Historically important vintage Panerai 3646 at Fellows

A never before seen 3646 just surfaced at Fellows Auctioneers in the UK and will be auctioned on January 30, 2018.

According to the information provided by Fellows, this watch is a WW2 trophy, captured by a British soldier during the important battle of Nijmegen. It’s not only historically important as a testimony of war, it’s further significant as it belongs to a batch of Panerai watches that was actually meant for the Italian Decima MAS but was stolen by Nazi forces and ended up on the wrist of a German Kampfschwimmer who tried to destroy the strategically important bridges over the Waal river in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Lot 188: Panerai 3646 Type C, 1010292

Direct link: PANERAI – a very rare and special Second World War military Diver wrist watch

Panerai 3646 Type C, 1010292


Dial and hands

Devilish dark red patina! This, dear readers, is the type of Panerai dial you are looking for when scanning the market for a 3646. The dark-red patina is typical for Ref. 3646 Type C dials. This is a first generation sandwich dial made in-house by Panerai around 1941/42. These dials were still proudly engraved with RADIOMIR PANERAI, whereas later 3646 Type D dials were left anonymous in order to not be associated with Nazi Germany.

Typical 3646 Type C sandwich dial with dark-red patina


Both hands were probably relumed at some point but the relume job on the minute hand appears to be more recent. This is NO issue!

The sexy blued hands are a perfect match. 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.

Read more: Vintage Panerai Dials


Case and crown

The case of this 3646 is in a great condition after more then 70 years. The bezel is the high version, made to take over 2mm thick Panerai sandwich dials.

Profile view with crown


The profile of the middle case is slightly asymmetric, a typical characteristic of early 3646 cases. Later Type D middle cases are completely symmetric.

Asymmetric case profile


The following picture shows some deep scratches on the bezel. These were probably caused by pliers in an attempt to open the 3-piece case during a service.

Scratched bezel


Similar scratches on the direct opposite of the bezel. The soldering of the wire lugs appears to be the original one and is absolutely ok at all four points.

Scratched bezel



Movement and caseback

Rolex Cal. 618 Type 1a, with ROLEX engravings following the upper curve of the train gear bridge. A perfect match for this type of watch! The movement retaining ring is brass coloured (unplated) as it should be for a Type C watch. Later Type D watches have movement rings with a metallic colour. Note that the patina of the movement and the movement ring appear to match, a clear indication that this set was born together.

The Breguet overcoil hairspring appears to be damaged. This could be be reason why the movement is described as not functioning. A good watchmaker should be able to repair/straighten it or find an appropriate replacement.


Rolex 618 Type 1a, 17 Jewels


In a watch forum it was pointed out that the movement ring might have been installed the wrong way around during the last service. I have verified this info and it appears to be true. Note the half-moon-shaped screw marks near the casing screws at 4.30 and 10 o’clock. Basically, the movement ring was turned 180 degrees.


Read more: Vintage Panerai Movements

The caseback is signed on the outside. The inscription says: G. H. Rowson, CPL, SEPT. 29 TH, 1944. This inscription was probably made by the British soldier with a nail or something similar. CPL stands for Corporal, an army rank.

Casback with personal inscriptions


The inside of the caseback shows typical Rolex hallmarks from the corresponding production period. We can also see the reference number 3646 and the 7-digits case number.

Rolex hallmarks and case number


Rolex used 7-digits number for their pocket watches and it is interesting to see that the first three 3646 Types (A, B & C) were produced within the pocket watch range. With Type D, Rolex introduced usual Oyster case numbers (6-digits) to Ref. 3646.


Buckle and leather strap

This watch comes also with a beautiful and original nickel-plated “knife edge” brass buckle. The plating is a bit worn and the brass can be seen quite well. The buckle was bent in oder to be more ergonomic. The strap is new.

Original nickel-plated brass buckle


According to Fellows this leather strap is not the original one, but the original strap that watch mounted on the watch when it was taken in 1944 is included in the lot.

Original strap front


Kostas Venizelos (Kostas Straps), the leading vintage Panerai straps expert says:

The strap that is offered with the watch is not the original that came initially with the watch. Seems that the underwater use has damaged it where it attaches through the loop and cut off so needed a new strap. I do believe though that the replacement strap is not modern and has been attached to the watch maybe estimating 10 years max after the original. The way it is made the stitching and everything really does show an old school vintage strap. The original strap that came with the watch is the transitional dark brown with the open stitching found in several orange lumed 3646.

Original strap back


History of this watch

Fellows describes the history of this watch like this:

It was brought back to Britain by an English soldier at the end of the war, after the watch came into his care at the Battle of Nijmegen in 1944.


The rabbit hole of this watch goes of course much deeper than here described. Nijmegen in the Netherlands had two strategically very important bridges over the Waal River, a Road Bridge and a Railway Bridge. The battle of Nijmegen was an Allied attempt to capture both bridges intact from the Nazi forces in order to advance further to Arnhem and capture the more important Road Bridge over the Rhine River. This Allied offensive received the code name Operation Market Garden.

Railway Bridge on the left, Road Bridge on the right


The Railway Bridge in Nijmegen had already played a strategically important role during the early days of WW2.

Railway Bridge in Nijmegen, finished in 1879


In an attempt to slow down the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands, the Dutch military destroyed the middle section of the bridge on Mai 10, 1940.

Middle section of the bridge destroyed by the Dutch military in Mai 1940


Since the bridge was of crucial importance for Nazi war efforts, it was swiftly repaired. The first train was able to cross on Nov. 17, 1940. Two new pillars were added and the middle section arch became considerably smaller. The following photo shows the repaired Railway Bridge.

Repaired middle section


Four years later, the bridge became again the center of the attention. The Allied attack started on September 17, 1944. On September 20, the Allies crossed the Waal River while being fired on in order to capture the north end of both bridges and isolate the German forces on the south bank of the river. Both bridges were successfully seized after bloody fights. The Rhine Bridge in Arnhem could not be seized due to strong German resistance.

Several German attemps to destroy the bridges failed. In the evening of September 28, three teams of four Kampfschwimmers each entered the river around 10 kilometres upstream from the bridges. The first team reached the Railway Bridge and successfully placed their explosives on one of the pillars. The explosion destroyed the pillar and brought down the middle section of the bridge. The four men swam downstream. Two were catured by the Allies and two managed to escape.

Destroyed Railway Bridge over the Waal River


The second team was assigned to the Road Bridge. Placing the explosives on one of the pillars proved to be almost impossible due to the strong current. In addition, they had been spotted by Allied sentinels who put them under heavy fire. The explosives finally detonated too far away from the pillar and the Road Bridge was only slightly damaged.

Road Bridge over the Waal River


Totally exhausted, the Kampfschwimmers reached the banks of the river, where they were captured by the Allies. The following drawing illustrates how the Kampfschwimmers were captured. George H. Rowson, the owner of this watch, was part of the British group that captured the Kampfschwimmers.

The Allied capturing of a group of Kampfschwimmers in Nijmegen


Mr. Rowson took the watch as a trophy, along with a section of the rubber diving suit worn by the Kampfschwimmer. The suit had Italian inscriptions. It says “Taglia Grande, Piede N. 43”, which is Italian for “Big Size, Foot N. 43”.

Section of the Italian wetsuit




The third team was discovered by the British. One was killed and two wounded. The three survivers were captured. The two wounded died short after as a result of their injuries.

Only two of the twelve men managed to escape. Back in Germany, they were awarded with high military honours.

German special forces tried to destroy the Road Bridge on several other occasions with different kinds of equipment. All of these attempts failed and at some point the bridge lost its strategic importance.



I must admit, I am not a big fan of “German” Panerais. This watch, however, is different due to the RADIOMIR PANERAI engravings. It’s not one of the later watches (Type D, E, F & G) that Giuseppe Panerai was forced to deliver under threats and without any payment. This watch was paid for and therefore proudly bears the typical Panerai inscriptions on the dial.

This is an excellent example of a 3646 Type C in fantastic condition that can be considered almost 100% original. The dial with the dark-red patina is outstanding. From an historical point of view, this watch is extremely important. It belongs to a batch of watches that was destined to the Italian Decima MAS but was stolen by the Nazis and distributed among German Kampfschwimmers.

Read more: The Anonymous Panerai Dials

In addition, this watch was on the wrist of a German Kampfschwimmer during a strategically important mission and was taken as a trophy of war by an Allied soldier who helped fight one of the worst threats Europe has ever faced.

Opportunities like this don’t come often. I think it goes without saying that this timepiece is a STRONG BUY!

Thanks for your interest.


The Panerai Time Machine

The following timeline shows the “anonymous” Panerai watches in their historical context. Please click the graphic to download the highres version.



This 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

More information: The history of Panerai watches at a glance

Follow: Perezcope on Instagram


Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s