There is a nice history to Panerai wristwatches and it dates back to the 1930s when the company began supplying diver’s wristwatches to the Italian Royal Navy.
Among the early watches was the Rolex Panerai 3646 which is powered by the manual-winding Calibre 618 based on the Cortébert movement and cases supplied by Rolex.
The 47mm Rolex Panerai 3646 seen above was made for the German Navy and is being offered for sale by Bonhams during their 4 December 2013 auction which is being held in London.
The digits “3646” come from the case number given by Rolex, according to Mario Paci in the book Gli Orologi Panerai dal 1936 al 1997 (Panerai watches from 1936 to 1997).
Estimated at between £18,000 and £22,000, this particular diver’s watch offered by Bonhams was issued to a Kampfschwimmer or “combat diver” of the German Navy, states the auctioneer. Such watches were a vital piece of the diver’s equipment, says Paul Maudsley, head of Bonhams Watch Department.
These were produced from around 1938 onwards and only a few exist today. Of course, another reason is that not many were made for there were few such heroes (commandos) of the sea.
In his book Militäruhren (Military Timepieces), Konrad Knirim notes that Kampfschwimmers were volunteers.
Indeed, they were a rare breed of brave gentlemen who ventured where few dared.
Note: Our update on the 4 December 2013 Bonhams sale whereby we featured another auction piece, the Patek Philippe Ref. 3417, can be found in the 24 December 2013 article: Patek Philippe Ref. 3417 Amagnetic: in demand, “present tense”. The Rolex Panerai featured here was sold for £56,250, way above the estimated valuations.
Another Panerai article from timewerke.com that may be of interest:
i. Panerai Radiomir 1940 3 Days Pam 532 Paneristi Forever: when Panerai is forever