Inside the Artcurial ‘Panerai Only’ Auction – Hands-on with the vintage Panerai Rolex

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 5 min read |

On December 8th 2014, the French auction house Artcurial will host a highly interesting sale, focused only on those very special dive watches: ‘Panerai Only’, certainly the most impressive auction ever for Panerai watches, with pieces from all the eras (Vintage, Pre-Vendôme and Vendôme): 68 lots linked to the history of the Officine, from diving tools (compass or diving wrist-intruments) to extremely rare vintage timepieces or modern but important editions. Paneristi (Panerai collectors) all around the world will go through the official catalog with a huge interest. We, at Monochrome-Watches, had the chance to handle some of the vintage Panerai Rolex watches soon auctioned.

Recently, we already introduce you some of the highlights of this auction, including an extremely rare Egyptian Radiomir ‘Egiziano‘ 8 days or a Marina Militare ref. 6152-1. Part of this auction are also some modern but rare limited editions, such as a Panerai Luminor 1950 8 days PAM 203 (with a vintage Angelus movement) or a Panerai Radiomir PAM 021 (with a vintage Rolex movement). For sure, these are superb Panerais but the main attraction will be the vintage editions. Three watches especially caught our attention, 3 vintage Panerai Rolex Ref. 3646 but 3 different editions.


A patinated vintage Panerai Rolex Radiomir Ref. 3646 with engraved caseback

Panerai Radiomir Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage - 5

Lot 5 is a vintage Radiomir ref. 3646 from 1943. The Radiomir is the first watch produced and delivered by the Officine Panerai – the very first is a unique 1936 prototype Ref. 2533 showing the S.L.C. dial – and delivered from 1938, in approximately 600 pieces. The one we have here is a nude edition: simple sandwich dial with 3-6-9-12 indexes, blued luminous hands… and that’s all. No brand, no useless features, no complication. It has the typical 46mm cushion-shaped case with welded attachment loops. Inside ticks a manually-wound Rolex movement (Calibre 618 Cortébert). Not only Rolex supplied movements but they also manufactured these watches delivered to the Italian and German Navy.

Panerai Radiomir Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage - 7

You can clearly see how simple these watches were when removing the screwed caseback. It was basic tool-watches made to resist to the tough life of a military diver. This one has 2 specificities. First, it comes with a unusual yellow patina, due to a coloration of the tropic (the plastic crystal on the top) that creates a unique watch. The other unique features comes from the engraving on the caseback. This watch, like most of the other ones produced, had seen battle fields and had been used for what it had been created: war. The caseback here refers to the owner, Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, a german naval officer and submarine commander during World War II. “He was sixth among the top ten Aces of the Deep during the Second Battle of the Atlantic against the Allies, in terms of tonnage of merchant ships sunk. He commanded four U-boats, and his most notable and successful tour was commanding the U-96.” During his career, he sank 24 ships. The smiling sawfish, personal emblem of both Willenbrock and the U-96, can be found on the back of this watch.

Panerai Radiomir Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage - 4

This watch, engraved ‘Rolex’ and ‘260621’ inside the caseback, is listed here and estimated to € 50,000 – € 80,000.


A Nude vintage Panerai Rolex Radiomir Ref. 3646

Panerai Radiomir Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage patina - 4

Lot 32 is a nude Panerai Rolex Radiomir ‘type C’ from the 1940s presented here in a stunning condition. It is basically the same watch than the first presented here: same nude dial (no inscription) with a sandwich construction, the 3-6-9-12 indexes and the blued luminous hands. Vintage Radiomir had been manufactured in several series, from A to G. The A and B series are not signed Rolex but just ‘Oyster Watch co’ while the C and D types are signed ‘Rolex SA’ on the inner side of their caseback. These 2 types also come with serial number engraved upon the reference number, while on the A/B series, it is the contrary. In the A/B/C/D types, the Rolex movements – Calibre 618 Cortébert – are signed ‘Rolex 17 rubis’ on the central bridge and ‘Fab Suisse’ on the barrel bridge. The latest E/F/G series only have ’17 rubis Fab Suisse’ on the central bridges and ‘Rolex’ is added only on the non-military editions.

Panerai Radiomir Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage patina - 6
A vintage Panerai Rolex ref. 3646 next to a Panerai depth gauge (lot 18)

This vintage Radiomir is in an exceptional condition – considering the production date and the possible military use. It is fully original except the winding tube and the crown (non-screwed one). It is listed here and estimated at € 80,000 – € 120,000.


A Marina Militare vintage Panerai Rolex Radiomir Ref. 3646

Panerai Radiomir Marina Militare Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage - 1

Here is an interesting lot (lot 43) that created some long discussions when we posted it on our Intasgram account a few days ago (relayed by PaneraiCentral account, where you can see some of these discussions). Some Paneristi and watch enthusiasts were doubtful about the authenticity of this watch, especially because of a ‘Marina Militare’ dial on a ref. 3646. Most of the watches that come with this inscription are Panerai Luminor Ref. 6152 editions, like the one we showed you in our previous article. Some thought it was an original watch but with a replacement dial. What we know and what we are sure about: this Radiomir is clearly authentic at 99% – remains the question of its dial – as it comes with the original ‘Brevet Suisse’ crown, the ‘Rolex 17 rubis’ and ‘Fab Suisse’ engravings on the movement and the ‘Rolex SA’ inscription on the caseback. It is a 1940s C series. The hands are also matching the serial number and the production date.

Panerai Radiomir Marina Militare Rolex Ref. 3646 vintage - 3

What we also know is that some of the Ref. 3646 were fitted with such dials. It is extremely rare but there are some existing. We don’t have the authority here to judge such watches and for this reason, we’ll stick to the judgement of the expert that authenticated it as a true Panerai with original dial. For this reason and because of the rarity of such a watch, it is estimated at € 80,000 – € 120,000.


The ‘Panerai Only’ auction will be host by Artcurial and will take place on the 8 December 2014 in Paris, Champs Elysées. Full catalog online here and PDF here.

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