Embarrassed David Spencer alerted police about raiders stealing 25 antique pocket watches - then his wife found them.
By then, Belper police had alerted second hand dealers and car booters about the collection, as reported in the Belper News.
It includes a watch issued to railway workers and a rare one with a green enamel face.
But three days later they all turned up in a mahogany box as wife Pamela checked the lumber room of their home in Denby.
The couple are replacing windows and Mr Spencer said the house is currently untidy.
The 68-year-old woodworker added:”I could have sworn they were in the wardrobe where I thought they’d been for for 15 or 20 years, the last time I saw them.
“That’s when I lost interest in them.
“Now they’ve turned up I am glad.
“She also found 15 encyclopedias which I had forgotten about.”
Burglars climbed a drainpipe to reach the rear of the home and then broke a patio door.
It is thought they only managed to get away with cheap jewellery.
A Derbyshire Police spokesman said:”We are pleased the watches were not taken.”
The break-in took place on Bank Holiday Monday between 5.30pm and 9pm when the couple nipped out to visit a relative.
Anyone with information is asked to call Derbyshire Police on their non- emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.