Winning Icons at Phillips

Phillips’s highly anticipated “Winning Icons – Legendary Watches of the 20th Century” auction will take place in New York on October 26, 2017. Paul Newman’s very own Rolex Daytona will be offered during this auction, the very watch which gave Daytonas with so-called exotic dials designed and produced by Jean Singer the name.

Interesting pieces like the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, the Rolex Submariner 6200, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 Double Red Mk 1 and of course both vintage Panerais will be on my watch list. Let’s start with the Panerais first.

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Lot 16: Panerai 3646 Type E, 260975

Direct link: Lot 16, Panerai 3646

171003-panerai-3646-260975-front

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First of all, this watch is a stunner! It belongs to one of the very last 3646 batches produced by Rolex in 1944. Panerai was no longer capable of producing their highly luminous sandwich dials due to aluminium shortage and as a consequence, Rolex was asked to provide a luminous dial from their own production. This led to the introduction of so-called “California” Art Deco dials in Panerai watches.

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Dial and hands

A picture is worth a thousands words. This idiom was never more true. A detail of the dial and the extraordinary sexy blued hands says it all. The blue color was achieved by heating up the steel to a certain degree until it changed colour. This process is called “passivation” and served the purpose of rust prevention. The colour can vary, depending on the temperature the steel was exposed.

171003-panerai-3646-260975-dial

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Case and crown

The following profile view shows how beautifully the 3646 case is preserved. Watches with “California” dials were equipped with low bezels. The Rolex crown No. 11 is in a good condition for its age.

171003-panerai-3646-260975-profile

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The next picture shows the “flat” soldering around the crown tube, which is typical for the last batches of Ref. 3646. Simply a work of art!

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This photo shows that the crown is slightly damaged. Rolex crowns have an intricate construction. They consist of a steel core and a thin jacket. What you see here is the jacket coming off a bit. However, this is nothing to worry about.

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Movement and caseback

The high grade Cortebert Cal. 618 of this watch belongs to the very last batch specifically produced by Cortebert for Rolex. All bridges have aged nicely. The red colour filling of the engravings is preserved. This type of watches were completely anonymous when they left Geneva. Neither dial, nor caseback, nor movement had any Rolex signatures. The Rolex inscription on the train gear bridge was added later, probably during the 1980/90s. The gold colour of the Rolex engraving is the brass underneath the plating.

171003-panerai-3646-260975-movement

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These watches used to be very affordable back in the days. Some owners would ask their watchmakers to add Rolex inscriptions on dials and movements in order to show it was a Rolex. This is a natural part of the history of these watches and nothing to worry about.

The caseback is completely anonymous. Before shipping the watches to Florence in 1944, Rolex’s casemaker C. R. Spillmann removed all hallmarks which could identify Rolex as the maker. The case numbers were restamped at a different position.

171003-panerai-3646-260975-caseback

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This caseback bears several watchmaker marks, a clear indication that the watch has been serviced on a regular basis.

260975 can be traced back to May 2002. It was registered by Piero Lapiana on the Italian Club Panerai website in May 2002. back then it belonged to a Spanish collector. This watch changed ownership in 2009 and has been with the current owner eversince.

Link: Club Panerai Certificate No. 240

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Thoughts

260975 is full of history! It was made in a time of turmoil during the final stages of WW2. In an act of desperation, the Germans deployed hundreds of Kampfschwimmers in order to slow down the Allied invasion closing in from East, West and South. Many of them sacrified themselves in senseless missions. The Rolex signatures were removed to hide the origins of these watches. Ultimately, they were much more than just watches, they were Giuseppe Panerai’s life insurance.

Read more: Modified Panerai 3646 with solid lugs

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Lot 39, Panerai 6152/1, 124530

Direct link: Lot 38, Panerai 6152/1, 124530

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In 1955, Panerai ordered 500 pieces of Ref. 6152/1 with Cortebert Cal. 618. Ref. 6152/1 was a simplified version of Ref. 6152. Costly details like the crease around the case or the beautiful eliptical recess for the crown were dropped.

The first examples were delivered to the Marina Militare with highly radioactive Radiomir dials. This very reference was later modified to take Panerai’s patented “Tight Seal Device”.

The present watch was not modified and retained its original Rolex Big Crown.

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Dial and hands

The dial of this watch is in a very good condition and bears the sought-after “Marina Militare”engravings. Post-war dials had a simplified construction and were considerably thinner then 1940s dials. The luminous compound was now directly underneath the dial disc. Panerai filled the cut-outs with a transparent material in order to seal the luminous paste, whether it was Radiomir or Luminor. This particular dial was made with tritium-based “Luminor”.

171004-panerai-6152-1-124530-dial

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Ref. 6152/1 was delivered with a variety of different hands. This watch is equipped with nicely agend hands of the elegant thin version.  The lume has partially broken off, which in my opinion is a feature and not a bug. It really adds to the charme of this watch and makes it unique.

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Case, caseback and crown

This watch was originally owned by a frogman of COMSUBIN (Comando Raggruppamento Subacquei e Incursori Teseo Tesei) and has genuine “battle scars”. When it first surfaced in 2007, the watch was equipped with a 6152 caseback (956632). Watches used by the Marina Militare were maintained “inhouse” by trained personnel of COMSUBIN and mismatched parts are therefore nothing uncommon. Let’s not forget, these were military instruments and their sole purpose was to measure time, not win beauty contests.

171004-panerai-6152-1-124530-case

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However, the owner of this 6152/1 acquired a very rare 6152 in 2013. That watch had also a mismatched caseback from a 6152/1. The 6152/1 caseback was not just any caseback, it had a very sought-after military matriculation number: “S.M.Z, M.M. 170”.

In consequence and in order to restore both watches to original condition, the owner swapped the casebacks. “S.M.Z, M.M. 170” may not be the original caseback for this particular 6152/1, but it definitely makes the watch more desiderable.

I received information that the original owner of “S.M.Z, M.M. 170”, a 6152/1 with “Tight Seal Device” and Angelus 240 movement, was a certain Roberto Dominici. Who knows, the lucky buyer of Lot 39 might someday come across Roberto Dominici’s watch and be able to exchange casebacks again…

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Movement

Lot 39 is equipped with a Cortebert Cal. 618 with 15 Jewels. The balance bridge is from a WW2 Cal. 618 and has no Incabloc shock protection. This type of mismatch could be due to the fact that the watch was used as a military tool. Some 3646s remained in service during the 1950s.

171004-panerai-6152-1-124530-movement

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Another thing that caught my attention is the movement ring with the three distinct slots. This type of ring belongs to Ref. 6152. These slots were used to secure the ring with small clamp screws (casing-up clamps) to the case. 6152/1 movement rings don’t have this feature.

124530 can be traced back to February 2007, when it surfaced from literally within the COMSUBIN base at the Varignano Fortress in Le Grazie, together with a 16 metres Radiomir Panerai depth gauge. Piero Lapiana registered this watch the same month on his website Club Panerai.

Link: Club Panerai Certificate No. 929

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Thoughts

Several parts of this watch are mismatched but given its bullet proof provenance, this is less of an issue and more of an honest feature. This watch has not been touched by the usual suspects, as far as I can see. 6152 parts are very rare and sought-after, none of the known dealers would have let them slip through their fingers in 2007. A military instrument of this calibre bears the untold stories of countless secret missions carried out by the Italian Incursori around the Mediterranean. You could either keep it the way it is or go on a journey and find the matching parts. What a fantastic project this would be…

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Lot 33, Rolex Submariner 6200, 37197

Direct link: Lot 33, Rolex Submariner 6200, 37197

171005-rolex-6200-37197-front

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The Rolex Submariner Ref. 6200 is the ultimate Grail Watch. Released in 1954, shortly after the Submariner 6204, the Submariner 6200 was waterproof to 200 metres/660 ft and destined for professional divers. Ref. 6200 dials didn’t bear neither the “Submariner” signature nor the specific depth rating. The oversized crown defines the whole design of this watch and was responsible for its nickname “Big Crown”. The simple 3-6-9 dial design reminds me of Panerai dials.

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Dial and hands

A detail of the stunning 3-6-9 “Explorer” dial. The thickly applied radium lume is remarkable. Back in the days, this watch must have glowed like a small nuclear plant. Let’s not forget, these watches were meant for professional divers, not for the mass market. Visiblity in dark environment was crucial. Ref. 6200 was the first Submariner to feature “Mercedes style” hands. The extra long hour hand is a distinctive feature of thiese watches. The lume on the hands matches the lume on the hands perfectly.

171005-rolex-6200-37197-dial

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The dial of this watch is still glossy despite clear signs of pitting. The lume on the hands matches the lume on the dial perfectly.

171005-rolex-6200-37197-dial-open

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Case and crown

The condition of this case is astonishing. Despite several scratches and dents, the lines and edges of the case remained crispy and sharp. The factory chamfers are still preserved. The “Big Crown”, a 8mm Rolex crown No. 22, is in a great shape too.

171005-rolex-6200-37197-profile

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Movement

Ref. 6200 was equipped with the Rolex calibre A296 whereas Ref. 6204, the “Small Crown” Submariner, had the calibre A260. The difference is in the size. Calibre A296 has a diameter of 10 1/2 Linge, calibre A260 only 9 3/4 Linge. Both movements beat at 18,000 A/h.

Look at this well preserved Rolex A296, still retaining the original surface finish. What an amazing view!

171005-rolex-6200-37197-movement

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Extras

This watch comes with a Rolex presentation box. including the outher box, and very interesting hangtags from the 1950s.

171005-rolex-6200-37197-set

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Thoughts

Of all Winning Icons, this is without doubt my favourite. Watches of this calibre don’t come up for auction very often. On top of it, this watch is in an extraordinary good condition. A “Strong buy”, I would say.

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Lot 42, Rolex Sea-Dweller

Direct link: Lot 42, Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665, 2117488

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The Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 with Gas Escape Valve was developed for professional saturation divers. During the first 1960s experiments in saturation diving, the so-called Aquanauts were pressurised in pressure chambers to the working depths of their missions. To avoid dangerous Nitrogen build up within the body, the Aquanauts were required to breath gas mixtures consisting of high amounts of Helium (Heliox). Divers remained pressurised for days or even weeks, depending on the duration of their mission. The many hours between jobs in full diving gear, were spent in dry, pressure chambers. Tiny Helium molecules were able to slowly penetrate the watch through the rubber gaskets. After their missions, the Aquanauts were decompressed to normal surface pressure. It was now that the Oyster case construction began to show a major weekness. The Submariner had been designed to withstand high external pressures. But now there was also pressure from within the watch pushing against the crystal, as Helium tried to escape. This is when crystals started to pop off inside the pressure chambers.

Other brands redesigned their diving watches completely (e.g. Omega Ploprof) to withstand both, external and internal pressure. Bob Barth, a former US Navy Aquanaut, came up with a brilliant solution for Rolex, the one-way Helium valve. With the introduction of this simple feature, it was not necessary to redesign the Oyster case.

The boombastic Omega Ploprof was the ultimate competitor. However, the battle can be compared with the biblical duel between Goliath and David. The great warrior and champion Goliath (Omega Ploprof) was defeated by a skinny kid with a sling (Rolex Sea-Dweller). The valve was a full success and the Rolex Sea-Dweller became the undisputed king of diver watches.

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Dial and hands

Fantastic Double Red Mark 1 dial with slightly faded red colour. Hands with nice and matching patina. The bezel inlay appears to be the original one but the pearl was probably updated with luminova.

171005-rolex-1665-2117488-dial

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Case and crown

This watch comes with a service guarantee. Case and crown Triplock are crisp. The original Twinlock crown was probably replaced during a service.

171005-rolex-1665-2117488-case

 

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Extras

This watch is accompanied by a Rolex presentation box, including the outher box. The original and unrestored Rolex Oyster 9315 bracelet with the matching 280 endlinks is also part of the set. Photographs of the consignor, a professional diver, wearing the present watch are the icing on the cake.

171005-rolex-1665-2117488-set

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Thoughts

The present watch is fresh to the market. The owner was a professional diver and received this watch from his late father to celebrate the start of his diving career.

Sea-Dwellers in this case number range were not for sale at Rolex shops. Divers had to sign up for a special testing program in order to get one. Some of these pieces were given in loan in exchange for occasional reports on the performance of the watch under real life conditions. The present watch is an important watch of Rolex’s testing program before the official release of the Rolex Sea-Dweller.

Read more: History of the Rolex Sea-Dweller at a glance

(Photos: © Phillips)

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Perezcope’s watch timelines

The Panerai Time Machine

170613-panerai-timeline

This Panerai timeline is available as a high quality print in two sizes:

  • 120 x 68 cm (47 x 26 inch): EUR 85.00 (plus shipping)
  • 150 x 85 cm (59 x 33 inch): EUR 120.00 (plus shipping)

Printed with HD Inkjet on heavy synthetic paper, laminated.

Limited edition: 50 pieces, numbered and signed by Maria Teresa Panerai in Giuseppe Panerai’s very own laboratory at the historical site of the Villino Panerai (Panerai Villa) in Florence: Sold out

If you are interested please send an email to: jose( )perezcope( )com

More information: The history of Panerai watches at a glance

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History of the Rolex Sea-Dweller

170901-timeline-rolex-sea-dweller

This Rolex timeline is available as a high quality print in two sizes:

  • 120 x 68 cm (47 x 26 inch): EUR 85.00 (plus shipping)
  • 150 x 85 cm (59 x 33 inch): EUR 120.00 (plus shipping)

Printed with HD Inkjet on heavy synthetic paper, laminated.

Limited: 50 pieces, numbered, signed by Bob Barth in Florida, EUR 350.00 (plus shipping)

Bob Barth is a former US Navy Aquanaut who pioneered saturation diving during the late 1950s and 1960s. He was a crew member of the US Navy Genesis and US Navy SEALAB 1, 2 and 3. Bob Barth wrote a technical analysis on how to avoid the popping off of watch crystals during decompression by using a one-way helium valve. His analysis ended up with Rolex Geneva and the rest is history.

If you are interested please send an email to: jose( )perezcope( )com

More information: History of the Rolex Sea-Dweller at a glance

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