A great looking Panerai 3646 Type C with beautiful patina on dial and hands has surfaced on Chrono24. The vendor is a Spanish watch shop named Exoticwatches.
“Panerai ROLEX 1943 VERY RARE REF 3646 RADIOMIR ITALIAN MARINE
Blue Steel Hands, Limited Edition, Screw-Down Crown, Only Original Parts
Very rare, early 40s World War II manufacture, Rolex Manufacture Panerai design, reference 3646. Original and very clean “Sandwich” Panerai Radium dial. Well preserved, stunning dial and patina. Beautiful Radiomir cushion case (47mm in diameter). Original Crown tube. Fully serviced a few years back by the Panerai Maestros.”
Every vintage Panerai sandwich dial developed individual characteristics over the time and although the case number of this watch is not fully disclosed, I was able to find it in my database.
The case number is 1010279, a late 3646 Type C from 1943. According to Exoticwatches in Madrid the watch comes from a reputable Spanish collector.
This watch was presented in detail and with several pictures on a Spanish forum in March 2013 to showcase a replacement of hands. It appears that the watch was originally bought with double pencil hands installed in it. The owner was able to source genuine blued hands and had them replaced by a German watch maker in 2013.
It is interesting to see that the lume on the hands has been artificially “aged” in the meantime to match the patina of the dial. I inquired with Exoticwatches in Madrid whether the hands had been replaced at some point and the answer was the watch is 100% original. The previously mentioned post on a Spanish forum which showcased the replacement of hands is still accessible but the pictures have been deleted.
The replacement of the wrong double pencil hands is a logical move in my opinion. It is a change that can be disclosed without compromising the value of the watch.
The case of this watch seems to have the correct asymmetrical shape which is typical for early 3646 watches. The “Brevet” crown is well preserved.
The bezel however is obviously the low version used for thin dials such as brass or “California”. This is an uncommon combination for this type of watch. It also leads to the assumption that the dial is thinner than usual.
The dial of this watch has a great patina but it is not typical for a Type C watch. Most “untouched” Type C watches feature dials with indices which turned to a dark red and the engravings “Radiomir Panerai” are remarkably broader.
The “Radiomir” luminous material of this dial has cracked underneath the plexi inlay. This effect is quite common for dials made in the 1950s, probably due to the different way how the lume was applied.
In early sandwich dials from the 1940s a vast amount of radioactive lume was filled into small containers attached to the back of the plexi inlay. This construction made the dials reach a thickness up to 2.6 mm.
It looks like on later dials made in the 1950s, in order to achieve a slimmer construction, the lume was applied directly underneath the perforated aluminium disc, as a thin layer which was prone to crack.
The same effect can be seen on most 6154 and early 6152 1 dials with “Radiomir Panerai” inscription.
The watch in question was completely overhauled during the replacement of the hands in March 2013. Many pictures of each component were shot. Among them was also a picture of the backside of the dial.
By looking at this dial it becomes pretty obvious that it is of later production. Early dials made in the 1940s have a back plate made of untreated brass. However, all brass back plates of post WW2 dials from the 1950s onwards were plated.
This is how a 3646 Type C dial should look like. Note the red indices and the brass back plate with a remarkably different overall construction.
The following pictures show sandwich dials produced in the mid 1950s. Note that the construction and the back plate is basically the same as the dial in question.
The movement, a Rolex 618 Type 1a with curved “Rolex” engravings is a perfect match for this type of 3646. Not only the engravings match, also the serial number of the movement meets the requirements for a Type C. The movement retaining ring made of brass is a further matching part.
The case/movement/movement retaining ring/crown combination of this watch is perfect! Unfortunately the vendor failed to disclose the replacement and artificial aging of the hands.
However, the big issue with this watch is the dial and the low bezel, they simpy don’t belong to this type of watch. This is probably something the owner is not aware of.
If this watch remained in service after WW2 it is very much possible that the changes were made as part of maintenance or repair. It would be interesting to know the provenance and history of this watch.
Thanks for your interest.