Panerai - The Geneva Watch Auction: THREE Geneva Saturday, May 14, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Panerai
    Year: Circa 1944
    Reference No: 3646
    Case No: 260'850
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. Rolex 618 16''', 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 47mm. Diameter
    Literature: Similar watches of the 3646 / Type E number group are featured in Vintage Panerai, The References by Ralf Ehlers and Volker Wiegmann (2016) pg 532-573.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Until now scholarship showed us that 26 Panerai reference 3646 Type E models are known, 17 with a California dial like in the present model. We state “until now” as the present lot has been unknown and undocumented to scholars and collectors. The earliest Panerai reference 3646 Type E known to date bears the case number 260'856 whereas the present lot is separated by only a few numbers as it bears case number 260'850. It is therefore the earliest example of the reference 3646 Type E known making it only the 27th Type E Reference 3646 to be discovered.

    Giovanni Panerai (1825-1897) founded Officine Panerai in 1860 in Florence on the Ponte alle Grazie. At the turn of the twentieth century, the watchmaker’s shop moved to its current location in Piazza San Giovanni. In the following years, Giovanni Panerai's grandson Guido Panerai (1873-1934) expanded the business by specializing in the production of high precision instruments as well as watches becoming the official supplier to the Regia Marina, the Royal Italian Navy.

    To meet the military needs of the Royal Italian Navy, which it had already been supplying with high precision instruments for a number of years, Officine Panerai created Radiomir, a radium-based powder that gives luminosity to the dials of sighting instruments and devices. Reference to the name "Radiomir" is documented in the supplement to the patent filed in France on 23 March 1916.
    Around 1936, the Royal Italian Navy approached Panerai with the request of designing a watch resistant to extreme underwater conditions while at the same time keeping exact time. The prototype (now known as “Radiomir”) was submitted to the First Submarine Group Command. A further order was made and watches were supplied to the Italian naval forces as of 1938 (Marina Militare) and later on to the German Navy (Kriegsmarine). The reference 2533, the first prototype for the Radiomir was produced in an extremely small numbers. The second to be produced was reference 3646, in production from 1938 until the 1950’s and produced in various versions classified Type A to Type G, each bearing unique aesthetics.

    The present lot is absolutely fresh to the market, and is part of the Type E classification (made around 1944). Reference 3646 was made by Rolex for Panerai following strict technical requirements, notably a 47 mm. wide (for underwater legibility) cushion-shaped case with soldered curved wire lugs, screw down "onion" crown, 12-sided case back and a Perspex crystal. The black dials were coated with half Arabic and half Roman luminous numerals on a black lacquer background known as California dial (patented by Rolex on May 30, 1941). The dial of the present example is completely unrestored and in immaculate condition, still retaining its shiny surface, and its correct, original blued steel luminous hands. The case has never been polished before, and shows very few signs of having been worn over the course of its 70 some years of age. Even what we believe to be the original strap is still fitted to the watch. Similarly, the Rolex-finished Cortébert caliber 618 movement is in absolutely mint condition, without even a trace of a watchmaker having ever worked on it.

    The case back of the present lot is engraved with what would seem as a knife or razorblade with the following: "Hauenstein Heinrich, 8.8.21 Solnhofen Bay". Solnhofen being a municipality of Bavaria known for its limestone. The condition of the present lot is amongst the best preserved we’ve ever seen, adding significantly to its desirability. It was until now, undocumented and unknown, and Phillips Watches is extremely proud and delighted to offer this outstanding and highly desirable reference for the first time.

  • Artist Biography


    Italian • 1860

    Known for its robust designs and large case sizes, Officine Panerai was established in 1860 by Giovanni Panerai in Florence, Italy. Around 1900, Giovanni's grandson Guido Panerai took over, and Panerai became the supplier to the Regia Marina — the Royal Italian Navy. After supplying the navy with high-precision instruments for a number of years, Officine Panerai created Radiomir, a radium-based powder that gives luminosity to the dials of sighting instruments and devices. By 1936, the Royal Italian Navy approached Panerai again with the request to design a watch resistant to extreme underwater conditions. The watch they created became known as the "Radiomir".

    Panerai's watches made during the early twentieth century era were comprised of cases designed and manufactured by Rolex SA, with Cortébert, a Swiss manufacturer, supplying the majority of their movements. The most recognizable designs from the firm are the Radiomir and Luminor. To date, vintage models from the first half of the 1900s, such as the reference 3646 and 6152 models, remain the most desirable among collectors.

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Ref. 3646
An extremely rare and interesting stainless steel cushion shaped diver's wristwatch with California dial

Circa 1944
47mm. Diameter

CHF60,000 - 100,000 

Sold for CHF106,250

Contact Specialist
Nathalie Monbaron
+41 22 317 81 83

The Geneva Watch Auction: THREE

Geneva Auction 15 May 2016