I absolutely think that heirlooms are real gifts, even in this case. I have a pair of costume earrings that were my great grandmother's. I've never met GGM. She died when my mom was 5, and my mom wasn't particularly close to her or fond of her. My/my mom's lack of a relationship with the earrings' original possessor doesn't really matter. The earrings are part of my history, regardless of their monetary or sentimental value, and I'm very glad to have them.
A vintage Rolex isn't exactly some hunk of junk that somebody dug up, either. When my BF inherited his father and grandfather's vintage watches, the first thing he did was get rid of his brand new Rolex, which was not nearly as valuable as the older ones. Your son may not have gotten what he wanted, but he did get a pretty nice gift.
Overall, I agree with kareng57's original assessment.