An extremely rare and historically important oversized stainless steel diver's wristwatch with "tropical" dial

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  • Manufacturer: Panerai
    Year: 1954
    Reference No: 6154
    Case No: 997575
    Model Name: "Egiziano Piccolo"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, Rolex cal. 618, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 47mm. Diameter
    Signed: Dial signed Panerai, case and movement signed Rolex
    Accessories: Accompanied by a Panerai diver's torch and depth gauge
    Literature: The present watch is extensively documented in “Vintage Panerai – The references” by Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann on pages 808-817.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Property from the Collection of Panerai Scholar and Enthusiast, Alan AKA Hammer
    Within the family of collectible military timepieces, wristwatches delivered by Florence-based Officine Panerai during the early-to-mid 20th century are amongst the most extraordinary ever conceived. Manufactured by Rolex to Panerai’s specification, their unique aesthetic combined with their dramatic dimensions have both excited collectors and captivated the minds of scholars around the world.

    Amongst the handful of references made by the firm during this early era, the reference 6154 made in 1954 is considered by many to be the most mythical and fascinating of them all. Scholarship informs us that less than 20 Panerai reference 6154s are known to exist. We are proud to offer in the present lot, one of the finest examples of this legendary reference to appear on the market in years. Never before seen at auction, like the prior lot, this important vintage Panerai comes from Alan, AKA Hammer - one of the collecting community’s best known and respected Panerai collectors, having spent nearly 20 years as the trophy watch crowning his collection of Panerai watches.

    So rare and important is the reference 6154, one is today part of the permanent collection of the Officine Panerai Museum in Florence Italy.

    Known to the community as the “Egiziano Piccolo”, part of the mystery surrounding the reference is whether the watches were made as development prototypes, delivered to a still secret, elite diving unit, or if they were supplied to the Egyptian “Al ferka al serria” frogmen unit. Even though there exists documentation that Panerai supplied diving equipment including watches to the Egyptian frogmen, so few examples were made that concrete evidence has yet to be unearthed. What is absolutely confirmed by authorities on the 6154 is that one example was purchased in Alexandria, Egypt at a flea market at an early date before wristwatch collecting became a hobby. Accompanied with this lot are two of the items known to have been used by these frogmen - a depth gauge and an extremely rare underwater lamp, both made by Panerai. The Egyptian Panerai torch with its original box, is a treasure unto itself as it was specifically made for the Egyptians and the only one ever used by their frogmen.

    What all agree upon is the model’s exceptional rarity and striking case features that differentiate it from all other Panerai references. Its tauter, more elegant lines, striking profile, tapered lugs, and overall thinner case compared with the references 6152 and 6152/1 have led to it also being known as the “Maserati”. Other subtle details such as a caseband with a prominent peak at its center, and a caseback with a graceful, slightly domed curvature give the watch a character all its own. The Rolex caliber 618 / Type 1 movement housed within remains in original, unrestored condition complete with its lead sealing gasket intact.

    It is however the extraordinary “Radiomir Panerai” sandwich dial that makes the present reference 6154 unique, and one of the most beautiful of all known examples. The ‘tropical’ dial has aged to a superb and harmonious shade of chocolate brown, with mesmerizing, concentric rings of discoloration. Caused perhaps by the copious amounts of radium used for the highly luminous hour markers, or by the close proximity of the luminous hour hand following years of timekeeping, the dials of the 6154 were especially susceptible to fading due to a flaw in the paints used. Among all 6154 examples known, less than a handful have survived with such a lovely, deep brown color.

    The present 6154 is so extraordinary, it is extensively and prominently documented in the highly regarded reference tome, “Vintage Panerai – The References” by Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann, where it is thoroughly detailed over eight pages. Also featured in several books dedicated to Panerai published since the late 1990s, no other reference 6154 is so well documented and prominently published throughout literature. Accompanied by its original straps and buckles – extremely rare in their own right – the present reference 6154 is an extraordinary opportunity for collectors of rare and unusual military watches.

  • Maker Bio

    Panerai

    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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153

Panerai

Ref. 6154
An extremely rare and historically important oversized stainless steel diver's wristwatch with "tropical" dial

1954
47mm. Diameter
Dial signed Panerai, case and movement signed Rolex

Estimate
CHF140,000 - 240,000 
€129,000-220,000
$144,000-247,000

sold for CHF322,000

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
+41 22 317 81 89

The Geneva Watch Auction: FOUR

Geneva Auctions 12 – 13 November 2016