Author Archive

A face behind a name…

by on Jul.21, 2016, under Allgemein

Rahmen_Bild_2016_Phillips_TypeE_3Since we added a Ref. 3646 / Type E “California Dial” into our database in March 2016, the personalized caseback of this watch got our attention, too.

After the watch was auctioned earlier this year in May at Phillips (The Geneva Watch Auction THREE, lot 122, read the note in our watch point here), we continued research on the known personal dates, scratched with a sharp tool onto the caseback of the watch: Name, date of birth and home town of Heinrich Hauenstein.

[Photo with kindly permission / courtesy of www.phillips.com]

Rahmen_Bild_hoch_2016_Hauenstein1Having already a few watches with personalized casebacks recorded in our database, we wanted to find proof about the personalized dates in general and if further information about the history of the first owner of this watch could be found more than 70 years after its use.

Since we exchanged information about Heinrich Hauenstein with his family, we know that he has passed away in 1976 at the age of 55. He was married but had no children. In 1951 he was a founding member of a shooting club in his hometown Solnhofen (Bavaria/Germany).

The family has recently shared a historical photo of Heinrich Hauenstein with us, dated October 1942 on the backside, showing him as a sailor of the German Kriegsmarine / Navy. To put a face behind the name on the caseback, we are pleased to publish here the photo from 1942 aside the auction catalogue from Phillips.

[Historical portrait photo with kindly permission / courtesy of Heinrich Hauenstein’s family]

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Reading a frogman’s battle report…

by on Jul.19, 2016, under Allgemein

One of the rarest historical documents which we came across during the research of our book “History2”: a handwritten battle report of a frogmen mission at the Pomeranian coast, dated April 3rd, 1945.

IMG_3727_600x600Documents from the last weeks of the Second World War are today, without a doubt, very hard to find – if existing after more than 70 years at all… With the support of the family of the German “Kampfschwimmer”, who once wrote this report after he returned safely from the combat zone, we were able to include this battle report (page 672-673 shown on the coffee table shot on the left) in chapter VII of “History2” (featuring the chapters V-IX with a total of 480 pages).

Interesting details in his handwritten battle report are the times which he mentioned aside other details, all easily readable on the sandwich dial of the Ref. 3646 / Type D (with 5 minute markers / indices) he was wearing during the mission: He wrote down 21:50, 23:30, 23:45, 23:50-0:30 and finally 2:05 AM – the moment he left the waters – after 4:15 hours trying to attack the Wollin railroad bridge together with a group of four frogmen from the “Einsatzgruppe Keller”, towing two mines thru the waters of the Dievenow. 

One of these five frogmen is featured in our book “History1”. Several pages of his diary are published in chapter II, where he wrote down what happened during the frogmen attack of the Gristow bridge at the Pomeranian coast (page 134-143).

IMG_3726_600x600Read more on further rare documents which helped us to capture the history behind the Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch, shown on the coffee table shot on the left here. Photos from the years 1944 and 1945 showing this watch on the frogman’s wrist, as well as his identification papers and travel documents issued in Venice, helped us to reconstruct the route he took to the mission grounds.

Obviously his handwritten battle report never reached the headquarters but somehow he managed to keep it safe for his personal records, giving us today, more than 70 years later, a detailed inside view on a mission he carried out together with four frogmen at the Eastern Front in April 1945…

Our two “History” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading stories behind these watches!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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Meeting one of the last WW2 “Kampfschwimmer”

by on Jul.17, 2016, under Allgemein

IMG_3775_600x600A long overdue meeting finally became reality: The invitation to visit one of the last WW2 “Kampfschwimmer” frogmen just had to be returned… one day! What better occasion for that one day than a personal shake hands on this veteran’s 93rd birthday? It was without a doubt an unforgettable meeting. Surrounded by his family and friends we finally met in person. Sitting together on his table, having a traditional Bavarian “Brotzeit” was more than a good time. Thanks for your hospitality, Jochen – stay in such a good shape!

Since 2010 we have been connected with veteran Jochen Burnus to publish the history behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” in our book “History2”. Many personal documents and memories were provided by him for our research which helped us to capture not only the history of his friend Sigi, a member of the “Einsatzgruppe Keller” but also his personal history as a German frogman who ended up in American captivity in April 1945 after his mission against a pontoon bridge of the 83rd Thunderbolt Division at the river Elbe.

By his extraordinary good memories Jochen Burnus was able to give us a very detailed report on what happened before, during and after his mission, from training in northern Italy to the combat zones during the last months of the Second World War.

History2_frontal_300x300One part of chapter V is dedicated to his work as a recovery diver in Hamburg in the late 1940’s and bomb squad in the numerous waterways of Berlin in the 1950’s, followed by his career as professional diver across Europe until the end of the 1960’s. Accompanied with more than 60 historical photos and maps from various sources, the 112 pages of chapter V became the starting chapter of “History2” with a total of 480 pages. More information on chapter V can be found also here.

Our “History” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading stories behind these watches!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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How to visualize a frogman’s pencil written diary from 1945?

by on Jul.09, 2016, under General

During the research on the history behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” with engraved caseback, we were able to study the diary of the first owner of the watch. This diary survived the last days of the Second World War and the veteran kept it for decades, willed to share it with us and partially featured in chapter II of our book “History2”.

Thanks to the many detailed descriptions (e.g. the water temperature, current, weather conditions and explosive charges carried) which the frogman wrote down and the examination of historical maps of the 1940’s it was possible to analyze his diary entries precisely and visualize his memories to the readers of our book in an impressive way. The collected documents and additional information let this chapter become one of the unique stories behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch.

History1_frontal_300x300Reading page 83 of “History1” reminds on a part of our research which did happened not often. The frogman wrote the following lines in his diary at the beginning of March 1945:

“The next morning we set off towards the east in a truck. With unbelievable power, the Russians have pushed thru as far as the [river] Oder in their last offensive. They even managed to build two bridgeheads at Fürstenberg [in November 1961 the city was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt]. Reconnaissance flights tell us that they are putting tremendous amounts of people and material into these bridgeheads”.

Reconnaissance flights? Having this information in mind, we started to search various archives for still existing aerial photographs – maybe the one which the frogmen mentioned in his diary still exists? After the war, some remaining photos were transferred to archives which stored these photos for bomb clearance works. Good luck on the hunt! Guess how easy this search would be? Where to start? To find a aerial photo from the same date, same area and even showing the target, not knowing if its existing at all? We found it – a needle in a haystack – the photo which was shown to the frogmen as their next target.

IMG_3659_600x600Dated to 1 March 1945, the photo taken by a reconnaissance flight shows one of the pontoon bridges built across the Oder by the Russian troops just shortly before – which became soon later the target for the “Keller Group” just as the frogman wrote it down in his diary. Read more on the diary and various historic documents which helped us to visualize this source of information during our research on a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch here.

The coffee table shot shows page 110-111, chapter II of “History2” next to one of the few original photos of the “Keller Group” taken shortly before their missions at the eastern front (spot some Panerai gear in it). This photo is published on page 94 in the same chapter. The coffee table shot includes also a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer”, featured in chapter V of “History2” – the watch of frogman Siegfried Köneke, who was also a member of the “Keller Group”. Read more about this chapter here.

Our two “History” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading stories behind these watches!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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“Il cavallo di Troia” – the secret SLC base

by on Jun.29, 2016, under Allgemein

IMG_3568_600x600Enemy ships in the harbour of Gibraltar have been in the sight of the Royal Italian Navy since September 1940. After several attacks by “Gamma” frogmen and SLC units, ideas to build a secret base of the Decima MAS were realized in the second half of the year 1942. Convoy ships for the United States were beginning to arrive in quantity. The numbers of potential targets at anchor in the Bay of Algeciras were growing almost daily.

Earlier in 1942, a base for the Decima MAS “Gamma” frogmen was established in the Villa Carmela near La Linea from where several missions were carried out against British merchant ships (see page 126-131 / chapter II.I). During the months of shaping Villa Carmela into an advanced base, the idea for a bigger and much more effective operation had taken form in the mind of Licio Visintini, one of the SLC pilots of the mission B.G.4 in September 1941 (see page 374-381 / chapter II.III) which was carried out from the submarine Scirè.

IMG_3570_600x600Before the new base was ready for action, each attack at Gibraltar had required a long submarine voyage, air and land transportation of the attack-teams, the shipping of supplies and weapons, arrangements for rendezvous, an approach by submarine, and finally the task of smuggling the survivors back to Italy thru neutral Spanish territory.

Licio Visintini’s idea became real with turning the anchored ship Olterra inside the pier of Algeciras into a secret base for SLC missions. Visintini and further technical specialists replaced the original crew of the Olterra. An assembly workshop for the SLC devices (which arrived in sections, declared as spare parts for the damaged ship) was established in the hull. A portside cabin of the Olterra became the observation post with an excellent view of Gibraltar harbour. Finally, a folding door on the port side bow (see coffee table shot of page 386-387 /chapter II.III) became the exit door for the SLC units below waterline to reach their targets – and to return back into the hull of the Olterra. After months of intensive work in total secrecy, the inconspicious ship Olterra was turned into a Trojan Horse“il cavallo di Troia” – and six men were ready for action with their SLC devices.

IMG_3565_600x600The Olterra was starting point of the following SLC missions against enemy ships in the bay of Algeciras / Gibraltar harbour: B.G.5 (7/8 December 1942), B.G.6 (7/8 May 1943) and  B.G.7 (3/4 August 1943). Our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s features two Ref. 3646 watches which were used during these missions.

The Ref. 3646 / Type A “Radiomir Panerai” watch of Ernesto Notari is featured in chapter II.I (page 58-91 / see coffee table shot on the left) – more on this watch and its history can be found here. The Ref. 3646 / Type C “Radiomir Panerai” watch of Licio Visintini is featured in chapter II.III (page 350-367) – more on this watch and the history behind can be found here. The new “The References” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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One reference, four different versions: The 6152/1

by on Jun.25, 2016, under General

IMG_3531_600x600More than one hundred watches of the Reference 6152/1 are registered in our database today. Since 2009 the number of registered 6152/1 watches has more than doubled – seven years ago, 49 recorded watches were featured in our first edition book “The References” (sold out). Within the entire serial number sequence of the Reference 6152/1, we differentiate between watches with Rolex movements and the much rarer variations with Angelus movements.

How do we explain four different versions in our new book “The References” 1950’s-1960’s? Watches of the Reference 6152/1 are presented in four chapters, in order of the movement, the type of winding crown used and sorted chronological by their casing reference number, as follows:

Chapter VIII.I = Reference 6152/1
with Rolex movement and 8 mm Rolex crown
(featuring four different watches on page 878-921).

Chapter VIII.II = Reference 6152/1
with Rolex movement and Panerai crown-protecting device
(featuring ten different watches on page 922-1057).

Chapter X.III = Modified Reference 6152/1
with Angelus movement and 8 mm Rolex crown
(featuring three different watches on page 1212-1259).

Chapter X.IV = Modified Reference 6152/1
with Angelus movement and Panerai crown-protecting device
(featuring four different watches on page 1260-1313).

IMG_3535_600x600Each of the four chapters shows the different movement and dial versions recorded in our database with charts as can be seen on the coffee table shot of page 874-875, illustrating the relationship between registered watches with 8 mm Rolex crown and Panerai crown-protecting device of the Reference 6152/1.

Additional information on different hands, caseback engravings for different forces which used the watches as well as historical background on two 6152/1 watches first owners can be found, too. The overview of the four different chapters about Reference 6152/1 watches can be found in the first volume of “The References” 1930’s-1940’s on page 25-26 and 30-31 (chronological classification / reference quickfinder).

The new “The References” books can be ordered only in our bookstore. Enjoy reading!

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A patent and its realization in shape of the GPF 2/56

by on Jun.23, 2016, under Allgemein

IMG_3394_600x600One of the unique technical features of the GPF 2/56 compared to other watches from Guido Panerai & Figlio is the rubber sealing ring of the winding crown.

The famous patent 545668 from November 1955 can be seen right next to its realization on page 1148-1149 in chapter IX.II, showing the side of a GPF 2/56 “Luminor Panerai” with removed crown-protecting device and crown with its rubber sealing ring, making this area of the watch watertight when the lever is closed by axial pressure to the case.

Vintage Panerai watches with the legendary crown-protecting device are featured in the second volume of our book “The References” 1950’s-1960’s in chapters VIII (Ref. 6152/1 with Rolex movements), IX (GPF 2/56) and X.IV (Modified Reference 6152/1 with Angelus movements).

We would like to express our sincere words of thanks to Officine Panerai for making the famous patent 545668 available for the effective comparing view on the double page in our book, shown above. [Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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Missions of the Egypt frogmen

by on Jun.15, 2016, under Allgemein

IMG_3433_600x600The Red Sea, the Straits of Tiran, the Gulf of Aqaba, even the shores of Dakar (Senegal) and Abidjan (Ivory Coast) – target zones of the Egypt frogmen during the Suez Crisis, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.

Not very much has been ever published before about missions against enemy ports, ships and oil platforms during the conflicts between Egypt and Israel. In the mid-50’s, both Egyptian and Israeli special forces attended separate training courses in Italy to learn the skills for underwater missions from their Italian instructors. After our search for historical documents and with the support of a high decorated Egypt frogmen veteran we were able to put a spotlight on some of the missions carried out decades ago.

Read the historical background on watches and instruments from Guido Panerai & Figlio used by the Egypt frogmen in chapter VII and IX of “The References” 1950’s-1960’s (second volume), accompanied with rare historic photos (page 794-795 shown in the coffee table shot above). The new “The References” books (two volumes with 696 pages each) can be ordered only in our bookstore. Enjoy reading!

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Ref. 3646 / Type D @ Bonhams

by on Jun.09, 2016, under Watch Point

Rahmen_Bild_2016_Bonhams_D_brass1Bonhams London will auction a Ref. 3646 / Type D with brass dial in their upcoming Fine Watches and Wristwatches sale on June, 22nd (Lot 76). The flat bezel, as well as the Rolex 618 / Type 1 movement in combination with the (full decorated) inner caseback, bearing the Rolex SA hallmark with reference and case number, are typical features of Ref. 3646 / Type D watches.

The watch is recorded in our database since October 2015. It is mentioned several times in our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s in the chronological classification on page 17, as well as in chapter II (page 44), chapter II.IV (page 401, 471) and chapter II.V (535-537), being the Ref. 3646 / Type D with the highest case number recorded in our database until today.

Rahmen_Bild_2016_Bonhams_D_brass2Noteworthy, this watch is another specimen found in the United Kingdom, where some watches were brought to as souvenirs from the Second World War by allied servicemen. After more than 70 years they re-emerge in different conditions, such as the watch up for auction at Bonhams.

A similar Ref. 3646 / Type D watch with painted brass dial is featured in our book “History1” in chapter III together with the history of its first owner, a German “Kampfschwimmer” who provided us very interesting information about his service, training and how some of these Panerai watches “changed ownership” during the time when he was a POW (prisoner of war) in the summer of 1945 (page 206-207).

We hope that this Ref. 3646 / Type D with brass dial will find a good new home and remains surfaced in the Vintage Panerai collectors world. [Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

[Photos with kindly permission / courtesy of www.bonhams.com]

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Meeting a legendary 3646 – a family affair

by on Jun.02, 2016, under Allgemein

Rahmen_Bild_2016_1000x700_LFW1Always a special moment, which does not happen very often: Meeting a family member of a veteran who used a Panerai watch in duty many years ago. Not that its already something special to let such a meeting become real. But when its about one of the most famous Italian frogmen of the Second World War, its getting an even more special occasion to look forward with great excitement.

So, finally – it happened. After being connected with Paolo Ferraro, son of Luigi Ferraro M.O.V.M. since a few years when we had the idea to put a spotlight onto the Vintage Panerai Ref. 3646 / Type B watch, which was on Luigi Ferraro’s wrist during the four “Stella” missions in the eastern Mediterranean back in the summer of 1943 – almost 73 years ago.

Not sure about the reaction of the family towards us when we made the initial contact back some years ago… some yet unknown strangers from the internet asking for info on their father’s watch may sound strange… go figure. But very soon it started to become a very nice conversation, answers to questions, interesting informations and the feeling to be recognized for the attemp to not only publish photos and details about their father’s watch, but also to remember the person behind it – a family affair.

Rahmen_Bild_2016_1000x700_LFW3One day it was the moment to finally meet Paolo Ferraro in person, and “by the way” (it always turns out great when these words are used) being able to look not only at the watch but also more interesting memorable things which the family kept since their father passed away in 2006 – the ultimate way to “get in touch” with these fantastic timepieces with a real history behind.

Opening an old grey box, carefully, looking at the watch which clearly shows its age and use in decades – holding a piece of Panerai history for an exciting moment to remember. The table became soon loaded with more. More historic relicts, which were kept together since many years (and hopefully many more): the woolen cap with web to cover his face. A float to carry mines for miles on his way thru the night to reach his targets. The heavy steel clamp to fix the charges on the bilge keel of an enemy ship. And last but not least even the fuses, which found their way back on land – two from each “Stella” mission, making it a bundle of eight in total. Allora – all on that table – equipment used by Luigi Ferraro, a member of the “Gruppo Gamma”. Here and now.

Rahmen_Bild_2016_1000x700_LFW4At a corner of the table an old photo found my attention, a photo that I did not remember from any books I gathered in my library about Luigi Ferraro in years before. Easy to identify him in the center, holding a note in front of a microphone for giving a speech, joking with a friend on the left. Paolo pointed on the tall man on the right “and the gentlemen standing next to my father is Jacques Piccard, the famous deep sea explorer”. Both clearly sported watches on their left wrists. Not very sure about Piccard’s, but even more sure about the watch on Ferraro’s wrist: the same watch which was resting on the table I was sitting in front of, holding that photo from the 1950’s …made my day.

We would like to express our sincere words of thanks to Paolo Ferraro for making his father’s watch accessible for our records and to become a part in our new book. Not that this would have been more than we expected, he even connected us with another famous watch.

Grazie, Paolo Ferraro!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

Read more about how how the watch and the story of Luigi Ferraro M.O.V.M. found their place in chapter II.II of our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s here.

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