning people to be
careful with transactions involving precious items, after he
was left with $100 recently for a watch he believed was worth
But Southern Cross Jewellers owner Michael Lee disputed the
claim, and said he bought the watch from Mr McCaw legally and
Mr Lee had serviced Mr McCaw's Rolex a few times in the last
decade, and had held it at his Princes St shop for the last
two years to repair.
On December 2, Mr McCaw (83) went to the shop to see if his
watch was fixed and was told it needed parts from England.
Mr Lee offered to buy the watch instead.
''I asked him [Mr McCaw] if he wanted to sell it and was
prepared to pay $200 or $300 for it, but he said I could have
it for $100. He was quite clear and happy with the sale at
the time,'' Mr Lee said.
''I would have been happy to repair it and sell it back to
him,'' Mr Lee said.
There was no receipt or record of the transaction.
Mr McCaw left the shop with $100, but a few hours later, when
he told his daughter Caroline McCaw about the sale, he
realised he had made a mistake.
A 1958 gold Oyster Perpetual Rolex watch, almost identical
to the one owned by Mr McCaw. Damaged Rolex watches of the
same year and make are listed for sale on the internet for
at least $1200, and those in working order fetch upwards of
He blamed it on a ''moment of confusion'', which he put
down to his age.
The McCaws immediately contacted Mr Lee in an attempt to get
the watch back.
Ms McCaw telephoned the jeweller that afternoon and asked for
the sale to be voided.
She explained her father did not intend to sell the watch,
that the gold alone was worth more than $100, and it was a
family treasure with sentimental value.
She offered to buy back the watch, but she said Mr Lee
The next day, Ms McCaw accompanied her father to the shop.
She said Mr Lee would not discuss the matter and asked them
to leave the premises.
Mr McCaw handed Mr Lee a written letter, explaining his
concerns and his intention to involve the police, which he
subsequently did by lodging a claim of theft.
''Your purchase was illegal and void. I believe that I have
been swindled, and require the return of the watch
immediately,'' his letter stated.
Mr Lee said he dismantled the watch and sent it to England
the morning after he bought it from Mr McCaw, and therefore,
he did not have it to sell back.
Mr McCaw was not sure what his legal rights were in respect
of the sale.
The Consumer Guarantees Act covered the buyers of products,
and the Fair Trading Act related to the promotion and sale of
goods, but it was unclear if either piece of legislation
protected his sale of the watch and subsequent change of
He had not heard from police since making a claim.
Mr McCaw said regardless of the legality of the transaction,
he remained annoyed about the matter and worried something
similar could happen to other elderly people.
''He [Mr Lee] took advantage of my confusion, and it annoys
me because I've been in business all my life but I'm retired
and I'm getting on a bit now. If I was younger and in full
flight I would never have accepted that $100.''
His daughter said the incident amounted to elder abuse and
her perception of Dunedin being ''an honest place'' was
''Ultimately, we've accepted the watch is now gone, but we
don't want this to happen to other people. In this case, I've
been here to help Dad, but in other cases elderly people
might not have that support,'' she said.
Ms McCaw was helping her father explore his legal rights in
relation to the case, and cited Lord Denning's unjust
enrichment and inequality of bargaining power doctrines as
possible means for protection.
Mr McCaw had worn the Rolex for more than 50 years after it
was given to him in 1958, when he finished working as an
accountant for a large British firm in Kuala Lumpur.
He said the watch had been valued at between $2000 and
Mr Lee told the Otago Daily Times he had done nothing
wrong, the sale was legitimate and fair, and it was
unfortunate the McCaws were upset.
He said the Rolex was worth a few hundred dollars at best,
and if repaired, would be worth no more than $1500.
Mr Lee said he did not use receipts because he had Mr McCaw's