Perezcope interviewed by the distinguished gentleman and collector Edmond Saran from Le Monde Edmond in January 2018
Perezcope featured on HODINKEE in August 2017
Perezcope featured on REVOLUTION.WATCH in May 2017
Perezcope – Vintage Panerai watches under the loupe was featured on aBlogtowatch in March 2016
Hello my fellow watch enthusiasts
You might have found my blog and its detailed views on certain Vintage Panerai watches quite interesting but perhaps you ask yourself what this is all about and what the motivation behind this project is.
It is quite simple, I have fallen in love with these watches long time ago.
After conducting an extensive research on vintage Panerai I started to notice that loads of watches had been manipulated in the past 15 years. This happened exactly in a time period when these watches became popular and their prices at auctions started to skyrocket. The true scale of manipulation remained in the dark for too long. The numbers of manipulated watches is alarming and is damaging the reputation and history of G. Panerai e Figlio in the long term.
When I was a child, my mother used to work part time and while she was away an Italian family looked after me. This is how I learned to speak Italian. I remember sitting on the Italian family’s window sill always browsing through Italian comics. One of those comics was about Italian frogman agents. I loved it!
Many years later in 1998, a colleague showed me a modern Panerai on the very first Panerai website. He told me about the history of the brand and that the watches have been originally worn by Italian frogmen during WW2. Kaboom, suddenly I was thrown back into my childhood (comics on the window sill- see picture here) and my interest for Panerai was immediately ignited. However, my first mechanical watch I bought in 1999 was a Breitling Navitimer Fighters.
In 2014, after a 17 year non-stop work period in digital advertising, I decided to take a one year sabbatical leave. I left Switzerland and rented a house on Koh Samui, Thailand. This is when I started to study vintage Panerai extensively.
Over the course of time I owned several modern Panerai models. My very first Panerai was a secondhand PAM 111 with sausage dial.
In 2011, I sold my old PAM 111 and replaced it with the new model with sandwich dial. Two years later I added the gorgeous PAM 372 to my collection, the closest you can get to the original Vintage Watches in my opinion.
Vintage Panerai watches were used by military forces under hardest conditions. We are not talking about a piece of jewelry. They underwent maintenance and repair. This is the reason why several watches have unmatching parts from other models or even from pocket watches, which had almost identical movements made by Cortebert. Efficiency was paramount, the watches had to fullfil their purpose as part of the equipment of military frogmen.
These watches are the result of a unique cooperation of two magnificent Companies and their outstanding directors. Hans Wildsdorf and Guido/Giuseppe Panerai. I believe there is a true history which needs to be protected and be told. And there is an fictional layer to it – invented myths – which have been pulled over the true history in order to sell as many Vintage watches as possible with a maximum profit.
Stages of manipulation
I was able to make out 3 different stages of manipuation.
This is the time when these watches used to be tools for military operations. In order to keep as many watches running as possible they had to undergo several times maintenance and repair. Parts had to be replaced which left behind a patchwork of different models on certain watches.
This happened during the 1980’s and early 1990’s when these watches were not very sought after and no longer used by the military forces. Owners would apply “Rolex” inscriptions to the dials or engrave “Rolex” on anonymous movements and case backs to make sure everybody understood they owned a Rolex watch. This is a natural part of their history.
This is the most devastating stage in terms of watch manipulation and history distortion. This stage starts when Panerai became popular after 1997 and prices at auctions were skyrocketing. The available information was very little back then. This vacuum created a fertile soil for all kinds of legends and myths. I believe several watch models and prototypes were invented by creative vendors with an undefined amount of parts at hands during this period until today. They did not hesitate to make up fictional stories and myths which made it more or less unreflected into Vintage Panerai literature.
Panerai is pure history
Richemont as owner and “curator” of the Panerai brand is not doing a great job either in my opinion. The 1940’s case for instance is something that actually never existed and yet it has become a milestone in their history timeline. This kind of cases were produced in 1953. Also the usage of Angelus 240 movement during WW2, as described in their catalogue, is pure fantasy. They keep insisting that Rolex only supplied movements to Panerai and in some interviews they even claim that Giuseppe Panerai himself designed Ref. 3646. I have seen Panerai exhibitions where patented Panerai instruments have been totally misdated. It is sad to see Richemont neglecting the history of G. Panerai e Figlio in such way.
By the end of 2012, I stumbled upon a forum where people build so-called homage watches which try to mimik the looks of original vintage Panerai watches. The builders use a combination of custom-made cases and dials combined with original movements. I was stunned to learn how much some of these guys knew about Panerai and about how to convert alarm clock movements. I was stupefied by their pursuit of perfection and by what is possible nowadays thanks to CNC machines, etc. Inspired by the dynamics of the forum, I tried to assemble two/three watches myself. I learned a lot in the process but the results were always disappointing.
However, to my total surprise, I discovered the same level of work and similarly converted movements in supposedly all-original pieces, which really freaked me out. Suddenly, I encountered a blurred line which I was not expecting to find.
Knowing how something is made is always an eye opener. It helps you to understand what you are looking at. There is a lot of insight gained through a deeper understanding of cause and effect. For instance, when you see an altered movement ring with recessed casing screws, you understand immediately that the movement inside this watch must be thinner than usual – since it is obviously sitting lower.
I studied architecture and industrial design in Switzerland. For more than 17 years, I have been working as an Art Director for digital communication. I am a very visual person with a good memory. This and my technical background are very helpful in this field.
Personally, the movement is the most interesting part of a watch. They were produced in batches and each batch has individual characteristics. Once you learn how to read a movement, it starts telling you a story.
All mechanisms used in vintage Panerai watches have their roots in the 1920s and 1930s. The companies which produced them, unfortunately, disappeared during the Quartz Crisis (Quartz Revolution) in the 1970s, and as a result, most information was lost. Retrieving all the necessary data is literally an archaeological act.
I cataloged hundreds of pocket watches and alarm clocks made by movement suppliers such as Cortebert, Angelus, and Montilier. I also purchased the most important pieces in order to carefully take them apart for an in-depth study and comparison. As a result, I created and shared visual timelines to show how these movements evolved over time.
Some movements used in vintage Panerai watches might be more elaborated and refined than their brothers found in pocket watches, but they are essentially the same and bear the same amount of Geneva stripes at the very same angle. This led me to believe that Rolex 618 calibers were completely manufactured by Cortebert without any contribution by Rolex Biel/Bienne (Ex Aegler).
I have built several data bases and collected countless data in order to better understand the surrounding companies which contributed to the production of these fantastic watches. Until today I have over 450 well documented Vintage Panerai watches in my data base. My view on Vintage Panerai watches includes data from Montilier, Cortebert, Angelus and of course Rolex. Most books about Vintage Panerai offer only a very isolated view on Panerai itself.
This situation is unsatisfactory in my opinion. My goal is to separate the facts from the fiction. When the popularity of these watches started to increase 15 years ago there was only little and unverified information around. We have come a long way since then. This project was initiated to offer honest open source information for all collectors and fans of the brand.
“There are two histories: the official history, lying, and then there is the secret history, where you can find the true causes of events.”
Honoré de Balzac
Jose Pereztroika was born and raised in Switzerland. He studied interior and industrial design before branching into advertising and working for several major Swiss advertising agencies such as DDB and BBDO. To date, he has worked on more than 800 national and international projects, covering diverse disciplines within the span of 17 years.
Developing fresh, new ideas which are driven by latest technologies is his passion. A profound interest in sharpening his skills and acquiring new ones helps him create extraordinary solutions. Add in his strong sense for quality and excellence in execution, the very ingredients for successful and award winning projects for clients such as IKEA, Credit Suisse, Clinique, AXA Winterthur, Lipton, Jaguar, UBS, Subaru, Knorr, Land Rover, etc.
Watches, especially the very first Vintage Panerai watches produced by Rolex between 1936 and 1955, are his passion. He is commited to these watches and their history since he first stumbled over them in 1998. The results of his research are also based on a deep understanding of manufacturing processes of movement suppliers such as Cortebert, Angelus and Montilier and the history of these swiss companies.
Jose Pereztroika went to Asia for sabbatical leave. Amazed by his new impressions and experiences, he decided to turn Asia into his base.