The story you are about to read is in my opinion the single most important puzzle piece of recent Panerai history.
On January 21, 2004, an amazing photo depicting the scale model of the Italian aircraft carrier “Garibaldi” appeared on the ViaPaneristi forum. The ship was cluttered with the most incredible Panerai collection the world had ever seen. People were amazed but soon doubts about the authenticity of certain pieces started to tarnish the image. This led to a series of debates on different forums, even years after the photo was posted.
In 2007, seven watches from this ship were offered by Antiquorum in Geneva. In a joint effort by Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati and Panerai retailer Francesco Ferretti, Antiquorum was forced to withdraw all seven watches as they were found to be counterfeits.
Many of the old school Paneristi left the field and found new hobbies. Incoming Panerai aficionados were mostly focused on modern watches and the memory of the “Garibaldi – Ship of Fools” began to vanish.
Just recently, several “crew members” of this ship reappeared at auctions and it is therefore worth taking a closer look. In these series, I will try to dissect every single one of these watches.
Coming back to the initial post, Mario Paci, the former Quality Manager of Officine Panerai SpA, had posted the picture with a very laconic statement:
“A ship full of ….. is arrived !!!”
Dirk Grandry, a Paneristi of the first hour, thought he had recognized some of the watches and attributed this collection partly to Francesco Ferretti. Soon after, Yves Odier, a French Panerai collector, chimed in and clarified that all watches belonged to Luciano Rinaldi and son.
Bernardo Beltran, a Spanish Panerai collector, added he would NOT buy anything from that ship since, according to Mario Paci, most watches from this collection were counterfeits.
“Do you remember Viareggio “last dinner” and the questions that you did to Mr Paci about these “imposible” collection and his answers. I remember it well an most of them were calificated by Mr Paci as FAKES and NEVER PRODUCED in the factory; I’m still hearing our laughts about the GPF-GE2 with PVD bezel and much others; This is why I can’t understand anything about why Mario has host this Pic!!”
I think this speaks for itself. Engineer Mario Paci was the Quality Manager of Officine Panerai until the sale to Richemont in 1997. After that, he remained at Panerai Sistemi. Almost every Pre Vendôme watch passed through his hands, so he definitely knows what is right and what is wrong.
By the way, the scale model of the Garibaldi was originaly exhibited in the lobby of Officine Panerai SpA. in Impruneta. When the Panerai brand and the remaining watch stock was sold to Richemont in March 1997, Officine Panerai SpA changed their name to Panerai Sistemi SpA. Panerai Sistemi was bought by Calzoni SpA around the year 2000 and the whole company moved to Bologna. This is when this scale model changed hands.
Here is the super interesting thread about the Ship of Fools.
Direct link: Garibaldi ship (ViaPaneristi Forum, Jan. 2004)
The Rinaldi “Collection”
Let’s take a closer look at every single one of these watches and see whether Mario Paci was correct with his assessment.
01. Panerai 5218-201/A Gold Plated Prototype
The first watch I would like to discuss is the gold plated Pre Vendôme Panerai 5218-201/A in the front. This very watch was sold by Antiquorum just recently, in November 2017.
On page 5 of the Garibaldi ship discussion from 2004, Yves Odier mentioned that only one gold plated watch was ever made and that the case number of that watch was 000(0). He also stated that he had bought several of the watches that had been hand delivered to Sylvester Stallone and that one of them came with the wrong booklet form the gold plated “prototype”. Apparently, he is still in possession of that booklet.
“But it was a PVD Gold coating only one made like this and its serial number is: 000”
Direct link: Garibaldi ship – Page 5 (ViaPaneristi Forum, Jan. 2004)
Antiquorum Lot 395 (Nov. 2017)
PANERAI, LUMINOR MARINA MILITARE PROTOTYPE, REF. 5218-201/A, GOLD PLATED
“According to our research, this prototype wristwatch was made upon special request from Sylvester Stallone to gift to his great friend Arnold Schwarzenegger. He ordered the watch so that it could be given to him upon the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin in 1996.”
According to Loris Pasetto, the author of Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, such a gold plated watch was indeed produced. The story goes that Giancarlo Dallerba, Panerai’s first distributor in Italy and responsible for the business relation with Sylvester Stallone, came up with the idea of proposing a new model in form of a gold plated watch to see if Sylvester Stallone would be inclined towards precious metals.
“This plan foresaw the creation of a new reference number to add to the Daylight and the Submersible, the production of luxury accessories like glasses, pens and leather goods as well as a special series of watches made of precious metals such as platinum. With that in mind a prototype 5218-201/A in gold plated PVD was created in June 1996.“
(Panerai – Una Soria Italiana, Pre Vendôme volume, page 162)
Loris Pasetto, who worked closely with Mario Paci for the Pre Vendôme volume of Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, told me that most certainly a regular production 5218-201/A from Dallerba’s stock was used to make the gold plated “prototype”. This means, the watch should have a case number, something that is absolutely consistent with Yves Odier’s statement from January 2004 where he said the watch had case number 000(0).
This makes a lot of sense. 0000 is a very special number and I am not surprised that Dallerba used this number for such an important “prototype”. There is for instance a PAM 21 with case number 00/60 and the number 00/30 of the PAM 665 (Ferretti Special Edition) is with Ferretti himself and was never for sale.
However, the story that Sylvester Stallone requested this watch for his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to be completely made up.
It is nevertheless very likely that the original watch ended up with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The picture below was taken at the opening party for Planet Hollywood in Berlin on September 24, 1996 and shows Sylvester Stallone giving his good pal, Arnold Schwarzenegger a watch that looks like a gold 5218-201/A Logo.
So far so good. But is the watch that was offered by Antiquorum and ended up with a collector from Macau really the one that was given to Schwarzenegger back in 1996?
Let’s look a bit closer at the Antiquorum watch itself. Antiquorum provided only the picture published above but thanks to my incredible network of friends and enthusiasts, I received detailed pictures of the watch in question.
As we have learned, a regular production 5218-201/A was used to make the gold plated “prototype”. According to Yver Odier, the case number is 000(0).
The dial of this watch looks original. It appears to be a second generation dial without special coating and thus, the numerals and markers did not turn orange. This is a so-called “matching” dial.
As you can see on the picture below, the caseback of this watch has no case number. This is strange to say the least, considering that a regular production 5218-201/A was used to make the original prototype. I would have expected the watch to have a number that could be registered in the booklet. As we have learned from Yves Odier, the correct number for this watch should be 000(0).
The next picture shows the movement. And this is were this watch really gets into massive trouble! The movement of this watch is not an original 5218-201/A caliber. The most obvious tell are the contradictory engravings. The train gear bridge says “Adjusted Four Positions” while the barrel bridge says “Unadjusted” instead. Wait, what?
Of course, this is just a made up low grade ETA 6497 with fake engravings on the train gear bridge and regular engravings on the barrel bridge. The movement was updated with a Glucydur balance wheel to make it look more legit. This is a typical movement used in Rinaldi Pre Vendôme fakes.
The comparsion below with an absolutely original movement leaves no doubt. The engravings on the train gear bridge are all over the place and are without the shadow of a doubt completely fake. The standard barrel plate tells the rest of the story.
This is how the movement looked like before it was enhanced. The cheapest version of the Cal. 6497.
A movement like this compromises the authenticity of the whole watch. The notorious Rinaldi family assembled dozens of fake Pre Vendôme watches with unofficial parts, left-overs that had been extracted from the factories after the production of Pre Vendôme watches was ceased. The first watches from 1993 onwards were designed and made by Guenat Montres Valgine in Switzerland. From Sept. 1996 until the sale to Richemont in March 1997, the watches were produced in Italy by a company named Coro Srl.
Since original movements were not available, the Rinaldis simply tried to replicate the movements as good as possible.
This watch comes with a box and a booklet. The booklet bears neither a number nor a signature. Do you really believe this is how Officine Panerai SpA would have given such an important watch to Sylvester Stallone?
Samuele Rinaldi sent the following and many other pictures of his collection to watch dealers around the globe. He was desperately trying to sell the entire “collection”. The dealers sent these pictures to me, to see whether anything was of value. As you can see in the picture below, Rinaldi has also plenty of new Pre Vendôme booklets… ready to accompany more made-up watches.
The next picture was also sent by Rinaldi to several watch dealers. There can be absolutely no doubt that this watch was consigned to Antiquorum by Rinaldi Junior.
This kind of watches are neither fish nor fowl, they are not even Frankensteins. Just fake! Made from unofficial parts that should never have left the factories in the first place. It is simply inexplicable how the current Antiquorum management can sell this type of garbage to their clients and keep a straight face.
Just recently, in May 2018, another auction house was flooded with Rinaldi Pre Vendôme fakes. Sotheby’s contacted me prior to the auction and together we were able to identify the counterfeits and Sotheby’s withdrew them immediately.
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02. Panerai 5218-206 Luminor Sub
The next watch I would like to discuss is an elusive 5218-206/A, a watch that was actually never produced by Panerai. And yet it is on the Ship of Fools, isn’t that interesting?
According to Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, the idea for this watch was developed by Stephan Ceijka, Officine Panerai’s French distributor. The watch was meant for the French Marine Nationale but the project never materialized. However, Panerai continued working on the designs, especially of the rotating bezel. The idea was to develop a bezel that could be removed without any tool. In October 1996, Panerai ordered 10 pieces from their new Italian factory named Coro Slr. Not a single piece was ever delivered. In March 1997, the brand Officine Panerai was sold to Richemont.
The picture below is from Rinaldi’s gallery of his collection which he sent to several watch dealers. Looks quite real for a watch that was never produced, don’t you think?
Well, it isn’t real, it’s just another Rinaldi fake. The picture below shows an exerpt from Mario Paci’s highly controversial Panerai book.
“Later on, some specimens of this watch were illegally produced. It is not known who may have developed them.”
Mario Paci’s book about Panerai watches is infested with fake Rinaldi pieces. I bet Mr. Paci knew exactly who made this fake 5218-206/A.
The next picture shows the original blueprints of the 5218-206/A from 1995 that are published in Panerai – Una Storia Italiana. The watch never made it past this stage.
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03. Black Aluminium GPF 2/56
Another interesting piece on the “Garibaldi – Ship of Fools” is the black aluminium GPF 2/56 highlighted in the picture below.
This watch has a special importance to me as Samuele Rinaldi tried to sell it to a good friend of mine through a guy named Luca Lombardi.
Who is Luca Lombardi? Luca Lombardi is Rinaldi’s dealer in the UK. Lombardi likes to pretend having a business connection to the Watch Guru aka Tom Bolt in the UK. To portray this image, Lombardi uses an email address with watchguru.it ending. The truth is, Tom Bolt’s business is in NO WAY connected to Luca Lombardi.
I know Luca Lombardi since 2015 when he sold me naked Rolex 622 pocket watch movement plates on ebay. As it turned out, the bridges were altered. Luca Lombardi had removed the original Rolex engravings only to apply news ones and make the movement look like a Rolex 618 Type 4 as used in the Rolex Panerai Ref. 6152/1. The new engravings were very bad. Was this a failed experiment to create counterfeit Panerais?
However, the picture below is from Luca Lombardi’s ebay listing. On ebay he goes by the name “aculidra”. Luca Lombardi sent the plates directly to my watchmaker in Zurich who authenticated the parts and completed the movement using the components of a highly elaborated Cal. 620. Cal. 620 and 622 are basically the same caliber. Only the bridge layout differs.
However, coming back to the black aluminium GPF 2/56 in question, back in June 2017, my friend was looking for a 1950s Panerai depth gauge. I had received pictures of Rinaldi’s complete collection from several watch dealers and I noticed that Rinaldi had piles of depth gauges and compasses, literally. Have a look.
An old school Paneristi told me once that Rinaldi never faked the instruments, so I was pretty confident there would be no funny business.
I learned about the Rinaldis early on during my research. In May 2017, while I was attending the annual Club Panerai meeting in Viareggio, Samuele Rinaldi reached out to me. He wanted to tell me the true story of Panerai, he said. This made me chuckle and I remember telling Piero Lapiana about it. We both had a good laugh. However, this is how Samuele Rinaldi got in touch with me.
Being in direct contact with Rinaldi was a great opportunity. As a Panerai investigator it was only natural that I would try to gain his trust in order to collect more evidence about him and his father.
However, I contacted Samuele Rinaldi and he agreed to sell a depth gauge to my friend.
Rinaldi offered me a share of this deal. He asked me to help him restore his father’s name:
“Sono fuori del mercato e non so il valore. Io posso farti guadagnare ma tu devi darmi anche un mano a riabilitare il nome di mio padre sul quali tutti sputano dopo aver “mangiato”… ed ora che e morto e una brutto cosa.”
Translation: I am out of the market and don’t know the value (depth gauge). I can give you a share but you must give me a hand to restore my father’s name, on which everybody is spitting, after having “eaten”… and now that he’s dead it’s a bad thing.
Download: Screenshot Whatsapp
To be crystal clear, I never asked for a share and I would never have taken something. I sent Rinaldi’s contact details to my friend and told Rinaldi to settle the deal directly with my friend. As you can see, Rinaldi was trying to give me incentives hoping I was corrupt.
My friend ended up buying a depth gauge and a compass. Since he is a big fan of the GPF 2/56, he asked Rinaldi for such a piece. This was in late February 2018. Here is Rinaldi’s reply:
“Dear friend, someone told me mr. Lombardi of watchguru have an Egyptian pvd in alluminium, in very Mint Condition. He’s interested in Mil Sub. Try to write him. Luca Lombardi. Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com”
Download: Screenshot Whatsapp
After contacting Luca Lombardi, my friend received this email:
“Dear ….., this is The Egyptian . It is the only one I’ve ever seen in aluminum and PVD coated with the steel back with the Angelus 8 days movement.
If you are interested I can have it opened and pictured inside . It is very complicated to refit the various springs and gaskets together back in , so take this in consideration when you’ll ask me for the inside pics
I know it is pointless asking your privacy , it is up to your discretion and honesty to maintain this documentation in your computers file.
The second hand is loose in the dial ( in the 3rd pic is over the PANERAI logo ) and the dial has a dent in between the 6 o’clock and the A of PANERAI.
No serial numbers or references anywhere in the watch, so it is up to your judgment and knowledge to classify this PANERAI as an interesting one or not
Thank you for contacting me ,
The following picture was attached to Luca Lombardi’s email. As you can see, the small seconds hand fell off and was loose inside the watch. The dial doesn’t look right, the shape of all numerals is off, especially the numeral at 3 o’clock but more on this later.
Let’s have a closer look at the seconds hand. Can you see the tube that is attached to the hand? This is a so-called tall tube hand. The long tube is needed in combination with thick sandwich dials to reach the short seconds pin on table clock movements. This type of hands are typically used in homage circles.
The next picture shows how this problem was solved on original movements. Stolz Frères SA, the Swiss maker of these movements, installed a seconds wheel with a long pin (1). This is the professional solution and makes installing the seconds hand an easy task.
It is interesting that Luca Lombardi did not include a picture of the movement. Instead he came up with a cheap excuse for not wanting to open the watch. Things like this are always suspicious.
A picture of the movement was indeed available. Rinaldi hand sent me pictures of exact the same watch on September 3, 2017. The picture below shows the very same watch. Check the “patina” in the numeral at 3 o’clock.
Rinaldi also sent me a picture of the movement. One look at this movement was enough to understand this was a converted crown-winding alarm movement from an Angelus travel clock and NOT an original Angelus 240 as used in 1950/60s Panerais.
Download: Screenshot Whatsapp part one
I confronted Rinaldi right away.
“Questo movimento e di una sveglia. Il ponte grande non e originale.”
Translation: This movement is from an alarm clock. The big bridge is not original.
Rinaldi acted as if he was surprised to hear that. In reality, he was only checking whether I knew this was a fake watch.
“E in vendita a Londra. Ma sei sicuro? A me sembra corretto!? Anche le viti e quant’altro. Vorrei prenderlo.”
Translation: It’s on sale in London. Are you sure? To me it looks ok!? Also the screws and the rest. I would like to get it.
Yes, I was 100% sure!
Let’s compare this movement to a proper Angelus 240 from a genuine GPF 2/56 with case number 007 (Matr. N.E. 007).
The first thing that catches the eye is the missing jewel (1) on the train gear bridge. Original panerai movement were made by Stolz Freres on special request and had 17 instead of 15 jewels. The movement in question has a brass bearing instead, which is typical for travel or table clocks.
Another important detail is the missing “old” casing hole (2) on the barrel bridge. The main plate has additional holes (3) which were only used in alarm clocks to take all kinds of levers. The monometalic balance (4) wheel is also from a common alarm clock. Original Panerai movements were highly elaborated versions with Glucydur balance wheels.
The barrel bridge of this movement is not an original Angelus part. It is a conversion plate made in Chile. The seller of these parts is well-known on the Homageforum.
Coming back to my conversation with Rinaldi, after I told him the movement was not ok he answered the watch was on sale in London and he wanted to buy it.
The same happened on June 12, 2017. Rinaldi sent me pictures of a watch and said it was his. After I told him the movement was a conversion, he immediately changed his story and all of a sudden the watch belonged to a guy from Florence instead.
The black aluminium GPF 2/56 is 100% his own watch. Check this out. Several watch dealers sent me this picture.
Rinaldi is trying to sell his entire collection and sent pictures of his watches to dealers in the whole world. This is the same watch, except for the hands. The hands on this picture are short hands from an Angelus travel or table clock. Note that also the small seconds hand was different.
As we have learned further up, the new small seconds hand of this watch came from the Homageforum. The new long hands are also fake, they can be bought from several sources.
The dial of this watch has similar issues as the aluminium GPF 2/56 announced by Antiquorum for their April 2018 Hong Kong auction but quickly withdrawn after I exposed it as fake. All numerals have wrong shapes, particularly the oddly shaped numeral at three o’clock. Additionally, the circle in “8 Giorni Brevettato” (8 Days Patented) is missing.
Same wrong numeral at three o’clock.
Read more: Fake Panerai GPF 2/56 At Antiquorum
The next picture was also sent to watch dealers by Rinaldi. It shows the watch in its latest condition as seen further up. There can be no doubt that this is the property of Samuele Rinaldi..
This is were this whole thing gets very interesting! This watch was updated by a guy from the Homageforum. I am 100% certain. Why do I know this? Because I was watching that guy and I was only waiting for such a converted movement to appear in Rinaldi related watches.
At some point, the Homageforum guy started flashing all sorts of watches and parts. Then he offered a highly questionable dial as genuine. When I told him to be careful as these were extremely questionable objects from Luciano Rinaldi’s collection, I got immediately flamed by him and his cronies. Of course, all of them were hoping to get a piece of the cake.
However, at some point the Homageforum guy also offered an Angelus 240 movement in the sales section of the forum. His description was very interesting:
“It came to me in an aluminium egi (!) and was swapped out for another movement prior to auction.“
Wait, what happened prior to auction?
When I called him out on this, he immediately changed the descrition of the movement. So I called him out again.
This is the movement he offered. The trained eye can see right away that this is just another converted movement. But this one is of a much lower quality and that is the reason why it was replaced.
The comparison below shows the differences compared to an original movement. 15 versus 17 jewels (1). Missing “old” casing hole (2). Main plate from an alarm clock (3). Interestingly, this movement has a Glucydur balance wheel (4) but lacks a shock protection system. Considering the engravings on the balace cock, this movement could be from 1942 to 1945.
The crown wheel (5) is not flat. It has a distinctive collar that was used only on alarm movement. Can you see the large hole in the main plate (6). That is a slot for the alarm hammer. Original Panerai movement don’t have that hole. The big barrel plate is from a key-winding non-alarm movement and was machined to take crown and intermediate wheel.
The quality of this conversion is very poor. With all the issues it would never pass as genuine. The new movement look much more legit at first glance.
The black aluminium GPF 2/56 is another complete fake made by the notorious Rinaldi family. The caseback of this watch is made of steel. Combining steel and aluminium in maritime applications leads to serious galvanic corrossion. The area of contact would desinttegrate in no time. It is hard to believe that an experienced pro like G. Panerai e Figlio would have made such mistakes.
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04. Panerai 3646 Matr. No. 17 (Transitional 3646)
In the following, I am going to call the watch we are about to discuss Matr. No. 17 since that is what was written on the display caseback when it was offered by Antiquorum in 2007. Later in 2015, this very watch was shown in Singapore at an official Panerai event and the caseback still bore the matriculation number Matr. No. 17.
I believe those markings are fake. It is possible that this exact watch had a different caseback in 2003/2004 and that it was replaced with a fake one prior to the Antiquorum auction in 2007.
Matr. No. 17, with its unmistakeable looks, is cleary visible on the deck of the Ship of Fools. This piece is supposed to be a so-called “transitional” 3646.
At some point during the early 1960s, G. Panerai e Figlio updated around 30 pieces of Ref. 3646 (slim case, California dial) that were left in stock since WW2. For some reason, the Nazis didn’t find these watches when they raided the Panerai workshops prior to their retreat from Florence in early August 1944.
The nickname “transitional” is a bit measleading as these watches were made long after the introduction of the references 6152, 6154 and 6152/1, which already featured lugs carved out of the same block of steel.
2003 – 2nd PDay in Cologne, Germany
The following picture was taken during the second PDay (Paneristi Day) which took place in Cologne, Germany in 2003. It shows Samuele (left) and Luciano Rinaldi showing off their rare “Panerai prototypes”. Samuele Rinaldi is wearing Matr. No. 17 on his left wrist.
Matr. No. 17 was so incredible, someone even took a close-up. Note the distinctive stain in the numeral at 3 o’clock!
These two pictures were published on the Club Panerai website but for some reason, both images have gone missing after I exposed the deceptive practices of the Rinaldi family for the first time in April 2018.
Direct link: Club Panerai – PDay 2, 2003, Cologne (D)
However, the very same pictures can still be found on Paneristi.com
Direct link: Paneristi PDay #2
The next picture is truly profound. It shows former Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati and Luciano Rinaldi holding Matr. No. 17. At first, I thought Bonati was about to take a picture of the watch, but the phone in his hand (Nokia 6310i) did not have a camera. He probably took notes or called someone to talk about the watch… or maybe he wanted to call the police? However, in between Bonati and Rinaldi was Francesco Ferretti. Is that a sceptical look on his face or what? Rinaldi’s son, Samuele was standing next to his father.
Signor Bonati, if you read this, please send me the pictures you took of that watch. Grazie!
Here’s the table shot of the 2nd PDay in Cologne. Matr. No. 17 is located in the lower right corner. Check also the GPF 2/56. This watch was on Samuele Rinaldi right wrist during the PDay. It has the same oddly shaped 3 o’clock numeral as the one offered by Antiquorum in April 2018.
2004 – Club Panerai Meeting in Viareggio, Italy
The following two pictures of Matr. No. 17 were taken in 2004 at the annual Club Panerai meeting in Viareggio, Italy. The stain in the numeral at 3 o’clock is clearly visible in the zoom, ergo same watch. Also the strap is exact the same. According to Club Panerai, this watch belonged to Luciano and Samuele Rinaldi.
Direct link: Club Panerai – IV Meeting 2004
Here is a view of the back. The Angelus 240 movement in this watch is a converted alarm clock movement. Unfortunately, due to the low quality of the image, it is impossible to identify the matriculation number. I believe however, this is a different caseback than the one that was shown in Singapore, but more on this later.
This very movement ended up in a fake aluminium GPF 2/56 that was offered by Antiquorum in April 2018. After exposing the watch as fake, an infamous Instagram troll started attacking me in an attempt to descredit my person and ridicule my research.
Read more: Fake GPF 2/56 at Antiquorum
2007 – Antiquorum Auction (Withdrawn)
In 2007, Matr. No. 17 appeared at Antiquorum, among six other questionable “Panerai” watches. In a joint effort by former Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati and Panerai retailer Francesco Ferretti, Antiquorum was forced to withdraw all seven watches as they were found to be counterfeits. (Check the stain in the numeral at 3 o’clock)
The screenshot below was taken from the old Antiquorum website. It shows the seven watches that were withdrawn from the 2007 auction. Matr. No. 17 was listed as Lot 520. All these watches are counterfeits made by the notorious Rinaldi family.
Since the lot had been withdrawn, all information about the watch was gone. Thanks to the existence of online auction archives it was nevertheless possible to find this residue. The description clearly stated “Matriculation No. 17”.
2015 – History and Legends Exhibition in Singapore
In 2015, Matr. No. 17 reappeared at the “History and Legend” exhibition in Singapore. This official Panerai event took place from August 27 to September 6, 2015 and was “apparently” dedicated to the history of the brand. I say apparently as most of the vintage watches and instruments that were on display had incorrect dates. But that is a completely different issue.
The following picture was taken at the exhibition. Note that in this light and angle, the dial had a bluish tint to it. Note also the distinctive stain in the numeral at 3 o’clock.
The following picture of the movement was taken in Singapore by Sidney Teo for Revolution Magazine. Note that all of a sudden, Matr. No. 17 had a completely different movement. This is another converted movement and frankly speaking, a total mess.
This is an alarm movement from a travel clock that was converted to look like a non-alarm movement. The most obvious tell is the collar on the crown wheel (1). On original non-alarm movement this wheel is completely flat. The non-alarm look was achieved by using a modified non-alarm barrel bridge from a key-winding movement. The slots for the winding wheels (2) were milled out, very roughly. This bridge however, has too many holes. The ratchet wheel bears the circular scratches (3) that are usually caused by an intermediate bridge used to attach the alarm bell. The scratches around the hole for the alarm setting stem (4) can only occur on alarm movements. Finally, the extra holes (5) in the main plate are used to attach all kinds of levers on alarm movements. Non-alarm movements usually don’t have these holes.
Original Panerai Angelus 240 have a Glucydur balance wheel and Incabloc shock protection. This movement has neither and is probably from 1945 to 1948, long before Panerai started to use Angelus 240 movements (1956).
Below you can see the exact same type of barrel bridge from a non-alarm key-winding movement that was used to convert the movement.
If you are interested in further information about Angelus 240 movements, I suggest you read the following article:
Read more: The truth about the PAM 203
Why this Watch is most certainly a Fake
As we have learned, none of the movements installed in Matr. No. 17 over the course of time were original. But this is not the only discrepancy when compared to absolutely original “transitional 3646s” with undisputable provenance. The perfect reference for a “transitional” 3646 is the watch that was handed over to Richemont by the old Officine Panerai in 1997 and which is now part of the Archivio Storico Panerai.
The lugs on original examples are almost even with the case while on Matr. No. 17, the lugs are awkwardly protruding.
The dial of Matr. No. 17 is in my opinion a typical fake Rinaldi dial with bluish tint and fake patina (Check the stain in the numeral at 3 o’clock). Please compare this dial to the dial above. The short Angelus hands came from a table clock.
Read more: Vintage Panerai – The mysterious bluish tinted dials
G. Panerai e Figlio was a precision workshop. The delicate dial cut-outs were mastered to perfection. Original Panerai dials are perfect, period!
This direct comparison of the numeral at 3 o’clock shows that the cut-out on Matr. No. 17 has a simplified shape and is not as intricate as on a regular Angelus dial.
Matr. No 17 differs from other modified 3646 with solid lugs in many other aspects. The “Marina Militare, Luminor Panerai” engravings for instance are wider than usual. As already mentioned, the shape of the numeral at 3 o’clock is different. Short Angelus hands like this are commonly found in Angelus alarm clocks.
The solid lugs on Matr. No. 17 are not as nicely integrated as on original examples, they are protruding. In the direct comparison above it becomes clear that the solid lugs on Matr. No. 17 are not only longer but also significantly thicker.
Here’s a closer look at the case profile compared to the original watch from the Archivio Storico Panerai (Panerai Museum), Matr. No. 2 and Matr. No 11. On Matr. No. 17, the lugs are welded in a much flatter angle. The shape of the lugs is different too and they are longer. All original examples with provenance are consistent, as you can see.
Another thing that does match is the bezel. The three original watches came from different sources and have an undisputable provenance. They look almost identical.
Matr. No. 17 clearly stands out and was probably made with no original watch at hand. Note also the Rolex crown no. 11. On original examples, Panerai installed a service crown without a Swiss cross.
Read more: Modified Panerai 3646 with solid lugs
Let’s take a closer look at the display caseback. “Matr. No.” stands for Matricola Numero = serial number. On Matr. No. 2 the “I” is absolutely centered whereas on Matr. No. 17 the “I” is clearly offcenter. The letter “a” is also different on Matr. No. 17. I believe that at least the plexi on Matr. No. 17 is fake. The metal part could be original.
Matr. No. 21
In September 2017, I started writing an article about “transitional” 3646s and their history, Coincidentally, Rinaldi Junior sent me a picture of a modified 3646 that was in his possession.
I knew that watch but had only seen a small picture of it. The case had similar issues like Matr. No. 17. I told Rinaldi I was writing a new article about transitional 3646s and asked him to send me pictures of it if he wanted me to list his watch. My interest in his watch was first and foremost to see whether it was original or not.
“Buongiorno Samuele, sto scrivendo un nuovo articolo sui 3646 modificati. Se vuoi che il tuo orologio sia menzionato ti prego di mandarmi delle foto buone al piu presto possibile.”
Translation: Hi Samuele, I am wrting a new article about modified 3646s. If you want me to list your watch please send me good pictures of it as soon as possible.
The next day, Samuele send me the pictures. When I saw the watch in detail, everything was crystal clear, again. The case has the same issues like Matr. No. 17.
I chose not to list Matr. No. 21 as to me it was just another fake. Instead I added this text to Matr. No. 17:
“Matr. No. 17 is one of 3 modified 3646 with similar characteristics. They all originate from the very same source.”
Read more: Modified Panerai 3646 with solid lugs
The dial of Matr. No. 21 appears to be original, at least at first glance. It has a few issues though. To be absolutely sure, the dial needs to be taken out of the watch for a closer inspection.
The hands of this watch appear to be mixed-up. The hour hand is a long Angelus hand while the minute hands has a double pencil shape?
This watch has a caseback with Matr. No. 21 inscription. More on this later. The movement appears to be an original Angelus 240 specifically made for Panerai but the picture is too blurred to be absolutely sure. The balance wheel does not look like Glucydur, but rather like a common monometalic balance wheel from a travel clock.
The lugs of this watch have a slightly better shape than Matr. No. 17 but they are nevertheless considerably off compared to the absolutely original example like Matr. No. 2, a watch btw that was found at the estate of a Marina Militare employee who was in charge of repairing instruments and watches.
The following comparison shows the different shape of the lugs and also how rough the lugs were welded onto the case on Matr. No. 21. The lugs on Matr. No. 2 were welded by a professional Panerai employee with a high quality standard.
The next picture show the extremely poor welding job on Matr. No. 21. In my opinion, this was not a Panerai job.
They say, the devil is in the details. It’s true! I think this comparison speaks for itself.
The next picture shows Matr. No. 11. The lugs on this watch are also not perfectly integrated. I believe the case of this watch was possibly a reject, which was found at the old Panerai premises. It is possible that this watch has been assembled from loose parts. However, the shape and the angle of the lugs is spot on, ergo original Panerai.
Every single bit of this watch is 100% original Panerai, case, caseback with Matr. No. 11, dial, hands and Angelus 240 movement. The crown is a Rolex crown no. 13, a typical replacement for worn out onion crowns (Rolex no. 11).
This watch came from Ferretti and for a long time, it was the only “transitional” 3646 available to the public. The one in the Museum sat mostly in a drawer and Matr. No. 2 surfaced only two years ago. I believe the Rinaldis tried to replicate Ferretti’s watch. Whatever Panerai watch Ferretti had, Rinaldi wanted to have the same or better. Since these watches were unobtainable, he simply made them. This was a common patern as we will see further on.
Coming back to Matr. No. 21, here is the smoking gun! The display caseback with Matr. No. 21 inscription was found in the year 2000 on its own. There was no watch or at least no “transitional” 3646.
The “I” on this caseback is centered. This is further evidence that the plexi on Matr. No. 17 is most certainly fake.
Direct link: Club Panerai Certificate No. 00102
An official COMSUBIN inventory document from 1988 lists Matr. No. 21 as featuring a “Marina Militare” dial.
The question that arises is, why are Rinaldi family related watches always a bit strange? And why do all these watches have made-up movements?
I think the overwelming evidence in both these cases speaks for itself. It’s a shame that fakes like Matr. No. 17 were shown at official Officine Panerai events.
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05. Panerai Mille Metri Aluminium PVD-coated
Garibaldi “crew member” number six on my list is a “prototype” named Mille Metri (Mille Metri = Thousand Metres), purportedly made by Panerai in the 1980s. The same black Mille Metri or at least one that looks almost identical was offered by Antiquorum in 2007.
I contacted Alessandro Bettarini the other day and he confirmed that NO such watch was ever made at Panerai. Mr. Bettarini must know, after all he was the designer of the original Mille Metri prototypes.
En passant, this update will also expose two more fakes on the Garibaldi and completely bust their invented myth.
In the early 1980s, on personal initiave of Alessandro Bettarini, who was Head of Research & Development at Officine Panerai, the Florentine company started developing a new watch. Two prototype cases with similar dimensions as the GPF 2/56 (60mm) were made around 1982. Both cases were made of aluminium alloy and featured the typical Panerai crown-protecting device at 3 o’clock.
When asked why aluminium was used for the first two cases, Mr. Bettarini replied:
AB: “La lega leggera è facilmente lavorabile. Questa caratteristica e la disponibilità in laboratorio di barre di anticorodal determinò la scelta del materiale per costruire i 2 esemplari. Se il progetto fosse andato avanti gli orologi definitivi sarebbero stati costruiti in acciaio inossidabile AISI 316.”
Translation: AB: The light alloy is easy to work with. This feature and the availability of anticorodal bars in our laboratory determined the material selection to build the 2 cases. If the project would have been continued, the real watches would have been made of stainless steel AISI 316.
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The next picture shows Bettarini’s early prototype case from around 1982 with crown guard at 3 o’clock. Officine Panerai moved from Florence to Cascine del Riccio in the early 1990s. To make the relocation as easy as possible and not having to deal with the desposal of old items such as machines, instruments, etc., Officine Panerai asked Francesco Ferretti to come and take whatever he wanted. Mr. Ferretti found the naked prototype case in the old Panerai premises and considering its size of around 60mm, he wrongly assumed it was a project from the 1960s. Mr. Ferretti completed the watch with whatever parts he could find.
The second prototype case had additionally a second half-moon shaped device at 9 o’clock. The purpose of this device was to lock the rotating bezel in position by inserting a vertical lever along radial grooves on the bezel.
Dino Zei, the CEO of Officine Panerai at that time, didn’t like the idea with double crown guard and stopped the project immediately, as soon as he saw the case.
Nobody knows what happened with the prototype case with double crown guard but this model would later become famous among Panerai enthusiats as the “Israeliano”, a myth that was invetend by Rinaldi claiming the watch had been developed in the 1960s for the Israeli Shayatet 13 frogmen unit. More on this later.
In this phase, only two large cases (60mm) were made. They were made of aluminium alloy as they were just rapid prototypes respectively mock-ups to show to Dino Zei. They were never meant to be completed.
Mille Metri Project
In 1985, Panerai’s ambitions to create a new watch became more serious. The idea was to develop an innovative watch with modern materials such as titanium and a size of “only” 47mm.
The official name of this new watch project was 1000 Metri = Mille Metri = 1000 Metres. The inception for this watch did not follow a specific request from the Italian Navy to develop a modern dive watch for their underwater units. It was merely Panerai’s own initiative to try and increase the revenue of the company.
During the developing phase of the Mille Metri, Panerai created seven or eight prototype cases. These cases were either made of titanium or bronze. None of them was made of aluminium, or PVD coated for that matter!
The Marina Militare tested the final titanium prototype thoroughly. The watch passed all tests but not a single watch was ordered. In March 1997, the final titanium prototype, that had been on display at the Panerai premises ever since, was handed over to Richemont and is now part of the Archivio Storico Panerai.
The following video is an excerpt from the DVD that is included in the book Panerai – Una Storia Italiana. At 2:12, Dino Zei, former CEO of Officine Panerai Spa, talks about the number of prototypes cases that were made. At 3:15, Allesandro Bettarini explains why only titanium and bronze was used.
The history of the Mille Metri is extremely well documented and the designer of the watch, Alessandro Bettarini, is still alive and kicking. After his time at Panerai, Mr. Bettarini created his own watch brand named Ennebi (NB). Alessandro Bettarini just published a book about the 1000 Metri prototype. No aluminium 1000 Metri prototype is mentioned in there, nor a PVD coated titanium case.
I met Mr. Bettarini in May 2016 during Panerai’s Dive into Time exhibition in the Marino Marini Museum in Florence. We talked for quite some time outside the building.
The following picture shows Alessandro Bettarini telling me the story of the Mille Metri in a very passionate manner. Listing to his stories was a true delight. Mario Paci and Loris Pasetto were standing in front of us.
As mentioned earlier, I talked to Alessandro Bettarini about the Mille Metri. I sent him a picture from the 2007 Antiquorum auction. Mr. Bettarini is a very technical person and it is super interesting what he had to say.
“Buongiorno Alessandro, come va? Ci siamo conosciuti a Firenze, due anni fa. Al esposizione Panerai nel museo Marino Marini.”
Translation: Good day Alessandro, how is it going? We met two years ago in Florence. At the Panerai exhibition in the Marino Marini Museum.
AB: “Bene, grazie. Spero che sia lo stesso per te. Mi ricordo perfettamente dell’incontro. Inoltre ogni tanto leggo alcuni tuoi articoli su FB.”
Translation: AB: I’m good, thank you. I hope you too. I remember our meeting perfectly well. Also, from time to time I read some of your articles on FB.
“Ah, perfetto! Tutto bene grazie. Ti volevo chiedere se sai qualcosa su di questo orologio. Questo e stato ritirato da Antiquorum nel 2007”
Translation: Perfect! All good, thank you. I wanted to ask if you know anything about this watch. This one was withdrawn from Antiquorum in 2007.
AB: “Dalla foto non capisco se il materiale con cui è fatto sia anticorodal anodizzato o titanio con trattamento pvd. In entrambi i casi non fa parte degli esemplari di laboratorio costruiti in Panerai. … Un’ esemplare come quello della foto in anticorodal anodizzato (sono quasi certo di sapere chi lo aveva costruito) fu presentato anni addietro ad un asta di Antiquorum.”
Translation: AB: It’s difficult to figure out from the picture if the material is anodized anticorodal (aluminium alloy) or titanium with pvd treatment. In both cases it is not part of the laboratory specimens that were built at Panerai. … A specimen like the one on the picture made from anodized anticorodal (I am almost certain who made it) was presented years ago at an Antiquorum auction.
“Secondo Antiquorum era fatto in aluminio. Questo e di Rinaldi.”
Translation: According to Antiquorum this was made from aluminium. This one belongs to Rinaldi.
AB: “Anticorodal è il nome commerciale di una lega di alluminio con buone caratteristiche meccaniche e adatta ad essere anodizzata che quasi sicuramente è stata usata per realizzare quell’esemplare (per la certezza occorre un’analisi metallurgica). L’ alluminio puro o al 99,5% ha pessime caratteristiche meccaniche. Rinaldi non è più di questo mondo. I sospetti anche se molto forti devono essere suffragati da prove o testimonianze.’
Translation: AB: Anticorodal is the trade name of an aluminium alloy with great mechanical characteristics that is suitable to be anodized, which almost certainly was used to make this example (a metallurgical analysis is necessary to be absolutely certain). Pure or 99.5% aluminium has very poor mechanical characteristics. Rinaldi (Senior) is no longer among us. Suspicions, even if very strong, must be supported by evidence or testimony.
“Si certo, senza prove non si puo dire niente. Ma allora, in ogni caso a questo orologio non li metteresti la tua firma? Ma allora, in ogni caso a questo orologio non li metteresti la tua firma?”
Translation: Yes of course, nothing can be said without proof. Ok, but in any case you would not put your signature on this watch?
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I think this speaks for itself. At this point, the discussion about the black Mille Metri is actually over. This watch is obviously a fake. But let’s dig deeper into this whole thing, it gets a lot more interesting.
The next picture belongs to a large gallery of pictures that the Rinaldis sent to watch dealers around the globe. There can be no doubt, that at least one of these watches came from the Rinaldi Toy Shop.
As Mr. Bettarini has implied, there could to be at least two black Mille Metri. One made of anodized aluminium and one made of PVD coated titanium. Actually, there are at least two Mille Metri made of aluminium.
Let’s look into the timeline of how and when black Mille Metri watches appeared in public respectively at auction or with vintage watch dealers.
2004 – Garibaldi – Ship of Fools
A black Mille Metri was first seen on the Ship of Fools in 2004. Its presence on that ship was enough to make it highly questionable.
2007 – Antiquorum Auction (Lot withdrawn)
A black aluminium Mille Metri appeared as Lot 518 in the now famous 2007 Antiquorum auction. It was pulled short after, together with six other highly questionable “Panerai” watches. Former Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati and Panerai retailer Francesco Ferretti protested vigorously against the sale of these counterfeits and forced Antiquorum to withdraw every single one of them.
The picture below was downloaded from the old Antiquorum website. The text “Lot Withdrawn” was added by Antiquorum itself.
The following screenshot was taken from the old Antiquorum website as well. It shows all seven fake “Panerai” watches that were withdrawn from the auction.
Since these lots were withdrawn, all information went missing. Thanks to online auction archives it was nevertheless possible to retrieve the description of Lot 518.
The description of Lot 518 clearly stated that the watch in question was made of aluminium (treated aluminium). As confirmed by Mr. Bettarini, no aluminium Mille Metri was ever made at Panerai. Ergo, this watch must be a counterfeit and its withdrawal was more than justified.
October 2016 – The Vintage Concept Hong Kong
On October 24, 2016, the Hong Kong-based vintage watch shop The Vintage Concept posted a picture of another highly questionable “Panerai” watch on their Instagram account. The watch featured two half-moon shaped crown guards. One on each side.
In 2004, this watch was also a crew member on the Garibaldi.
The document underneath the watch is apparently the original invoice. The client’s address, although partly deleted, gives us a hint as to whom this invoice was issued. The location S. Croce sull’Arno (PI) is where the Rinaldi family resided. I checked this invoice with Mario Paci, the former Quality Manager at Officine Panerai and he said this invoice is 100% fake.
One look at the dial of this watch is enough for me to understand this is a typical Rinaldi conterfeit dial. Everything about it screams Rinaldi, the cut-outs, the engravings, the patina. Zero doubts!
Additionally, we have learned from Mr. Bettarini that the project with double crown guard was never finished. Mr. Zei didn’t like the design and everything that was left of it was one single prototype case or mock-up. Just the case! So how is this all of a sudden a complete watch?
I talked to Mr. Bettarini about this watch as well:
“Buongiorno Alessandro, l’orologio a doppia leva non era un disegno degli anni 1960?”
Translation: Good day Alessandro, was the watch with double crown guard a design of the 1960s?
AB: “No, è stata una mia idea che a Zei non piacque e fece fermare a livello di cassa. Era in lega di alluminio ( non mi ricordo se anticorodal o peraluman) color naturale. Di questa configurazione ho letto molte sciocchezze nel corso degli anni. Una fra tutte che era destinata agli israeliani.”
Translation: AB: No, it was one of my ideas but Zei didn’t like it and he stopped the project in early case prototype stage. It was made from natural colour aluminium alloy (I don’t remember anymore if Anticorodal or Peraluman). Over the course of time, I read a lot of nonsense about this configuration. One was that it was made for the Israelis.
“Questo e al 100% per 100% di Rinaldi. Guarda l’indirizzo ;)”
Translation: This one is 100% Rinaldi’s. Have a look at the address 😉
AB: “Queste somigliano molto alla cassa che fu costruita in laboratorio. Una, solo una. Quante ce ne sono in giro?”
Translation: AB: These look a lot like the case that was built in our laboratory. One, only one. How many are out there?
“Al meno 4”
Translation: At least 4
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A similar watch or the same was definitely in Rinaldi’s possesion. The following picture was part of an image gallery sent by the Rinaldi to dealers around the globe.
A similar watch with double crown guard was part of the infamous 2007 Antiquorum auction where seven Panerai counterfeits were withdrawn. The following image of Lot 517 was downloaded from the old Antiquorum website.
This watch was also sailing on the Garibaldi in 2004.
After having studied vintage Panerai dials for several years, I can say with 100% certainty that the dial in this watch wasn’t made by G. Panerai e Figlio. The engravings show the same errors as every other Rinaldi counterfeit dial.
The following comparison brings the discrepancies to light. The cut out of the number two in the numeral at 12 o’clock is crooked. The same fault can be found on fake Radiomir dials as well. An easy way to spot fake dials is to compare the last R of LuminoR/RadiomiR with the R in PaneRai. G. Panerai e Figlio used a shorter R in Radiomir/Luminor to make the engraving look more balanced from a typographical point of view. The fakers didn’t get this extremely subtle detail. They used the same R everywhere.
Fake Panerai dials are super easy to spot once you know what to look for.
Read more: Manipulated vintage Panerai dials
Here is the retrieved description from 2007. It clearly says “Prototype for Israeli Frogmen”. This my friends, is where the “Israel” myth probably originates from.
The “Israel” myth was also discussed on Paneristi.com. In 2007, a famous Paneristi from Israel wrote about this watch:
“From all my research Panerai never supplied watches to the Israeli navy.
Another point is I have not found any evidence that the 2 crown-guard prototype was ever presented to the Israeli Navy. I have talked to people who would have been in the know if such a prototype was presented in the 1950s or 1960s.”
“The fact that this proto was sailing on the garibaldi doesn’tt do it any favours either…”
Direct link: Shalom Israel!!! Israeli Navy Panerai (Paneristi, May 2007)
The following picture shows a similar watch, property of Rinaldi. This is one of the many images the Rinaldis sent to watch dealers in their desperate attempt to liquidate the whole “collection”.
Coming back to The Vintage Concept‘s Instagram post, the moment I saw that watch, I recalled a black “Panerai” with double crown guard was a Garibaldi “crew member” as well. I immediantely left an explicit comment on The Vintage Concept‘s Instagram post:
“Do yourself a favour and send it back to where it came from ;)”
November 2016 – The Vintage Concept Hong Kong
One month later, on November 24, 2016, the very same Hong Kong-based vintage shop The Vintage Concept posted a picture of another highly questionable watch, the black aluminium Mille Metri. The watch had been photgraphed on top of a Panerai Sistemi invoice.
I know a little bit someting about the recent Panerai history and if I happen to have any questions in this regard, I can always ask Mario Paci, the former Quality Manager of Officine Panerai. Let’s forget the watch for a moment and focus on the invoice only. Panerai Sistemi Spa emerged out of Officine Panerai Spa when the brand “Officine Panerai” and the remaining watch stock was sold to Richemont in March 1997. In 1999, Panerai Sistemi Spa was taken over by Calzoni Spa in Bologna and ceased to exist.
Now have a look at the date on the invoice. It says October 31, 2001. That is a long time after the company ceased to exist. But there is more. Besides the aluminium Mille Metri, that should not exist in the first place, this invoice also mentions four! prototypes with double crown-guard (Orologi Doppia Leva Alluminio). Two classic (natural aluminium colour) and two PVD-coated.
Let me repeat: Four! Remember how Mr. Bettarini said this project never made it past the prototype case stage? So where did these watches come from? Exactly, they must be fakes, Rinaldi fakes!
I checked this invoice with Mario Paci and according to him the invoice is fake.
This “Mille Metri” and the black “Panerai” with double crown guard ended up with one of the most important Panerai collectors in the world.
May 2017 – Christie’s HK announced a black Mille Metri
On May 25, 2017, Christie’s posted a picture of a PVD-coated aluminium Mille Metri on their Instagram account and announced the watch for their upcoming auction in Hong Kong. I was stunned to see a fake like this offered by such a renowned auction house as Christie’s.
The original Instagram post was later removed but the following picture of the watch was sent to me by Christie’s.
The next picture shows Lot 2436. An extremely rare and interesting PVD-coated aluminium automatic wrist watch with sweep centre seconds.
When I saw this watch I was sure it is the same as Lot 518 from the 2007 Antiquorum auction. I immediately contacted Christie’s:
“Careful with this watch. Panerai never made such thing. The papers that come with it are fake too. Panerai Sistemi was taken over by Calzoni in 1999. The very same watch was withdrawn from an Antiquorum auction in 2007.”
Later I came to realize that my assesment was wrong. There are at least two watches that look almost identical. This was not the 2007 Antiquorum watch. It is a different piece. We have learned from Mr. Bettarini that Panerai never made an aluminium case so this watch must be another counterfeit. The question is, how many more are out there?
Here is a picture of the automatic ETA 2824 movement that is installed in the watch announced by Christie’s.
The following picture is an excerpt from a Japanese article about Panerai watches that was published in 1992. It shows the original Mille Metri titanium prototype that was tested by the Marina Militare. This very watch was handed over to Richemont in 1997 and is now part of the Archivio Storico Panerai (Panerai Museum)
A comparison with the ETA 2824-1 that is installed in the titanium prototype owned by the Archivio Storico Panerai shows that the “ETAROTOR” engravings on the rotor are most certainly fake. Also, the original movement, which Panerai had received for free from ETA, was a 2824-1.
The picture above of the original watch shows that the ETA 2824-1 movement was considerably smaller than the whole in the case. Panerai installed a reducing ring (movement retaining ring) to fit the movement properly. The reason for this is that the cases had already been produced before the decision was made what movement to use.
Such ring ist completely missing in the black aluminium watch. Of course, the case was made to fit the movement.
The next picture shows another legit Mille Metri prototype made of titanium. This one was assembled with one of prototype cases (seven or eight case were made according to Dino Zei) and features an ETA 2770 movement. It is acompanied by an authentication letter from Mr. Bettarini. As you can see, this example also used a specially made movement retaining ring for a precise fitting.
Coming back to the Christie’s auction, thanks to my intervention, the watch was pulled. No collector was harmed.
On June, 2017, Samuele Rinaldi sent me this message:
SR: “Eric di Christies mi diceva che hai risposto in merito al prototipo in allumino che loro avevano in asta.
Ovviamente Paci dice che la fattura e falsa ma ti confermo invece che e vera. Panerai nel 99 si trasferi in Bologna dentro Calzoni Spa, ma ha continuato la “liquidazione” vendendo tutto quello he era dentro. Mio padre compro anche tutte le macchine a controllo numerico caricando un camion di 10 metri. Un giorno mi piacerebbe raccontarti tutte queste cose…”
Translation: SR: Eric from Christie’s told me that you answered about the aluminium prototype they had at auction.
Obviously Paci (Mario Paci) says the invoice is fake but I can guarantee that the invoice is real. Panerai moved to Bologna in 99 (1999) inside Calzoni Spa but they continued the “liquidation” selling everything that was inside. My father also bought all the numerically controlled machines by loading a 10-metre truck. One day I would like to tell you all these things…
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Obviously, this was Rinaldi’s watch. I knew the things Samuele wanted to tell me… lies and made-up stories. The same ol’ stories the Rinaldis have been telling for years. Israeliano huh? Yeah right…
The Rinaldis are natural-born liars. People who believe Rinaldi are either ignorant, or they get paid to perpetuate whatever he wants.
To conclude, so far I have always announced the next watch to be discussed in this article. Two days after I spoke to Mr. Bettarini, this is what happened:
AB: “Il figlio di Rinaldi mi ha contatto per email chiedendomi il numero di cellulare. Sai cosa vuole”
Translation: AB: Rinaldi’s son contacted me via email asking for my mobile number. Do you know what he wants?
Therefore, the next watch to be discussed will be surprise! Stay tuned!
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06. Panerai Pre Vendôme 5218-218/A Black Seal Slytech
There is one watch among modern Panerai enthusiasts that rocks their boat like no other. The elusive Pre Vendôme Panerai 5218-218/A Black Seal Slytech. Some say it was a prototype, some say it was assembled by former Panerai employees. The truth is, it is a typical Rinaldi Pre Vendôme fake.
The 5218-218/A is of course one of the dubious “crew members” sailing on the Garibaldi – Ship of Fools. This piece is of special interest as the watch model itself was actually never produced.
A 5218-218/A was offered by Antiquorum as Lot 516 in their infamous 2007 auction, where seven Panerai counterfeits were withdrawn after Panerai CEO Angelo Bonati and Panerai retailer Francesco Ferretti vehemently protested against the sale of fake Panerai watches at auction.
The following screenshot was taken from the old Antiquorum website and shows all seven Panerai counterfeits withdrawn from the auction.
Here is the original description of Lot 516 which could be retrieved thanks to an auction archive. According to this text, five examples were made in total.
“Made in a special edition of 5 examples for Sylvester Stallone in 1995.”
As mentioned earlier, this model was never produced. It soon became a legend after the myth was created that five examples had been assembled by former Panerai employees after the take-over by Richemont. In 2015, the modern Panerai released a homage to this model in form of the PAM 785 and debates about the authenticity of the few existing examples of Ref. 5218-218/A flared up again.
To understand why the 5218-218 (/A) Black Seal never went into production, it is necessary to go back in time to the very inception of modern Panerai watches.
Officine Panerai was an exclusive supplier to the Italian Navy (Marina Militare). With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cold War came to an abrupt end. This geopolitical change resulted in a worldwide reduction of military budgets. After decades of tension, the whole world was united in celebration of peace but for a company like Panerai, which was working exclusively for the Italian Navy, this situation led to an existential crisis. To compensate the loss of dozens of lucrative military contracts, Panerai came up with the idea of relaunching their iconic watches to the civilian market.
From 1993 onwards, the first modern Panerai references, namely the 5218-201/A, 5218-202/A, 5218-301/A, 5218-203/A, 5218-205/A and 5218-207/A were produced by the Swiss watchmaking company Guenat SA Montres Valgine. The quality of these watches was great but at some point, the high cost of Swiss quality labour was no longer bearable for a economically struggling company such as Officine Panerai.
In consequence, Panerai decided to move their entire watch production from Switzerland to Italy. On September 20, 1996, Panerai signed a contract with the Italian company Coro Srl.
The new references to be produced in Italy were the 5218-209, 5218-210, 5218-218 and 5218-206 (P5218-206, rotating bezel). The initial order foresaw the production of 150 pieces of Ref. 5218-209 and 350 pieces of Ref. 5218-210. Coro Srl was supposed to make preproduction pieces of both references and have them approved by Dino Zei (Officine Panerai CEO) prior to the definitve production.
In October 1996, Officine Panerai SpA also ordered 10 prototypes of Ref. 5218-206 (P5218-206, rotating bezel) and 55 pieces of Ref. 5218-218 for their Christmas sale.
The cooperation with Coro turned out to be a disaster! According to Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, Coro Srl delivered only 15 watches in total until February 1997, 1 pre production 5218-209 (December 1996), 12 pieces of Ref. 5218-209 and only 2 pieces of Ref. 5218-210.
This information is backed by original invoices that are in possession of Mario Paci.
At this point, Panerai’s watch business was no longer sustainable. In March 1997, the Officine Panerai brand and the remaining watch stock were sold to Richemont (Vendôme) for around million Euro. The Coro production stopped. In consequence, the original Panerai company changed their name to Panerai Sistemi SpA.
After the take-over, the new Officine Panerai company under the umbrella of Richemont bought all cases that had already been produced by Coro Srl and used them for the sought-after PreA series with case reference OP 6500. Officine Panerai asked for more cases but Coro Srl was not capable of producing them, forcing the new Officine Panerai to move the production back to Switzerland. The new cases made in Switzerland had the case reference OP 6502.
As we have learned, not a single 5218-218 Black Seal was ever delivered. So where do the examples originate from that are floating around?
Quite simple, Luciano Rinaldi was able to obtain loose Panerai parts from Coro Srl, when the company was going through an economic crisis in the early 2000s. It appears that for some reason, the modern Officine Panerai did not buy or receive all the parts that had been produced until March 1997.
The Black Seal dials are quite interesting. They look correct at first glance but then again, nobody knows how they were supposed to look. It is unknown if Rinaldi found these dials at Coro Srl respectively Coro’s dial maker or if he had them specifically made for his fakes.
Luciano Rinaldi made a big mistake when he assembled dozens of Pre Vendôme watches from loose parts. He did not consider that the Coro cases were slightly different in shape compared to Guenat cases. He also confused another important detail. While the Guenat cases had a tube between the lugs and one screw for each lug, the Coro cases had been made for one long screw that would go through both lugs, thus making it much easier to change the strap.
Read more: Caution! Fake Pre Vendôme Galore at Sotheby’s
Another detail which escaped Rinaldi was the fact that all watches that were to be produced in Italy did actually not have the “/A” extension at the end of the reference number (5218-201/A vs. 5218-209). The caseback you see in this picture is completely fake.
This caseback has basically the same wrong design as a fake Rinaldi 5218-207/A that was recently offered at Sotheby’s.
This type of caseback inscription was only used for the 5218-205/A Luminor Submersible (watch on the far right).
To compare, the next picture shows the original blue print from October 1996 of the 5218-218 caseback. This is how the back of the 5218-218 was supposed to look like. There is no “/A” extension after the reference number and there is also no Slytech Panerai denomination nor any mentioning of Sylvester Stallone. This blue print is in possession of Mario Paci and was published in Panerai – Una Storia Italiana.
Since only 15 Coro Pre Vendôme watches had been produced until February 1997, the pecularities of these pieces were not yet known. When Rinaldi found the left-over Coro cases, he wrongly assumed they had been specifically made for the modern Panerai (OP 6500, PreA series) due to the long lug screws.
To make his counterfeits look more legit, Luciano Rinaldi had the Coro cases modified to take the Guenat style lug tubes with screws on each side. This was an epic fail!
In September 2008, this very fake Rinaldi 5218-218/A was offered for USD 140,000 in the Paneristi Collector’s Market on Paneristi.com. One look at the lugs is enough to see this watch is one of Rinaldi’s fakes. There are four screws!
Direct link: FS 5218-218/A BLACK SEAL SLYTECH PRE-VENDOME PROTOTYPE
The following pictures show the only preproduction 5218-209 that was delivered by Coro in December 1996. Clearly visible is the long lug screw that goes through both lugs.
The screw heads are on the crown guard side.
The caseback of this watch shows how the new reference numbers without the “/A” looked like.
The next pictures shows one of only two 5218-210s ever made. This watch features the long lugs screws as well.
The screw head is located on the crown guard side
The caseback of this ultra rare watch bears also a reference number without the “/A” extension.
And now let’s have a look again at the caseback of the 5218-218 counterfeit.
Unfortunately there is no picture of the movement, but in January 2015, Loris Pasetto, the author of Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, wrote an excellent article on Paneristi.com in which he basically put and end to all the speculation on the 5218-218. Long story short, Loris was offered one of these watches from an Italian reseller in 2008 and later in 2012 directly from Rinaldi (Mister X). Loris noticed a lot of discrepancies and also that the movement had some milled off areas, something that is very common for Rinaldi Pre Vendôme fakes.
Direct link: 5218-218 dream or reality? (January 2015, Paneristi)
The following comparison between a fake Rinaldi movement and a low grade Unitas 497/6497 caliber shows that the “Unadjusted” inscription was milled off to make the movement look more legit.
All Pre Vendôme Unitas movements were special orders and had custom-made engravings specifically made for Officine Panerai watches.
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07. Two Panerai 6152/1 with altered Kampfschwimmer dials
The next two watches to come under fire on the “Garibaldi – Ship of Fools” are two 6152/1s with altered 1944 anonymous Kampfschwimmer dials and typical fake Rinaldi engravings.
Both dials were originally anonymous aluminium sandwich Kampfschwimmer dials as used by German combat swimmers (Kampfschwimmers) during the final days of WW2 (World War 2). To understand why the dials are questionable, I will have to “torture” you a little bit with minute details. Ready?
The picture below shows a typical Kampfschwimmer watch from 1944 with a completely anonymous aluminium sandwich dial made by Panerai.
Read more: The “anonymous” Panerai dials
I first came across an altered Kampfschwimmer dial in late 2015. The watch in question was a Ref. 6152/1 with crown-protecting device that had initially been sold by Antiquorum in 2001 with an ultra rare 6154 Radiomir dial. In 2007, the same watch reappeared at Christie’s but this time with the aforementioned altered Kampfschwimmer dial instead. Interestingly, the very same altered dial was in a famous Paneristi’s first 3646 which he had bought in 2003. The initial 6154 Radiomir dial from 2001, on the other hand, reappeared in 2008 in a Ref. 3646, this time at an auction of the German auction house Dr. Crott.
Sounds too complicated? Click the following link to read the full story.
Read more: Vintage Panerai – Entering the Grey Zone
Altered Kampfschwimmer dials are very easy to identify since the cut-outs of the numerals at 6 and 9 are slightly different than usual Panerai dials. Also, the overall construction is different compared to post-war dials. Kampfschwimmer dials were made with Radiomir (radium) and are highly radioactive. The high radioactive reading is a give-away, especially if the dials are engraved with Luminor or Marina Militare (both tritium-based Luminor).
There are two types of anonymous Kampfschwimmer sandwich dials. The first batch which had the same properties as prior aluminium sandwich dials – except for the lack of engravings – and the second batch, which had numerals at 6 and 9 o’clock with slightly more open loops (a vs. b). Can you see the difference?
A logical explanation for this change can probably be found in the circumstances under which these dial were produced. The Nazis had occupied large parts of Italy and Panerai was forced to deliver hundreds of watches and instruments within a short period of time. The Nazis were under great time pressure as the Allies were closing in from east, west and south. Aluminium was scarce and desperately needed for the production of rockets and aircraft. To avoid too many dial rejects due to the breaking off the “fragile” inner part of the loop (a vs. b) during the production, the loops were probably left more open. More material = less losses.
The famous Mare Nostrum is a perfect example for broken loops.
The following comparison shows two post war dials. After the war, Panerai returned to their usual design with almost closed loops.
Recap: Panerai dials with more open loops were only produced in 1944! All aluminium sandwich dials that were produced before and after 1944 had the usual almost closed loops.
The following comparison between an altered Kampfschwimmer dial with fake Marina Militare engravings and an original Marina Militare (Luminor lume) dial from the 1960s shows how easy it is to spot altered dials by just looking at the loops.
Where do these altered dials originate from? Well, from Rinaldi of course. There is at least one perfect example of an altered Kampfschwimmer dial found in a 3646 Type C where the provenance of the dial is well known. The famous Xa. FLOTMAS No. 048. In Dec. 2013, this watch sold at Christie’s for USD 161,000.00. It reapperead at Christie’s in May 2016, but after an extensive analysis on perezcope.com, the very same watch reached only CHF 37,500.00.
Read more: Two Vintage Panerai 3646 at Christie’s
As you can see on the following picture, the fake engravings are totally crooked. This watch had originally a riveted plastic dial but the dial was warped to an extend where the hands could no longer turn. Ken, the owner of this watch at that time, bought the altered Kampfschwimmer dial from Rinaldi and was told it was a NOS (New Old Stock) dial.
Hammer, the famous Paneristi from Down Under, conducted an extensive research and wrote an interesting article about this watch in an attempt to re-establish its well deserved dignity.
“The unanswered question here is who engraved the KS dials, and when. Was it Sig Rinaldi (the source & seller) of the replacement dial found and bought in 1999/2000?”
Direct link: The Odyssey of Flot Mas 48 (Paneristi July 2016)
The comparison below shows how a perdiod correct 3646 Type C dial should look like. There can be absolutely no doubt that the replacement dial of Xa FLOTMAS No. 048, which was provided by Rinaldi, is an altered Kampfschwimmer dial.
Let’s have a closer look at the fake engravings. There is one super subtle detail about original engravings which the fakers were not able to catch. On original dials, the last R in Radiomir is always slightly shorter than the first R in Radiomir or the R in Panerai.
The following picture is from the original 1950/60s photo archive of G. Panerai e Figlio. Waht you see here is a 1950s prototype based on Ref. 3646. Panerai just replaced the original cushion-shaped middle case with a case featuring solid lugs carved out of the same block of steel.
The dial of this watch is a typical aluminium sandwich dial produced prior to 1944. The first R in Radiomir and the R in Panerai are exactly the same (width = c), while the last R in Radiomir is slightly shorter (width = a). The knowledge of this pecularity makes it super easy to detect fake engravings.
All Radiomir-engraved aluminium sandwich dial made by Panerai bear this pecularity.
Here is another comparison with a 3646 (probably Type C) with amazing provenance. The dial on the left belongs to a 3646 that was brought home to the US after WW2 by Lieutenant Benedict Brucia. As you can see, the engravings are the very same as on the comparison above.
One look at the Rs on the altered Kampfschwimmer dial (right) is enough to understand this was not engraved by Panerai. All Rs have the same width, ergo fake.
The following video tells the amazing story of Lieutenant Benedict Brucia’s watch.
G. Panerai e Figlio introduced Luminor, a new tritium-based lume in the mid 1960s, just like anybody else in the watch industry. Until then, Panerai continued to use Radiomir (radium). All post war references, namely Ref. 6152, 6154 and 6152/1 were initially delivered with Radiomir dials.
The comparison below shows a 1950s Radiomir dial next to the altered Kampfschwimmer dial of Xa. FLOTMAS No. 048. The original engravings of 1950s Radiomir dials correspond in most details with engraved WW2 dials.
Panerai simplified the construcktion of the dials after the war and as a result, the dials became considerably thinner.
On 1940s dials, the lume is sealed deep within the construction, whereas on 1950/1960s dials, the lume is located directly underneath the cut-outs.
And here, for the sake of completeness, a 1960s Luminor dial. The same rule applies to original Luminor dials as well. The R in Luminor is shorter than the R in Panerai. There are several Kampfschwimmer dials that were engraved by Rinaldi with Luminor Panerai. As you can see in the following comparison, Rinaldi made the very same mistake with the Luminor engravings.
Alright, now that we are on the same page, let’s have a closer look at the two 6152/1 on the Garibaldi – Ship of Fools.
The following picture of Rinaldi’s 6152/1 with Radiomir-engraved dial was sent to a number of watch dealers by Rinaldi Junior himself.
The dial of this watch is without the shadow of a doubt an altered Kampfschwimmer dial. The more open loops are unmissable. Here is a comparison with a proper Radiomir dial from the 1950s.
As you can see in the following picture, the Rs have exactly the same width, ergo fake engravings.
The next picture shows Rinaldi’s 6152/1 with crown-protecting device and Marina Militare dial. This picture was also sent to watch dealers by Rinaldi Junior.
Original dials with Marina Militare engravings were introduced in the 1960s and featured the harmless Luminor lume (tritium-based). A closer look at the 6 and 9 o’clock loops makes clear that this is also an altered Kampfschwimmer dial.
On April 4, 2018, Samuele Rinaldi posted a picture of this very watch (left) on his Instagram account.
The following comparison leaves no doubt. See how the loops are almost closed on the original dial? That is how it is supposed to be.
The Rinaldis have always been very secretive when it comes to their watches. There are no movement pictures available of the two 6152/1 in question. I would not be surprised if the movements are questionable as well. The cases look ok though.
Anyway, there are dozens of smilarly altered Kampfschwimmer dials floating around. Some are installed in watches, others are loose. For many years, these dials were considered to be original and even found their way into Panerai literature. A good example is the following picture from Ralf Ehlers and Volker Wiegmann’s latest books “The References”.
It took the Rinaldis some time until they learned to apply straight engravings.
Most engravings are either crooked or not properly centered.
The next picture shows a 6152/1 featuring an altered Kampfschwimmer with fake Luminor engravings. The inscription is not properly centered.
As said, there are dozens of altered Kampfschwimmer dials out there. The one million dollar question is, where did Rinaldi find all these parts? The answer is simple, either in the old Arturo Junghans factory in Venice or at the old Panerai premises.
Read more: Manipulated vintage Panerai dials
As a matter of fact, Rinaldi’s son Samuele still has some anonymous Kampfschwimmer dials left, although of considerable lower quality than what we have seen before. The following picture was leaked to me.
One of these dials was sent to Irvine in Scottland to a guy from the Homageforum who is helping Rinaldi enhance his fake watches. The homage guy installed the dial in a fake watch with converted Cortebert 616 movement. That watch was later offered in collector circles for EUR 55,000.00. I will write an extensive article about this episode soon.
The Rinaldis not only altered anonymous Kampfschwimmer dials, they also produced a series of fake dials with all sorts of engravings. The same mistakes made with Kampfschwimmer dials can also be found on their fake dials. Just compare the Rs and you are good.
Some of Rinaldis fake dials feature a bluish tint, depending on the angle and the light. The following picture shows the famous 6152 with E. Milanesi engravings on the caseback. Check the Rs! This dial appeared for the first time in a 3646 and was later transferred to said 6152.
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