Panerai Ref. 6154 watches are among the most fascinating military time pieces ever produced. The story goes that they were requested by the Egyptian navy in the mid 1950s. Readers of my blog know that I am very critical when it comes to the “Egiziano Piccolo” story, since there is basically no evidence which supports the Egypt claim. Considering the prices for Ref. 6154 reached at renowned auction houses, someone, a former Egyptian frogman or his relatives would have come forward long time ago.
However, new books were released recently and I was eager to read the chapter about this specific reference.
According to the new books, there are 15 known timepieces of Ref. 6154. This number is not accurate. I managed to identify 18 different watches for far. By adding the information provided by those books to my database we get a total of 20 different watches. It must be considered that one of these entries is actually just the case back of a 6154 which is installed onto a 6152 1.
Two of these watches have a Rolex Oyster Precision dial (01). According to Antiquorum, a total of 6 watches have been produced with this kind of dial. I have no information where Antiquorum got this number from. There is a great controversy among collectors whether these dials are original or not.
Watch number 14 is owned by Richemont Panerai and is part of their historical collection. This watch has for unknown reasons a modern dial. Instead of the usual “Brevet” crown it has a modern “Triplock” crown.
Watch number 18 consists of parts which are in a display in Mr. Ferretti’s Museum in Montecatini Terme. The dial of this combo was once installed in watch number 04 with case number 997583.
Here is an overview of all existing Ref. 6154 watches todate. (click to enlarge)
What immediately catches the eye, is the great diversity of the dials. No two dials are alike. Another interesting observation is that although each dial is different, they can be grouped into 4 categories.
The “wooden” dials
The surface of these “wooden” dials is of an even brown tone and has an unidirectional texture which appears like wood under a certain light. 997575 (02) has a very peculiar “radium burn ring” consisting of several rings. No other dial deteriorated with a similar effect. Watch number 12 has a curious mark at 8:30, something that appears like the outlines of a hour hand.
The “even” dials
Only minor irregularities can be found on the surface of the “even” dials. The color is quite uniformly. What they also have in common are some tiny spots of chipped off material.
The “stain” dials
The “stain” dials have many dark and blurred stains, mostly around the edge of the dial. The surface of these dials is quite grainy. Most dials have a more or less pronounced “radium burn ring”.
The “radium ring” dial
The “radium ring” dial is the most peculiar of all 6154 dials. The indices are very dark, almost black, which is a total exception. Also the Radiomir Panerai inscription has turned dark. The “radium burn ring” is very pronounced and a closer look shows that the dark area of the dial overlaps some indices like the 6 and the 12. For unknown reasons it does not affect the 9 marker in the same way.
Ref. 6154 has also a great diversity in movements. (click to enlarge)
The Egypt story
The authors of the newly released books continue to support the “Egypt” story, but without providing any substantial evidence that Ref. 6154 has ever been requested by the Egyptians nor that it has ever been to Egypt. An interesting observation is that the term “Egiziano Piccolo” has been replaced with “Egiziano myth”, by adding that the myth of this reference is based on its exclusivity and special appearance.
The chapter about Ref. 6154 contains a picture of spare parts which were supposedly found in Alexandria, Egypt. The picture shows seven mostly complete Cortebert 616 movements and a few other parts in old Rolex metal boxes. Six of the seven movements are lacking of the ratchet wheels. Cortebert 616 ratchet wheels have a “Cortebert” inscription on them.
The following picture shows a few movements from my personal collection. Note the “Cortebert” inscription on the ratchet wheels.
There is also a picture of the former Egyptian frogman and major Nabil Abdel Wahab equipped with Panerai instruments such as compass and depth gauge. He also carries an underwater lamp. The watch on his wrist is not mentioned at all, obviously because it is not a 6154.
Major Nabil Abdel Wahab says:
“About the Panerai watch 6154, I confirm that when Commander Fawzi Abdel Rahman Fahmy went to Italy to bring diving equipment, he only brought Panerai equipment and the Egyptian frogmen did not change this equipment until the year 1969 when they started to import diving equipment from France (La Spirotechnique).”
Major Wahab does not go into detail about Ref. 6154. He only confirms that they used Panerai equipment until 1969.
Thanks for your interest.