What are the odds that an old lady stumbles upon a vintage Panerai 3646 from WW2 in a drawer… ?
Well, exactly this happened in the UK, according to a Facebook post from August 25, 2016 on a military watch page. Unfortunately the old lady knew nothing about it or where it came from. It can be assumed that this watch was received or taken from a German prisoner of war (POW) as a trophy by the end of WW2. However, a family member of the old lady did some research on the watch and soon learned about its possible value.
This is already the 3rd yet unknown vintage Panerai 3646 that surfaces in the UK within a few months.
LOT 237, Panerai 3646 Type D, 260698
Watch sold for £54.460 inc. buyer’s premium (highest bid £44.000)
This watch is now for sale with The Great Western Auctions in Glasgow. The Auction will take place on September 23, 2016.
To the auction > LOT 237, Panerai 3646 Type D, 260698
With case number 260698 this 3646 is clearly within the Type D group (260400 – 260840) established by Ehlers & Wiegmann. The watch is a late Type D and features a thin painted brass dial with the corresponding low bezel.
The only difference between late Type D watches and the later Type E group is in the missing “Rolex” stamps inside the case back. The stamps were probably removed in order to hide the provenance of the watches. This example shows that splitting the different 3646 types based on their case back stamps alone is not accurate enough and does not do them justice.
Late Type D watches with low bezels are different than early Type D watches, they actually have more in common with Type E watches. From case number 260695 onwards, the watches have either “California” or brass dials, always in combination with low bezels.
The following picture shows the profile view of 260698. The low bezel is clearly visible. The watch also features what appears to be the original domed “Volcano” perspex crystal.
The crown is a typical Rolex Brevet onion crown with serif letters. In all pictures the crown is displayed in its open position. It is unknown whether it is in working condition and can be fully screwed down or if the threading is damaged, making it impossible to close the crown.
The brass dial
The dial of this watch is made of brass with roughly applied luminous material, giving it the typical “fuzzy” look. Some brass dials lack of dial feet and were installed using two tiny screws at 6 and 12 that were screwed directly into the movement ring.
The dial in question appears to have at least one slot at 6. It is possible that this dial was installed in the very same way like in case number 260818.
Movement and movement ring
The Rolex 618 Type 1b movement installed in this watch looks great. The bridges and screws have signs of wear. It can be assumed that it has been serviced in the past 70 years. The engravings retain the original red filling color, which is great. It appears that only the train bridge (Rolex, 17 Rubis) has been cleaned.
Considering the style of the engravings and the plating on the bridges, this movement could belong to the last batch of 3646 movements with serial numbers between 7.527.500 and 7.528.500.
The movement ring has the distinctive bright color that is typical for most 3646 from Type D onwards. It is possible that these rings have some sort of plating. Earlier watches have untreated brass movement rings.
The next picture shows the inside of the case back with untouched Rolex stamps and “Perlage” adornment all over the inside.
Clearly visible underneath the case number is a watchmaker signature with date, making it obvious that this watch has been serviced at least once.
The outside of the case back bears no special “German” engravings.
Strap and buckle
The leather strap of this watch has characteristic sings of shrinkage and could be the strap that came with the watch 70 years ago.
The buckle is a typical “knife edge” nickel plated brass buckle that was bent in order to obtain a better “usability”. Untouched buckles are completely straight and chances are high that they hook on on everything. Only small areas have lost the nickel plating.
Nazi Germany deployed hundreds of “Kampfschwimmer” (Assault swimmers) during the final moments of WW2, in an attempt to slow down Allied advancing. Their main purpose was to sabotage and blow up bridges and cause as much damage as possible. The Allies learned fairly quick how to deal with this threat and most attempts of sabotage failed.
The present watch was probably brought home by a British soldier as a trophy and souvenir. Perhaps it was worn for a certain time and later ended up in a drawer.
It is safe to say that this watch is almost completely original and that the story of how it was found can be true. Everything fits into the picture. This watch is certainly a “strong buy” if you don’t mind the Nazi connection.
Thanks for your interest.
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