Vintage Panerai 2533 “Frankenstein”

The famous vintage Panerai 2533 with elusive Baton markers sandwich dial is considered to be one of the earliest, if not THE earliest Radiomir ever made. This watch was always in Francesco Ferretti’s collection and never changed hands, probably due to a very high price tag.

To pay tribute to this historical watch, the modern Panerai company released two Special Editions, the PAM 373 Platinum in 2011 and the PAM 449 in 2012. There is also a regular model named PAM 425.

After years of thorough investigation, I can say with 100% certainty that this 2533 is a Frankenstein, a watch pieced together with parts from different production periods. The dial – the most intriguing part of this watch – was made in the late 1950s. Movement and movement retaining ring are from a 3646 Kampfschwimmer from 1944. The middle case appears to be from a later 3646 as well. The only part that really came from a 2533 is the caseback.

The modern Panerai refers to the Baton markers sandwich dial as SLC or Mysterious dial. In their catalogue, Panerai mentions a second 2533 with Baton dial and small seconds at 9 o’clock. The whereabouts of said watch are unknown but the piece in question is without a shadow of a doubt a Rinaldi fake.

Rolex Panerai 2533 with Baton Sandwich Dial, 116272

The 2533 with Baton markers sandwich dial was always a mystery. Francesco Ferretti, the only known owner of the watch, complained on several occasions that nobody was giving it the appreciation it deserved. In Feb. 2011, right after the release of the PAM 373 at the SIHH, Mr. Ferretti made the following statement on the Paneristi forum:

Mi sembra strano che molti intenditori che scrivono degli orologi Panerai non hanno mai parlato del Panerai ref. 2533 eppure lo hanno visto nel mio negozio ed anche al mio polso non una ma tante volte. Ma lasciamo perdere, ogni persona è libera di pensare ciò che vuole.

Translation: I find it strange that many experts who write about Panerai watches never talked about the Panerai Ref. 2533 yet they have seen it in my store and also on my wrist, not one but many times. Nevermind, every person is free to think what they want.

Direct link: Panerai Ref. 2533 (

Ferretti was probably upset because Ehlers & Wiegmann did not mention his 2533 in their Vintage Panerai – The References book that came out in 2009. To create that book, the German authors took over the entire collection of a Spanish collector. Most of these watches originated from Ferretti and some of them turned out to be questionable to say the least. Famous is the 6152 with bluish tinted dial which the authors praised as one of the most important vintage Panerais in their database. A thorough Perezcope investigation revealed the blue dial was fake and located the original dial after more than 20 years.

Anyway, Ferretti continued in his statement:

Per le persone interessate a sapere la storia della referenza 2533, posso dire che è la primissima versione di Panerai fatta in pochissimi esemplari di cui molti hanno fatto una brutta fine in quanto la loro impermeabilità era abbastanza problematica. Rilevando tutto quello che la Vedova Panerai aveva nellufficio del marito , chiuso alla sua morte e più riaperto , ho avuto la conferma ufficiale che detta referenza è stata fatturata a Panerai il 13 Giugno 1936 in 19 esemplari ed ho anche la conferma che non molto tempo dopo già 3 esemplari sono stati inviati in assistenza e sono tornati senza nessuna spesa.

Translation: For people interested in knowing the history of Ref. 2533, I can say it is the first Panerai version made in very few examples, of which many ended up badly due to their problematic water resistance. When I took over everything that the Panerai widow had in her husband’s office, which was locked at his death and then reopened, I obtained official confirmation that Panerai was invoiced on June 13, 1936 for 19 pieces of said reference and I also have confirmation that not long after, 3 pieces were sent back for repair and returned at no cost.

In 2010, Ferretti offered Signora Maria Teresa Panerai EUR 150,000 (according to other sources EUR 30,000) to allow him to take whatever he saw fit from Giuseppe Panerai’s office. Maria agreed to the deal and Ferretti got access to a realm that had remained untouched since Giuseppe’s passing in Feb. 1972. Ferretti must have felt like a little boy. He found a variety of ingenious calculating devices for naval applications, instruments, lamps, clocks, technical drawings and of course lots of documents. While going through these documents, Ferretti struck gold when he discovered three Rolex invoices from the 1930s related to Ref. 2533. Ferretti owned two 2533 which were mostly ignored by Panerai enthusiasts and this was the official confirmation he was desperately waiting for.

To understand the beginnings of so-called Panerai watches it is crucial to have a closer look at those documents but before that it is important to know why these watches became necessary in the first place.

In early Sept. 1935, the British Home Fleet entered the Mediterranean Sea to intimidate Mussolini who was expected to invade Ethiopia. Fully aware the Italian fleet had little to oppose the mighty British Royal Navy, the Italians started developing ingenious methods of asymmetric warfare such as the explosive boats or the manned torpedoes (SLC/Maiale).


The inventors of the famous Maiale, Elios Toschi and Teseo Tesei, began working on the first prototype in late Sept. 1935. After one month, the craft was ready but it was not until Jan. 1936 that testing began. Italy invaded and occupied Ethiopia on Oct. 3, 1935.

Rolex Invoice from Oct. 24, 1935

The picture below shows a Rolex invoice which states that one Ref. 2533 watch was sent to the Orologeria Svizzera on Oct. 24, 1935. This invoice is not part of the three documents discovered by Ferretti despite the fact it was located in the same pile of papers. It appears Ferretti missed this one. He left it – among other things he deemed worthless – in Giuseppe Panerai’s office. Years later, Loris Pasetto, the author of the book Panerai – Una Storia Italiana, found this invoice while doing research for his book.


Reference: 2533, Quantité: 1, Montre poignet 9 ct. Oyster cambrée, mouvement 17 Rubis, 16 3/4″ cadran argté. squelette

Translation: Reference: 2533, Quantity: 1, Wrist watch 9 ct. Oyster curved, movement 17 Jewels, 16 3/4″ (Ligne), silver dial, skeleton (hands)

With its 9 carat gold case, this watch was not a tool watch in the classical sense. According to the invoice, the watch featured a silver dial and skeletonized hands. The movement is described as 16 3/4″ (Ligne).

This invoice is addressed to Orologeria Svizzera, Guido Panerai e Figlio. The Panerai family had two businesses. Orologeria Svizzera (Swiss Horology) was a watch shop and repair center at the Piazza San Giovanni in the heart of Florence. The shop belonged to a parent company named Guido Panerai e Figlio or G. Panerai e Figlio, a precision workshop established by Guido Panerai together with his son Giuseppe in 1925 at the Piazza Galileo Ferraris.

G. Panerai e Figlio manufactured torpedo aiming devices and all sorts of instruments for the Royal Italian Navy (Regia Marina). At the same time, the Navy acquired marine chronometers, chronographs, etc. from G. Panerai e Figlio’s watch shop, Orologeria Svizzera. When the Navy realized they needed an adequate timepiece for their underwater units, they naturally approached Panerai.

The picture below shows the Orologeria Svizzera shop in 1936. The shop was an official retailer for Vacheron & Constantin, Rolex, Longines, Buren and Angelus.


Ref. 2533 was depicted in a Rolex catalogue from 1935. It can be assumed it was here where Giuseppe Panerai saw the oversized watch for the first time and instictively decided to order one for said tests. Ref. 2533 is in the upper right corner of the catalogue and looks enormous compared to the other wrist watches.


The close-up below shows Ref. 2533 depicted in said catalogue.


It appears this watch was made in extremely small numbers cause not a single piece has ever surfaced. Rumour has it that one example is stored in the Rolex archives in Geneva.

Ref. 2533 was basically an Oyster pocket watch from 1926 which was modified to be worn on the wrist.


The cushion case with wire lugs was a typical Rolex Oyster feature since 1926. The next picture shows an early Rolex Oyster, the first water and dust proof watch ever made.


It is important to note that Ref. 2533 was an outdated design when it was released in 1935. Rolex introduced a completely redesigned Oyster case featuring solid lugs carved out of the same block of steel as the case already in 1931. This type of watches were later nicknamed Rolex Bubbleback.

At this point it is time to take a look at the three Rolex invoices found by Ferretti in chronological order. The first one is a direct follow up to the invoice discussed above.

Rolex Invoice from June 13, 1936

After successfully testing the Rolex Oyster 2533 in 9 ct gold, the Royal Italian Navy placed an order for 19 pieces of Ref. 2533 in stainless steel. Rolex sent these watches to Florence on June 13, 1936.


Reference: 2533, Quantité: 19, 16 3/4″ Oyster acier, forme cambrée, grandes anses plates
Nous soussignés déclarons que la marchandise ci-dessus est de fabrication suisse et que la valeur indiquée correspond au montant dans nos livres.

Translation: Reference: 2533, Quantity: 19, 16 3/4″ Oyster steel, curved shape, big flat lugs.
We the undersigned, declare that the above goods are of Swiss production and that the value indicated corresponds to the amount in our books.

16 3/4″ (Ligne) refers to the movement. It becomes evident that the movement used in these early watches was not the typical Cortebert 618 with a diameter of 16 Ligne but most certainly a Montilier 663 which was already used in Oyster gold pocket watches.

The image below shows a Montilier 663 found in Ferretti’s second 2533. These were highly elaborated Extra Prima movements of the highest grade featuring screwed chatons, swan neck micro regulators and Breguet overcoil hairsprings.


This invoice is an important historical document that once again shows in all clearity who the producer of so-called Panerai watches was and what the watches were: Oyster watches. It also specifies that Rolex delivered complete watches and not just movements as often claimed. An interesting point is the mentioning of big flat lugs. Did the earliest stainless steel models not have the typical wire lugs?

Rolex Invoice from November 20, 1937

The next invoice related to Ref. 2533 is from November 20, 1937. It states that three defective specimen from the first batch were returned to Rolex on July 27, 1936. The watches were rendered water resistant and reshipped to Florence in perfect condition.


O/ lettre du 27.7.1936
Référence: 2533, Quantité: 3, montres pr. scaphandriers Oyster spéciales, a/ bracelets cuir, retournées en parfait état, rendues étanches
(Valeur de ces 3 montres: 652.50)
Nous certifions que la marchandise facturée ci-dessus est de fabrication suisse et que la valeur indiquée est conforme au montant de nos livres.

Translation: Subject: Letter from July 27, 1936
Reference: 2533, Quantity: 3, watches for divers Oyster special with leather straps, returned in perfect condition, rendered waterproof
We certify that the above invoiced goods are of Swiss production and the indicated value is in conformity with the amount in our books.

It is interesting to note it took more than a year for the three watches to be sent back to Florence. There is a simple explanation for this. There was no hurry. The Ethiopian campaign ended in late spring 1936 and the international situation improved. A war at sea seemed unlikely. In consequence, the Maiale program was suspended and almost forgotten.

This invoice gives us perfect insight into Rolex Oyster case numbers used in 1936. The three defective 2533s had the following case numbers: 72280, 72284 and 72285.

There is an important statement in this invoice that is worth mentioning even though it is not related to Ref. 2533. Related to Ref. 962, Rolex stated:

Remis en état selon vos instructions

Translation: Refurbished according to your instructions

Rolex explicitly mentioned when something was done according to special instructions. If the first Ref. 2533 was indeed designed by Panerai, Rolex would definitely have stated so.

Rolex Invoice March 7, 1939

Ferretti’s third invoice related to Ref. 2533 is dated March 7, 1939 and states that a second batch of Ref. 2533 in stainless steel consisting of 15 pieces was delivered to G. Panerai e Figlio in Florence.


Reference: 2533, Quantity: 15, Oyster acier spéciales pour scaphandriers, (cadrans fournis par la Maison PANERAJ), sans cuirs, ni écrins
Nous certifions que la marchandise facturée ci-dessus est de fabrication suisse et que la valeur indiquée est conforme au montant de nos livres.

Translation: Reference: 2533, Quantity: 15, Oyster steel special for divers (dials provided by the house PANERAJ) [Sic], without leather, nor boxes
We certify that the above invoiced goods are of Swiss production and the indicated value is in conformity with the amount in our books.

This invoice is very revealing in several aspects. First, the watches are described as special Oyster watches for divers. Secondly, the invoice specifies the second batch was equipped with dials provided by Panerai. It can be assumed that Panerai, or a third party that produced the dials for Panerai, sent the dials to Rolex for final assembly. As a matter of fact, early Panerai dials bear a Zelime Jacot stamp on their base plates. Zelime Jacot was a famous Swiss dial manufacturer and still exists today under the name Cadrans Flückiger SA.

It is interesting that the dials provided by Panerai are explicitely mentioned in this invoice but not in the earlier one. It can therefore be assumed that the first 2533 batch was equipped with Rolex dials.

The order of a second batch of Ref. 2533 watches comes as no surprise. In late 1938, the international situation deteriorated rapidly. A new war was on the horizon. The secret Maiale program was revived and this time the Navy was serious about it.

To conclude with Ferretti’s post on the Paneristi forum. He continued:

Attualmente io ho 2 esemplari di 2533, quello che ritengo il primo prodotto con quadrante particolare ed il secondo con quadrante classico Radiomir ma con meccanica diversa e che fu consegnato al comandante Giorgini Mario che fu capo missione del sommergibile Gondar che dopo lauto affondamento del sommergibile, per non far scoprire gli SLC (maiali) che erano nei loro contenitori fu fatto prigioniero ed inviato a Bombay in prigionia.

Translation: Currently I have 2 examples of the 2533, one which I consider to be the first ever made with special dial and the second with classic Radiomir dial but with a different movement which was given to Commander Giorgini Mario who was the mission chief of the submarine Gondar. Giorgini, who scuttled the submarine to prevent the British from discovering the SLCs in their containers, was taken prisoner and sent for imprisonment to Bombay (India).

Ferretti owned two 2533. 116272 with Baton dial and 116275 with aluminium sandwich dial. According to Ferretti, the latter belonged to Commander Mario Giorgini.


Francesco Ferretti passed away in Nov. 2018 and left his entire watch collection and his awesome Panerai museum in Montecatini Terme to his son Esiodo Ferretti.

Apparently, there is a third example of Ref. 2533 which is mentioned in Ehlers & Wiegmann’s Vintage Panerai – The References from 2016.

Now that we have established a basic understanding as to why, how and by whom so-called Panerai watches were created, it is time to take a closer look at the 2533 with Baton markers dial belonging to the famous Ferretti collection.

Rolex Panerai 2533, Baton sandwich dial, 116272

The famous 2533 with Baton dial and case number 116272 made its first public appearance at an Antiquorum auction in April 1999. Lot 247 was described as a prototype of one of the first versions of diver wrist watches produced by Officine Panerai for the Italian Navy.


The consignor of this watch was Francesco Ferretti. In Oct. 2005, Ferretti talked about this fact on

Io lo misi in vendita da Antiquorum ma non fu venduto pertanto è rimasto di mia proprietà.

Translation: I put the watch on sale at Antiquorum but it did not sell and remained in my possession.

Direct link: Occasione persa – Lost opportunity (

The Middle Case

The picture provided by Antiquorum is very revealing. A direct comparison with the watch in the current condition shows that in 1999 the watch had a different middle case.


The 1999 middle case had considerably thicker wire lugs and the geometry was slightly different. In 1999, the watch had a common onion screw-down crown (Rolex No. 11) whereas the current watch has a Rolex No. 13.

The Radiomir Panerai engravings on the dial appear to be different too at first glance (thicker AI) but maybe this is due to bad photo post production. Stains in the O of Radiomir and the E of Panerai match perfectly.

The Movement

The Rolex invoice from June 1936 for the first 2533 batch stated the movement diameter of 16 3/4 Ligne. Since 116272 is a Rolex case number from 1939, it can be assumed this watch belonged to the second batch consisting of 15 pieces. The Rolex invoice for the second batch does not mention the movement size. It is unclear what kind of movement these watches are supposed to have.

In its current condition, 116272 has a Rolex 618 with 17 jewels made by Cortebert. This caliber has a diameter of 16 ligne.


A closer look at the Rolex engravings reveals yet another interesting pecularity. This type of movement was used exclusively in so-called Kampfschwimmer watches from 1944.

Let me elaborate. The picture below shows a comparison between the Cortebert 616 (left) and a Cortebert-made Rolex 618. Both movements are from around 1933.


The Rolex engravings on this Rolex 618 from 1933 have a distinctive feature. The Rolex inscription is not straight, it follows the upper curve of the train gear bridge.

The very same can be observed on Rolex 618s installed in the earliest versions of Ref. 3646 from 1940 until 1943 (Type A, B & C).

The next picture shows a comparison between such an early Rolex 618 (Type 1a) and a Rolex 618 from 1944 (Type 1b/c) used in so-called Kampfschwimmer watches. The engravings on the latter are absolutely straight.


Another difference is the Fab. Suisse inscription. The engravings on Kampfschwimmer watches are not only larger, the typeface is different too. The difference can be best seen in the letter A with a flat top vs. pointy top.


Here is the movement of 116272 again. The letter A in Fab. Suisse (1) has a flat top and the Rolex engravings are absolutely straight. This is without the shadow of a doubt a movement from a Kampfschwimmer 3646.


The Movement Retaining Ring

The following picture is from the book Panerai – Una Storia Italiana and shows the movement retaining ring of 116272 with its distinctive silver colour.


Here is an exploded view of the 2533 in question. The colour of the movement ring is definitely silverish. This is another part that clearly came from a 3646 Kampfschwimmer and here s why.


Early 3646s and even Ferretti’s other 2533 (see picture above) were equipped with raw brass rings.


The last batches of Ref. 3646 made for German Kampfschwimmers (Type D, E, F & G) on the other hand, were delivered with either plated rings or rings made from a different material. The colour of these later rings is almost silver.


The next picture shows the difference very clearly (left: 3646 Type D, 260554 “Köneke”, right: 3646 Type C, 1010279).


Surprised? Wait until you see the final assessment. Let us recap what we have found so far:

  1. Middle case replaced after the 1999 Antiquorum auction
  2. Movement from a 1944 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer
  3. Movement retaining ring from a 1944 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer

Coming back to the middle case, as we have learned, 116272 had this part replaced after the 1999 Antiquorum auction. Why Ferretti replaced the case is unknown.

The following picture shows the current middle case of 116272 almost in full profile view. The lower curve of the case appears to be identical to the upper curve. This seems strange as only the final 3646 batches (Type D, E, F & G) for Kampfschwimmers had absolutely symmetrical middle cases.


The comparison below shows a typical early 3646 middle case (Type A, B & C) next to a 3646 Type D middle case. Early cases were almost flat at the bottom and featured long wire lugs whereas later cases had an absolutely symmetric profile and short lugs.


Taking all of the above into consideration, it is highly likely that the current middle case of 116272 is actually a case from a 3646 Type D made for German Kampfschwimmers.

If true, the only part actually belonging to a Ref. 2533 watch would be the caseback.

The Caseback/s

116272 comes with two Ref. 2533 casebacks. A regular caseback and display caseback. The regular caseback has the Rolex reference number and the case number stamped on the outside. This is typical for Rolex watches from the 1930s.

The display caseback bears a 2533 reference stamp (red circle). To make this see-through window, they most certainly took a regular 2533 caseback and removed the inner area (dashed line). It is unknown which case number was stamped.


The inside of the regular caseback bears Oyster Watch Co. stamps which were typical Rolex stamps for that period of time. Oyster Watch Co. was a Rolex sub-brand.


The OFFICINE PANERAI – BREVETTATO engravings on the display caseback were applied with a pantograph. G. Panerai e Figlio started only in the 1950s to use the word combination Officine Panerai with the introduction of a new generation of compasses (GPF 4/55, 1955) and depth gauges. Officine is Italian for workshops. In 1956, Panerai used the similar engravings for the famous GPF 2/56.


The modern Panerai company manipulated a historical photo of the Orologeria Svizzera to trick their cusomers into believing the name Officine Panerai was already used in the late 1920s.


Casebacks with see-through window and OFFICINE PANERAI – BREVETTATO engravings  were introduced in the mid 1960s to exhibit the new Angelus 240 8-day movements in around 60 modified Ref. 3646 and Ref. 6152/1 watches. These watches were created for the sole purpose of promoting Panerai’s new tritium-based luminous compound Luminor when presented to the Marina Militare.

Read more: Modified Panerai 3646 with solid lugs

The inspiration for the OFFICINE PANERAI – BREVETTATO engravings on display casebacks for watches came from Panerai torches developed in 1956.


The mysterious Baton dial

The dial of 116272 is clearly an aluminium sandwich dial. This is interesting as according to latest research, aluminium sandwich dials were only introduced in 1942. The earliest dials found on Ref. 3646 are so-called riveted plastic dials or plastic sandwich dials.

Their construction consisted of two plexi layers mounted on a brass dial plate. The whole Sandwich was held together by two rivets.


Around 20 Ref. 3646 watches of Type A, B & C featuring this type of dial are known today. Most of the dials were found heavily warped. The reason for the extreme warping is not perfectly clear. It could be due to high radioactive emissions of radium lume or due to external heat, e.g. the sun.


Some of these dials have Swiss dial maker stamps on their brass backplates, leading to the conclusion that at least parts of them were made by third parties.

Read more: Vintage Panerai Dials

The next picture shows a riveted plastic dial of the second generation that is curently under restoration. Both plastic layers warped to such extent that the hands could no longer move freely, thus compromising the functioning of the whole watch.


For some reason, the modern Panerai company never acknowledged these dials but they undoubtedly exist and were found on untouched watches belonging to famous Gruppo Gamma frogmen like Luigi Ferraro.

Aluminium sandwich dials are clearly an evolution of riveted plastic dials. They were developed to overcome the issues posed by warping. It is highly unlikely that Panerai developed the aluminium sandwich dials first, then moved on to riveted plastic dials only to go back to aluminium sandwich dials.

An aluminium sandwich dial in a 2533 makes no sense, neither on case number 116272 nor on Ferretti’s second 2533 with case number 116275.

The Baton dial is certainly an interesting design. The question is, when was it developed?

To assess the production date of aluminium sandwich dials, it is important to know the difference between dials made in the 1940s and dials made in the 1950/60s. There is a very simple way to find out.

In 1940s dials, the luminous compound was located behind a thick layer of plastic deep inside the dial (check the distance of the shadow). On 1950/60s dials, the lume was placed directly underneath the perforated aluminium disc. Can you see the difference?


The cross-section below specifies the differences in construction between dials from 1940s and 1950s.


Let us see where the lume is located on the mysterious SLC dial. Remember this picture?


To me, this dial always looked like a 1950s dial. But do not take my word for it. Let us compare it to a typical 1950s dial.

See, the lume on the Baton dial is right underneath the perforated disc, just like on a typical 1950s dial.


The 12 o’clock marker of the Baton dial leads to the same assessment.


I have zero doubts the Baton dial was made in the 1950s. To be absolutely transparent, I noticed this long time ago and I spoke to Francesco Ferretti on several occasions about my findings. Ferretti never tried to contradict my findings, instead he assured me he found the 2533 with Baton dial in this very condition at the old Panerai premises. In the early 1990s, Officine Panerai moved to Cascine del Riccio in the outskirts of Florence. To make the relocation as efficient as possible, Panerai invited “scrap dealer” Ferretti and asked him to collect the old stuff from the workshop.


I 2 Ref. 2533 che ho uno (quello della foto che mi hai inviato) lo ho trovato nella officina Panerai che rilevai con tutto il materiale e i macchinari che non erano piu a norma nel 90 quando si spostarono da Firenze alle Cascine del Riccio…

Translation: Of the two Ref. 2533 I own, one (the one in the photo you sent me) I found in the Panerai workshop when I collected all the material and machinery that was no longer up to standard in the 1990s when they moved from Florence to Cascine del Riccio…

To have absolute certainty, I asked Ferretti to remove the Baton dial from the watch and make pictures of its back. The backplate of aluminium sandwich dials differs depending on their production period.

The comparison below shows the difference between a 1940s dial and a dial made in the 1950/60s. On 1940s dials, the backplate is raw brass whereas the backplate of 1950/60s dials was plated.


Ferretti refused to disclose the back of the Baton dial which to me was a clear sign I was right. A view of the backplate would be the ultimate confirmation but the level in which the lume is located within the dial is proof enough.

Time for a new recap:

  1. Middle case replaced after the 1999 Antiquorum auction
  2. Movement from a 1944 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer
  3. Movement retaining ring from a 1944 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer
  4. Middle case probably from a 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer
  5. 1950s Baton aluminium sandwich dial

Every single point on this list is worrying on its own. All points together are fatal and make this watch the ultimate Frankenstein.

Modern PAM 373, 449, 425

In 2011, the modern Panerai gave legitimacy to Ferretti’s 2533 by releasing a tribute in form of the PAM 373 SE Platinum. With the PAM 449 SE depicted in the picture below, Panerai relased a 1:1 stainless steel replica in 2012.


There is also a regular edition which Panerai calls PAM 425. In their current 2018 – 2019 catalogue they state the following.


In Officine Panerai’s history, there is a very rare and mysterious version of the Radiomir of which only two examples are known, dating from the late 1930s. What made them so unique is their dial design: a minimalist arrangement with bar hour markers at the cardinal points – double at 12 o’clock and single at 3, 6 and 9 – and dots markers between them, instead of the large numerals at te cardinal points of the typical Panerai dial. The origin of this dial is not easily reconstructed. According to some historians, the two remaining examples – of which one has the small seconds indicator – were perhaps trial prototypes, probably not followed by actual production. The loss of most of the Panerai archives in the Florence flood in 1966 does not allow this question to be precisely resolved. Panerai named this mysterious dial the S.L.C.

This paragraph contains several false statements that need to be clarified. As we have learned, the so-called SLC dial was NOT made in the late 1930s but in the 1950s. The second 2533 with small seconds indicator the modern Panerai is referring to, is a counterfeit made by the notorious Rinaldi family. Another unsubstantiated claim is the fairy tale that most of the Panerai archives were lost in the Florence flood in 1966.

Fake Rinaldi 2533 with Baton Dial and Small Seconds Indicator

Let us first have a look at the second 2533 mentioned by the modern Panerai. This watch appeared for the first time in Jan. 2004 on the infamous Garibaldi – Ship of Fools. All watches exhibited on that ship belonged to Luciano Rinaldi and his son Samuele. After a forensic in-depth analysis, many of the watches exhibited on the Garibaldi turned out to be fake or completely made up (see crossed out).


Read more: The Garibaldi Chronoicles – Part One

The 2533 with Baton dial and small seconds at 9 o’clock was presented in all details in Mario Paci’s book Panerai Watches from 1936 to 1997. Mario Paci was an Officine Panerai SpA employee and responsible for the QC (quality control) of all Pre Vendôme watches.

Many of the pieces presented in Paci’s book are Rinaldi fakes. Paci claims he was tricked by Rinaldi but some of the watches are so obviously fake, it is inexplicable how he was deceived.

Anyway, Rinaldi’s “2533” with Baton dial and small seconds at 9 o’clock is a total fake. It does not take much of an expert to understand this. As a matter of fact, the watch was called out on several occasions. Therefore it is even more worrying the modern Panerai company validated this watch by mentioning it in their catalogue.

The Baton dial with subdial is totally unbalanced and the engravings are off. A 9 o’clock hour marker is completely missing, making this dial look strange to say the least.


The subdial and the small seconds hand are basically the same as on modified Ref. 3646 and Ref. 6152/1 with Angelus 240 movements from the mid 1960s. Also, heat blued hands are not much of a match with the golden small seconds hand.

The next picture compares the Radiomir engravings. Fake Rinaldi dials are easy to spot. The engravings are always off. On original dials, the last R in Radiomir is slighlty shorter than the first R and the R in Panerai. Rinaldi did not catch this detail and used the same R everywhere.


The very same mistake can be found on other fake Rinaldi dials as well.


Rinaldi made the same error on fake Luminor dials as well.


The movement of this “2533” was extracted from a Rolex pocket watch. Mario Paci described this movement as Rolex 618 but in reality it is either a 622 or 626. Both calibers are considerably thinner than Cal. 618.


The picture below shows a Rolex pocket watch with a very similar movement.


Luciano Rinaldi was a core member of the Italian Club Panerai. He regularly attented the annual meeting in Viareggio to showcase his latest fakes to the international audience. According to old school Paneristis, club president Piero Lapiana was/is involved in the scam and took a 15% facilitator fee for every deal sealed during the event. Lapiana denies this, claiming it is a false accusation.

Luciano Rinaldi (left) and Piero Lapiana were very close as you tell from the image below taken during an event in Florence.


After the latest meeting in May 2019, Piero Lapiana promoted another of Rinaldi’s fake watches on his Instagram account. Even after being told the watch was fake, Lapiana kept the pictures on (see post May 20).

As a matter of fact, an important Asian American collector was sold a complete fake watch during one of the events. This and the above are the reasons why old school Paneristis stay away. In addition, the meetings are frequented by a number of other known scammers.

The next picture shows Rinaldi’s fake 2533 on a table shot made during the 2007 Club Panerai meeting.


As mentioned earlier, it was no secret that Rinaldi’s 2533 is fake. When asked for info on this model, the famous Paneristi named Asi replied:

That is a picture of a fake vintage watch.

Read more: Could someone give me info on this model? (

Remember when Ferretti complained about the lack of appreciation of his 2533 in Feb. 2011? In the same breath, Ferretti also mentioned Rinaldi’s fake 2533:

Attualmente non so se altri esemplari sono sopravvissuti, e comunque non ho mai visto versioni originali con meccanica Rolex con secondi, né con ref. 2533 né con ref. 3646. Tutti i Vintage Panerai ormai hanno dei prezzi molto alti ,dato che sono molto rari, e non mi stupisco che ci siano persone fantasiose interessate a lauti guadagni con poca spesa.

Translation: At this moment I don’t know if other examples have survived, in any case I have never seen original examples featuring Rolex movements with small seconds, neither on Ref. 2533 nor on Ref. 3646. All vintage Panerais have reached very high prices, since they are very rare, and I am not surprised that there are very imaginative people interested in big profits with little expense.

Panerai archives destroyed in the 1966 Flood of Florence

The modern Panerai company blames the devastating flood from 1966 for the lack of information available about the original Panerai company.

The loss of most of the Panerai archives in the Florence flood in 1966 does not allow this question to be precisely resolved.

The Rolex invoices published in this article prove that crucial documents survived the flood unharmed. Why is that? Well, the waters never reached the higher grounds where the Panerai headquarter (Villino Panerai) was located. Only the Orologeria Svizzera suffered damages caused by the flood. The water levels at the Piazza San Giovanni where the watch shop was located reached around 1.6 metres. The ground floor of the Orologeria Svizzera was undoubtedly flooded and everything in it was probably lost but the shop administration was not on the ground floor, it was located on the second floor.

The following map is an official document that shows which levels were reached in which areas of Florence. As you can see, the flood never reached the Panerai headquarter at the Piazza Galileo Ferraris.


The following historical picture from 1966 shows the level reached around the Piazza San Giovanni where the Orologeria Svizzera was located. The building on the left hand side is the famous Baptistery of Saint John.


By comparing this picture with a current close-up of the baptistery, it is easy to determine how high the water level was.


It is unknown where the claim, that most of the Panerai archives were lost in the flood originates from. It is possible that this was the official story line told by the Officine Panerai SpA management to explain why so little documents were included in the deal.

The story I heard is, the company burned the old archives when they moved to the outskirts of Florence in the early 1990s. It was also during this time that the management invited Ferretti to come and take all of the old stuff from the warehouse. The goal was to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff and move as little as possible.

The Inspiration for the Baton dial

To conclude it would be interesting to know where the inspiration for the Baton dial originates from. The next picture shows the Orologeria Svizzera in 1936. As you can see, the shop was an official retailer of Vacheron & Constantin. Note that the Vacheron & Constantin logo actually is the largest on the shop window.


Read more: Orologeria Svizzera – The Watch Shop

The picture below shows a Vacheron & Constantin Ref. 296 with a dial that has an uncanny resemblance with Panerai’s Baton dial. This Vacheron & Constantin watch is from the late 1930s. As we have learned, Panerai’s Baton dial was made in the 1950s.

I don’t think this is a coincidence. It can be assumed Panerai was inspired by this design.

Picture courtesy of Vacheron Constantin. All rights reserved.


Incredible, is is not?


Interviews with former ComSubIn frogmen revealed that Panerai dials were extremely luminous. During night excercises, frogmen had to cover their watches and instruments with cloth or mud to avoid being discovered from the surface. This could be the reason for the existence of this type of dial. With considerably less luminous material, the Baton dial was a stealth version of the usual 3-6-9-12 dials.

There is a second “Radiomir” with what appears to be an original Radiomir Baton dial. It is a 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer with case number 260600 (right). Interestingly, this watch also belonged to Ferretti.


260600 was auctioned by Christie’s in May 2007. The Baton dial installed in this watch has the same construction as the one installed in 116272. It is certainly not original to a 3646 Type D Kampfschwimmer.

Direct link: Rolex made for Officine Panerai (Christie’s)

The Baton dial exists also in a Luminor version. It was found in a modified 6152/1 with crown-protecting device which apparently belonged to an Italian Admiral.


I believe the Radiomir Baton dial was originally developed in the late 1950s to create a stealthy version of the 6152/1. For some reason, the dial was not satifactory and only few examples were made.

The picture below shows how the original watch probably looked like. Surprised to see a Radiomir dial in a so-called Luminor?


Luminor was a tritium-based luminous compound which was introduced in the mid 1960s to replace highly radioactive Radiomir dials (radium-based). All watches delivered prior to the mid 1960s had Radiomir dials.

The following picture was part of G. Panerai e Figlio’s original photo archive and proves unequivocally the first 6152/1s with crown-protecting device had indeed Radiomir dials.


The so-called Luminor case is a modern Panerai oversimplification to differentiate between watches with screw-down crown and watches with crown-protecting device.


Isn’t it amazing what a thorough investigation can bring to light? A watch, fully validated with a series of modern tributes as one of the earliest – if not THE earliest Panerai – turns out to be a complete fabrication, pieced together from parts found at the old Panerai premises.

The present case shows once again what Panerai – unfortunately – is all about: Made-up stories and blatant exaggerations to pass a simple precision workshop specialized in naval instruments and devices as a watch manufacturer. Panerai was never a watch manufacturer, at least not until 1956 when they developed and produced the GPF 2/56 with Angelus 240 8-day movements provided by the Swiss company Stolz Frères SA. The question is, are around 50 produced watches enough to be considered a watch manufacturer?

The Rolex invoices published in this article are of crucial importance to understand how everything came about. The Orologeria Svizzera was a Rolex retailer. Period. Panerai had nothing to do with the development of the 2533 and 3646 respectively. The Rolex catalogue from 1935 proves unequivocally the 2533 already existed. If the first 2533 was built on Panerai’s initiave, the Rolex invoice would definitely state so.

In preparation of war, Mussolini put a policy in place that demanded the whole of Italy and the armed forces in particular to become autarkic, completely independant from foreign countries. This might explain why it became necessary to pretend the watches were an Italian product by installing Panerai signed dials. Else they would not have been accepted.

I am grateful to Mr. Ferretti for preserving these amazing historical documents. I dare not to imagine what would have happened if they fell into the hands of Richemont Panerai first. They probably would have disappeared forever.

Special thanks to Loris Pasetto & Luciano Cipullo for perfectly documenting Ferretti’s 2533 with Baton dial in their book Panerai – Una Storia Italiana and providing the pictures for this article.

The Panerai Time Machine

The Rolex 2533 started everything for Panerai. On my timeline, the Baton dial was always correctly depicted on a 6152/1 and located in the late 1950s. 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 and 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



  • Hi, please kindly advise how I may order a time line poster – if still available.

    Sincere Regards
    Phillip Fitzpatrick

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hey Perezcope. Once again a great article & thorough investigation! Could you please let me know how to order the time line poster as well? Many thanks in advance and keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Ciao Jose’
    come sempre articolo interessante , mah secondo me fino a un certo punto.

    Mi domando , se una persona compra una qualsiasi cosa da collezione o di interesse storico o quant’altro , che sia un orologio , un’auto , un’arma o quant’altro , una cosa che ha 30 anni o più , che ha avuto due tre proprietari o più , che ha subito danni vari , ed è stata riaggiustata con parti originali ma purtroppo di un periodo successivo , e o anche più piacevoli alla vista , oppure con pezzi di altri oggetti uguali che a loro volta hanno avuto danni diversi e quindi cannabilizzati per rendere funzionante e riutilibizzabile tale oggetto , quest’ultimo proprietario cosa si ritrova , un pugno di mosche in mano ?

    Il tutto per sottolineare che mio padre al 2533 che stai contestando , gli cambiò solo la corona di carica perché non si avvitava più e che in quel momento aveva solo quella che c’è montata tutt’ora e non ha più cambiato .

    Poi gli contesti anche la cassa , che la stai comparando con una foto ripresa da un catalogo del 1999 di Antiquorum , che a quel tempo gli strumenti per fare le foto e le stampe erano molto peggiori di ora e magari fatte con foto ritocco , visto che non aveva neppure la ghiera con il vetro in foto che come tu sai presenta una ghiacciata particolare .Senza considerare prospettiva luci e riflessi che possono falsare la realtà , di come si presenta dal vivo .

    Poi , per quanto riguarda il quadrante , come ti ho detto prima lui cambiò soltanto la corona di carica . Quando lo comprò aveva già quel quadrante montato e visto che aveva una grafica particolare , forse arrivò ad una conclusione affrettata , di considerarlo un quadrante prototipo , come era per la referenza in se , la 2533 , che fino a quel giorno era l’unico orologio con tale referenza a cui si era a conoscenza , avendo sempre trovato orologi con referenza 3646 . Molto probabilmente era nato con un quadrante in plastica rivettato , come hai menzionato te , però sostituito in un secondo tempo per lo stesso motivo che hai detto , ossia deformato e non più utilizzabile perché ne impediva il funzionamento di esso , oppure un quadrante California o altro . Comunque rimane sempre un quadrante prototipo forse non per il 2533 , ma questo è un’altro discorso , forse montato propio sul 2533 che presumibilmente essendo stato usato come prototipo campione , per far vedere e provare l’effetto visivo e magari anche in acqua ai diretti interessati della Marina , e rimasto tale perché non abbiamo trovato altri orologi con questo tipo di quadrante , magari era destinato ai modelli successivi ma non adottato . Anche il secondo 2533 che mio padre acquistò da un parente del Comandante Giorgini , come è attualmente era al momento dell’acquisto salvo averlo ripulito . Un’altra cosa da non trascurare come sai il 2533 di questa recensione ha anche un’altro fondo 2533 con matricola , mio padre avrebbe potuto montarlo su di un 3646 , così sarebbero stati 3 2533 e non 2 , che per la rarità avrebbe avuto anche più valore , ma mio padre non ha mai fatto ciò .

    Detto ciò continua pure con le tue ricerche che risultano interessanti , ma prima di dire che un oggetto è falso perché non ha tutte le sue parti d’origine ma sostituite con parti sempre originali ma di un’altro periodo o più aggiornate , per i più vari motivi , io mi soffermerei nel dire , come dicono al giorno d’oggi non è del tutto coevo ma ugualmente originale nelle sue parti , esagerando bisognerebbe essere grati a colui a riportato a miglior vita quel qualsiasi oggetto di interesse collezionistico o storico che sia . Purtroppo se un oggetto ha bisogno di un qualsiasi restauro a qualsiasi livello un fa come può . Una piccola parentesi , una volta un collezionista di auto rare che ci faceva anche le gare , un giornalista gli chiese visto che aveva fatto un incidente e aveva distrutto mezza auto , come mai quando fa queste gare non si ritiene e va un poco più piano per non rischiare di fare danni ingenti ad auto come quella che aveva urtato , visto che non si trovavano più i pezzi di ricambio . Lui gli rispose che con i soldi si trova tutto basta pagare e se non si trova c’è sempre chi li può rifare . Detto ciò per me un falso è quando una cosa è totalmente copiata di sana pianta come quelle che si trovano dai venditori ambulanti in spiaggia a poche decine di euro .

    Distinti saluti
    Esiodo Ferretti


    • Esiado,

      Please forgive my Italian translation here but I would like to respond to your thoughts. I believe what is at the heart of this issue is difficult for you to accept due to your relationship with your father. For better or worse the Panerai story has now passed far beyond the point of being merely a footnote and it is now an important part of horological and world history. These watches and their history belong to the ages and they take their place in the history books. For this simple fact it becomes extremely important that the truth is separated from any more legends or misunderstood facts that have grown through the years.

      To me the author is not saying that there is no possible way that a 2533 prototype existed or that your father didn’t at one point have this valuable piece of history at all. Even your argument supports the author by what you have described. You like your father feel that since the original dial was damaged then the best thing to do was to get a new dial from Panerai, fix it and then throw away the old one. Then that happened with one part after the other until the only piece left of the original watch is the case back. That is not how any museum would care for or restore any artifact.

      You say things like, “When the dial went bad he replaced it with a new one! How is that not what was best? It came from the original maker therefore all is the same!”

      That is like saying, “I have the Shroud of Turin that covered Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. Would you like see it, write about it or possibly buy this important piece of history?”

      Then when you pull it out someone says, “Hey the original shroud was covered in the blood of Christ. Why does this one have no stains and is covered in patches?”

      You respond, “Oh those parts of the shroud were ruined and gross so I cut out all the blood stains, went to the lady who made the shroud and purchased more fabric from her in a different design than the original shroud and then I patched it up with the authentic pieces from the original maker!! See good as new!!” Hopefully you see what I’m getting at here?

      When your father’s watches hit the auction block described as the oldest example of the first ever design, and people are looking at the pieces in that way, it borders on fraudulent. They look nothing like they once did. They were not preserved, restored or conserved in anyway. They were patched together with the closest spare parts your dad could find as long as they were made by the same manufacturer. Maybe there was an intent to deceive and profit and maybe there wasn’t. At worst your dad tried to trick someone or rewrite the story as he wanted to believe it. At the very best he was a horrible custodian of some very important historical artifacts that he destroyed out of ignorance. However you choose to look at it the watches in no way resemble whatever it was that Panerai built in those early years. Unfortunately that history is lost and we may never know what these watches were or if they were even what your father believed them to be. If they truly aren’t fakes it matters little because he destroyed them anyway. I am sorry to have to be so honest.


    • Esiado,

      Per favore, perdona la mia traduzione in italiano qui, ma vorrei rispondere ai tuoi pensieri. Credo che ciò che è al centro di questo problema sia difficile da accettare a causa della tua relazione con tuo padre. Nel bene e nel male la storia di Panerai è ormai passata ben oltre il punto di essere semplicemente una nota a piè di pagina ed è ora una parte importante della storia dell’orologeria e del mondo. Questi orologi e la loro storia appartengono ai secoli e prendono posto nei libri di storia. Per questo semplice fatto diventa estremamente importante che la verità sia separata da altre leggende o fatti incompresi che sono cresciuti negli anni.

      Per me l’autore non sta dicendo che non è possibile che esista un prototipo del 2533 o che tuo padre non abbia mai avuto questo prezioso pezzo di storia. Anche il tuo argomento supporta l’autore da ciò che hai descritto. A tuo padre piace che dal momento che il quadrante originale è stato danneggiato, la cosa migliore da fare è ottenere un nuovo quadrante da Panerai, ripararlo e poi buttare via quello vecchio. Quindi ciò è accaduto con una parte dopo l’altra fino a quando l’unico pezzo rimasto dell’orologio originale è la cassa. Non è così che nessun museo si preoccuperebbe o ripristinerebbe alcun artefatto.

      Dici cose del tipo: “Quando il quadrante è andato male lo ha sostituito con uno nuovo! Come mai non è stato il migliore? È venuto dal produttore originale, quindi è tutto uguale!”

      È come dire: “Ho la Sindone di Torino che ha coperto il corpo di Gesù dopo la crocifissione. Ti piacerebbe vederlo, scriverne o eventualmente acquistare questo importante pezzo di storia?”

      Quindi quando lo tiri fuori qualcuno dice: “Ehi, il sudario originale era coperto dal sangue di Cristo. Perché questo non ha macchie ed è coperto di macchie?”

      Tu rispondi: “Oh, quelle parti del sudario erano rovinate e grossolane, quindi ho tagliato tutte le macchie di sangue, sono andato dalla signora che ha realizzato il sudario e ho acquistato più tessuto da lei in un design diverso rispetto al sudario originale e poi l’ho patchato con i pezzi autentici del produttore originale !! Vedi come nuovo !! ” Spero che tu veda cosa sto arrivando qui?

      Quando gli orologi di tuo padre colpiscono il blocco dell’asta descritto come il più antico esempio del primo design in assoluto, e le persone guardano i pezzi in quel modo, confina con la frode. Non assomigliano per niente a una volta. Non furono comunque conservati, restaurati o conservati. Sono stati riparati insieme ai pezzi di ricambio più vicini che tuo padre ha potuto trovare fintanto che sono stati realizzati dallo stesso produttore. Forse c’era l’intenzione di ingannare e trarre profitto e forse no. Nel peggiore dei casi tuo padre ha cercato di ingannare qualcuno o riscrivere la storia come voleva crederci. Nella migliore delle ipotesi era un orribile custode di alcuni importanti manufatti storici che distrusse per ignoranza. Comunque decidi di guardarlo, gli orologi non assomigliano per nulla a ciò che Panerai costruì in quei primi anni. Sfortunatamente quella storia è andata perduta e potremmo non sapere mai cosa fossero questi orologi o se fossero anche quelli che tuo padre credeva fossero. Se davvero non sono falsi, importa poco perché li ha distrutti comunque. Mi dispiace dover essere così onesto.


  • so, does this mean that no one in the world knows the real looks of the first 2533 Panerai prototypes? or can we say the 3646 is Panerai very first watch?


Submit a comment

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s