The first watches for the pilots of the “new weapon” SLC were delivered in the middle of the 1930’s by Guido Panerai & Figlio to the Commando del 1° Gruppo Sommergibili of the Royal Italian Navy. According to the timeline of the development of the top secret slow running torpedos (siluro a lenta corsa, short: SLC) by the inventors Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi, waterproof and luminous instruments for the pilots were necessary to carry out proper exercises and to control the SLC in depth and darkness.
The chapters I and II, dedicated to the first watches for underwater use (Ref. 2533 and 3646) take the readers of our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s into these early years. Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi’s ideas became real. But strategic decisions after the Italo-Ethiopian War stopped the secret SLC project. The tests with these small weapons were archived and the Royal Italian Navy focused their interest in huge battleships, cruisers and destroyers.
The SLC project was re-started by the 1st Flottiglia MAS in 1939 at the advent of the Second World War. With the first missions of the Mezzi d’Assalto carried out from August 1940 onwards, the demand for skilled operators as well as new equipment – and more instruments for the operators – grew fast. An early Ref. 3646 / Type A, dated to April 1940, is featured in chapter II.I followed by the timeline of the missions carried out by the operators of the Decima Flottiglia MAS, the special commandos of the Royal Italian Navy.
The photo shows page 96 of “The References” with a historic photo from June 1940: The two inventors of the SLC, Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi, Alberto Franzini and Gino Birindelli above their co-pilots stand together with a royal visitor: Principe Aimone di Savoia Aosta, Duca di Spoleto – just a few weeks before the first missions of the new weapon SLC were about to write naval history.
Read more about “The birth of a legend – the first Panerai watches (1935-1939)” in chapter I, followed by the timeline of the missions during the Second World War in chapter II.I – more information on the historic content in our “The References” book set with a total of 1392 pages can be found here. Read about the featured watches from Guido Panerai & Figlio in the first and second volume here.
A “Gamma” frogman who wrote history. A photo from 1998 which was a reminder not to miss the chance to capture Luigi Ferraro’s story in our book “The References” – together with the 3646 / Type B watch he was wearing during the “Operazione Stella” in 1943.
One of the few watches which can be followed back to the first owner, which is also a very famous one: Luigi Ferraro (M.O.V.M.). Not easy to capture as much as possible of his story in a part in the first volume of “The References”, which filled several books of Italian authors with hundreds of pages. Even in the first Panerai books, written by Giampiero Negretti in 1998, Luigi Ferraro’s famous missions in the mediterranean sea found their place to be mentioned.
To get in touch with the family of the veteran Luigi Ferraro (1914-2006) was a very intensive and exciting time during the research about his Ref. 3646 / Type B “Radiomir Panerai” with riveted plastic dial (chapter II.II page 190-203). Paolo Ferraro, one of Luigi Ferraro sons, provided excellent photos and made personal documents available for us to be featured in our book, which gave us the chance to illustrate the history behind his father’s watch.
In January 1943 Luigi Ferraro obtained his qualification to carry out underwater missions. Initially posted to North Africa to attack enemy targets in the Port of Tripoli, he had to leave the area and returned to Italy. In May 1943 he was posted to La Spezia, where he received instructions from commander Borghese for a new mission – this time not in North Africa, but in the eastern Mediterranean: the Turkish ports of Alexandretta and Mersina. Luigi Ferraro’s four “Stella” missions, for which he was awarded with the M.O.V.M., are described in chapter II.II (page 204-225).
Aside several tools of his time as a “Gamma” frogman, Luigi Ferraro’s 3646 / Type B “Radiomir Panerai” never changed ownership and remained a memorable piece for him and his family since he returned from war. The watch shows intensive proof of aging and is an example of how different these rare watches have aged after more than 70 years. The watch still has its original strap, as well as its original domed plexiglas crystal – intensively aged with countless fissures. Numbers, indices and the typical “Radiomir Panerai” lettering on the riveted plastic dial can still be made out at some points.
Luigi Ferraro’s watch has been recorded in our database in 2014, however the watch was known to us already years before. The Rolex 618 / Type 1 movement in combination with the small Oyster Watch Co hallmark, embossed on the inner caseback together with the reference and case number, is matching our criteria for being a watch of the Reference 3646 / Type B. The outer caseback bears a rare matriculation number, of which only a very few 3646 watches are known today. We have published further information about the different matriculation numbers on some of these watches in chapter II.III (page 301-303).
Luigi Ferraro’s 3646 / Type B “Radiomir Panerai” with riveted plastic dial is published extensively in chapter II.II (page 190-203) of the book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s.
More 3646 watches with an interesting history, related to their first owners and the missions they carried out during the Second World War, are introduced in chapter II.I (Ernesto Notari) and in chapter II.III (Licio Visintini). Enjoy reading!
Guido Panerai & Figlio’s legendary, patented crown-protecting device from the 1950’s – today it would be called a “Panerai app for underwater wristwatches”. How to describe this functional feature from the past today? Lets give it a try:
System requirements: Ref. 6152/1 or GPF 2/56 case. Protecting the winding crown during underwater use. Release lever for winding the movement and setting time.
Approved decades ago, the crown-protecting device turned into a legend many years later. This “Panerai app” created an unique look which attracts watch collectors around the world. Available on modern Panerai watches, made for the public since 1993, the crown-protecting device carries the Panerai DNA from the past into the future.
Vintage Panerai watches with crown-protecting device are featured in the second volume of our book “The References” (1950’s-1960’s) in chapters VIII, IX and X.
The first edition of “The References” from 2009 (368 pages, sold out since January 2013) has been replaced by the new, second edition of “The References” – a book set of two volumes (1930’s-1940’s and 1950’s-1960’s), 696 pages each, with a total of 1392 pages.
The coffee table shot shows the 2009 (black, sold out) and 2016 (green, in stock) editions. Here is an overview on the content – the twelve chapters in two volumes – with 1392 pages:
“The References” 1930’s-1940’s (volume 1)
Vintage Panerai watches from 1930’s to 1940’s, featuring References 2533, 3646, the Mare Nostrum chronograph, compasses, straps and buckles.
The first volume of “The References” documents, in detail and with numerous images, 33 Vintage Panerai watches from the 1930’s to 1940’s and the database classification of more than 380 Vintage Panerai watches in existence today. The early References 2533 (chapter I) and 3646 (chapter II) are explained and with rich reference to several variants by their number groups. This overview is complimented by the legendary Mare Nostrum chronograph (chapter III), rare compasses (chapter IV) used in the Second World War and some of the few straps and buckles which rarely survived after more than 70 years (chapter V).
“The References” 1950’s-1960’s (volume 2)
Vintage Panerai watches from 1950’s to 1960’s, featuring References 6152, 6154, 6152/1, GPF 2/56, Modified References, compasses, depth gauges, straps and buckles.
The second volume of “The References” continues to document, with numerous images and historic information, 37 Vintage Panerai watches from the 1950’s to 1960’s. The References 6152 (chapter VI) and 6154 (chapter VII), followed by the famous 6152/1 with the famous crown-protecting device are explained in detail and many variations in chapter VIII. Followed by the Reference GPF 2/56 with Angelus movement (chapter IX), “The References” volume 2 features in chapter X the Modified References 3646, Transitional 3646 and Modified Reference 6152/1. Chapter XI is about compasses and depth gauges, followed by the last chapter XII, an overview of the straps and buckles used on Vintage Panerai of this era.
The new “The References” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
The Ref. 6152/1 “Destro” with “Marina Militare” dial and Rolex movement is one of the watches from the Archivio Storico Panerai which are featured in our book “The References”. Auctioned in New York at Antiquorum in 2005, it returned “home” to Italy and became a highlight addition in the historical archive of Panerai.
Read more on this unique watch on page 1054-1057 in chapter VIII.II of the second volume (1950’s-1960’s).
Fourteen different watches of the Reference 6152/1 are documented in chapter VIII of the second volume of our book „The References“. For a better overview, we divided the chapter about these watches in two parts: Watches of the Reference 6152/1 with Rolex 8 mm crown are introduced in chapter VIII.I (four examples) and watches with the legendary crown-protecting device from Guido Panerai & Figlio are introduced in chapter VIII.II (ten examples).
Very few watches of the Reference 6152/1 bear a very interesting detail on their casebacks, no matter what type of crown or dial they are coming with: an engraved matriculation number. The coffee table shot shows page 914-915 of chapter VIII.I – a Ref. 6152/1 watch with 8 mm crown and engraved caseback. In addition to the four different types of markings which are attributed to watches used by the Italian COMSUBIN special forces (read page 911-917), some watches of the Reference 6152/1 were marked with engravings of the Guardia di Finanza, Carabinieri, Polizia di Stato and the civil fire service Vigili del Fuoco (read page 965-1003).
It is worth to mention that the famous “Gamma” veteran Luigi Ferraro established a school for professional civil divers in 1952 with courses for the Vigili del Fuoco (1952) and in the following year also for the divers of the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza (read page 220-224 in chapter II.II of the first volume of “The References”).
Two very rare watches with these engraved casebacks are documented in chapter VIII.II, both with a “Luminor Panerai” dial, which most of the Ref. 6152/1 watches and crown-protecting device are recorded in our database today. The coffee table shot shows page 966-967 of chapter VIII.II – the engraved caseback of a Ref. 6152/1 watch with crown-protecting device and “Luminor Panerai” dial.
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
Our first book, published in 2007 and entitled “Watches with History” opened with the words “In this book we would like to give the reader an overview of historic Panerai watches and their documented history.” Years passed since then, during which we have embarked on many interesting trips into the past while researching this subject.
The personal stories of the first owners of these watches were mostly forgotten in the last years, reaching back more than 70 years since their use in war times. Only a few Vintage Panerai watches can tell their story, and the story of many others will never be told. In 2012 we were able to take an even deeper and more comprehensive look at the wearers and the uses of these watches in the book “History1”.
The stories in this book take the reader back to the time of the Second World War. Rare pictures from this period bear silent and impressive witness to the conditions and living circumstances, which we have also been able to supplement with rare map and image materials from various international archives. A small number of Vintage Panerai watches reveal their secrets to the collector and answer the ever-recurring question: Who used the watch? When did the operations take place, and to what purpose? And further: where and under what conditions did the comprehensive training of the special maritime unit take place? How and by what means were the deployments of the combat swimmers carried out? What do the veterans think of those missions today? We pursued the answers to these questions and, thanks to the help of some surviving veterans, their descendants, or by means of analyzing previously unknown documents such as diaries, interview records or recordings by opposing spies, we managed to compile some very impressive and authentic chapters.
In the book “History2” (2013) we once again took our readers on a journey through time with five more stories: five exciting and moving fates of frogmen, for whom their Panerai watch was not an item of jewellery, but rather an important piece of equipment during the Second World War.
„History2“ outlines the personal experiences of the combat swimmers and describes in the smallest detail their fate, which has, during conversations or in written correspondence, evoked at times painful memories and great emotions after many decades.
The watches presented in this book were in action under “real” battle conditions in the Second World War. They accompanied their original owners since combat swimmer training and indeed for many years after the war.
Our books “History1” and “History2″ can be ordered directly in our bookstore.
Vintage Panerai watches with “California Dials” are recorded in several number groups of the Reference 3646. Read our new “The References” book (first volume / 1930’s-1940’s) to find out, in which of the seven number groups (3646 / Type A – 3646 / Type G) this type of dial has been used and which number group features almost half of all known 3646 watches with “California Dial” today.
The “Error-Proof Radium Dial” by Rolex, with its railroad track minute markers and “SWISS MADE” signature at six o’clock, features half arabic and half roman numbers with luminous material applied from above. The coffee table shot shows a Ref. 3646 / Type F with “California Dial” in chapter II.VI, page 586-587.
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
Featured in our new book Vintage Panerai “The References” 2nd edition (2016) on page 1328-1329 in chapter XI.I of the second volume: a Luminor compass. case 70 x 90 mm, 26 mm leather strap and brushed stainless steel GPF buckle. Made by Guido Panerai & Figlio for the Italian navy commandos of the COMSUBIN in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Read more on Vintage Panerai instruments worn on the wrist in chapter XI (page 1314-1367).
Only less than a dozen Reference 3646 watches with a riveted plastic dials were recorded in our database until our new book “The References” was published. Among the more than 200 recorded watches of the Reference 3646 in total, this dial version can be called one of the rarest.
Read in the first volume (1930’s-1940’s) of “The References”, in which of the seven different number groups (3646 / Type A to 3646/ Type G) we have recorded watches with this version of the famous “Radiomir Panerai” dial from Guido Panerai & Figlio.
The coffee table shot shows one of these few watches with riveted plastic dial, a Ref. 3646 / Type B, documented in chapter II.II on page 176-189.
Enjoy reading! Our new “The Reference” books are in stock and can be ordered only in our bookstore.