Enemy 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.
Before 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.
The 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.
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
Bonhams 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.
Noteworthy, 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]
Always 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.
One 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.
At 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.
Sotheby’s New York features a Ref. 3646 / Type E in their Important Watches auction on June 8th, in New York (Lot 166). The watch has been added into our database back in 2007 with painted brass dial, Rolex 618 / Type 1 mod. movement and caseback without Rolex SA hallmark – features of a Ref. 3646 / Type E watch. In its actual condition, the watch is equipped with a re-manufatured dial (a sandwich construction of two brass discs and transparent plastic disc in the middle) with “Radiomir Panerai” lettering, made during restoration at the Officine Panerai customer service, dated March 2016.
Extract of Sotheby’s lot description about the re-manufactured dial:
The present 3646 recently underwent restoration at Officine Panerai, which included a re-manufactured dial with Superluminova and a complete service with extreme care made to retain original components and finishes, including remarkably retaining its original crystal.
The watch is mentioned together with other known Ref. 3646 watches with brass dials in our book “The References” in chapter II.IV on page 471 and in chapter II.V on page 565. Further information on painted brass dials in combination with the flat version of the bezel can be found in the chapter II.IV on page 472-479.
We hope that also this watch will find a good new home and remains surfaced in the Vintage Panerai collectors world. [Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
[Photo of the Ref. 3646 / Type E watch with kindly permission / courtesy of www.sothebys.com]
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!
One more piece to the puzzle added, another gap closed and a remarkable and noteworthy match in our Vintage Panerai database: Phillips features a rare Ref. 3646 / Type E “California Dial” on May, 15th (lot 122, The Geneva Watch Auction: THREE). Added into our records in March 2016, this specimen bears the important and typical internal and external details of a Ref. 3646 / Type E watch.
Watches of the Reference 3646 / Type E are featured in our new book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s in chapter II.V (page 532-573). With this new addition we have now recorded 27 watches in this group, extending the 3646 / Type E number range downwards by six numbers, filling another gap between the watches of the Reference 3646 / Type D and 3646 / Type E.
The information and measurement results provided by Phillips confirmed the cross-section of a 3646 / Type E caseback, which we put in the focus on page 536-539 of our new book. The caseback of this watch has been engraved with a name, date of birth and hometown of the first owner from Bavaria/Germany.
The Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1 mod. movement in this “California Dial” watch is another important element, which appears with confirming details of most of the today recorded watches in this number group.
We hope that also this watch will find a good new home and remains surfaced in the Vintage Panerai collectors world. [Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
[Photo with kindly permission / courtesy of www.phillips.com]
After the sale of a Ref. 3646 / Type D earlier this year, auctioneer Wright Marshall features with lot 153 one more Ref. 3646/ Type D with anonymous “Kampfschwimmer” dial, blued steel hands and onion shaped crown (Type 11) in their Fine Antique & Collectible Sale on 10 May 2016 in Knutsford, Cheshire (United Kingdom).
The watch has been added into our database, matching the Ref. 3646 / Type D criteria by its Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1 movement in combination with the Rolex hallmark, reference and case number embossed on the inner caseback.
The outer caseback of the watch bears a rare engraving, featuring initials of the first owner, the year 1945 and the words “Kampf-Schwimmer” (combat swimmer) and “L.K. 700”. Only a very few number of Ref. 3646 watches are known today, which are decorated / personalized in a similar way. Another well known example with painted brass dial and identical engraving on the caseback is part of the Museo Panerai Collection.
About the Lehrkommando 700 (short: L.K. 700, as engraved on the caseback): In 1944, several training schools were built for different type of Small Naval Assault in the German Kriegsmarine. Aside the training school for combat swimmers (frogmen), there were schools for explosive boats (Lehrkommando 200 and 600) and further four different types of midget submarines (Lehrkommando 250, 300, 350 and 400).
The Lehrkommando 700 was based in Valdagno and Venice (Italy) until November 1944 and moved to the island of Sylt (Germany) until the end of the Second World War. Remaining units of the Lehrkommando 700 have been arrested POW by British forces at Sylt. Many Panerai watches changed ownership in these days and became a “souvenir” for returning troops of the allied nations after their service. Some of these watches have survived the war and surfaced after more than 70 years to the public. We expect further watches to be discovered in the future which went a similar way than the Ref. 3646 / Type D offered at Wright Marshall in May.
Wright Marshall provided the following provenance:
“This watch has been in the northeast of England since the early 1960’s when the vendors late father swapped the watch for a carriage clock, it has remained in the family since that date, the watch was serviced by a local jeweller on 20/5/88 for the sum of £28 and the watch has never been used since that date.”
Wright Marshall CONDITION REPORT:
The watch was last serviced from a local jeweller on 20/05/88 for the sum of £28 and has been left in a drawer since, light scratches and marks to outer case and U-shaped crack to plexi-glass, minor bending to large fingertip, minor chipping to hands, light wear/use marks throughout around back outer case, green colour around edges, crown partly releases, unable to move the fingers with crown, a simple shake and the watch starts to tick for around 10 seconds, not complete with original led seal.
We hope that this watch will find a good new home and remains surfaced in the Vintage Panerai collectors world. [Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]
[Photo with kindly permission / courtesy of www.wrightmarshall.co.uk]
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]
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.