Panerai - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XI Hong Kong Saturday, November 28, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Panerai
    Year: Circa 1957-1965
    Model Name: Luminor
    Material: Titanium
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: Both 68mm diameter
    Signed: Both case, dial and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Wrist instruments made by Panerai were not only crucial for underwater orientation but also absolutely beautiful objects d’art praised by maritime special units from other NATO members.

    G. Panerai & Figlio’s main competence was primarily the development and production of torpedo aiming calculators, instruments and gauges for the Italian Navy which thanks to their radium-coated indexes were visible at night. These highly sophisticated items could be found on war ships, torpedo boats, submarines and underwater craft. For the famous Decima Flottiglia MAS frogmen from WWII, Panerai developed for the first time in their history wrist compasses which were essential to lead the frogmen to their targets in murky port waters.

    When the Paris Treaty restrictions imposed as punishment for the damages caused during World War 2 were lifted by late 1951, the Italian Navy officially started rebuilding their underwater units. Secretly, the units had never ceased to exist but their equipment had become outdated. This is when the Navy asked G. Panerai & Figlio to supply new instruments, gauges and watches for their units.

    In the early 1950s, Panerai created a new generation of compasses which were featured in an 1953 movie named “I sette dell’Orsa Maggiore” (Hell Raiders from the Deep). The depth gauges from this era adopted the very same design featuring a large antimagnetic stainless steel case with an impressive plexiglas dome atop. Interestingly, the elusive Mare Nostrum chronograph prototype had an almost identical case design as these new instruments.

    As with watch dials, the first compasses and depth gauges were illuminated by radium-based Radiomir. From 1965 onwards, Panerai replaced the highly radioactive Radiomir with tritium-based Luminor.

    While the first depth gauges had regular Panerai sandwich dials, later models received highly sophisticated dial discs which could be adjusted to allow a recalibration during routine maintenance in order to ensure a correct display of depth. Panerai patented the idea for this type of dials on May 14, 1957 (Italian patent no. 572839).

    Early examples had brushed cases. Later cases were sandblasted to render them non-reflective in order to prevent the divers from being discovered. Some examples appear to be sandblasted and additionally coated with a dark grey colour.

    In the post war period, the special forces of the Italian Navy were split into two main groups. The raiders (Incursori) and the so-called hard hat divers (Sommozzatori). The raiders were responsible for maritime operations against enemy targets at sea or in coastal areas while the hard hat divers specialized in de-mining, salvage operations and rescue of personnel from sunken submarines.

    Panerai produced depth gauges for a variety of applications and forms of diving. The maximum depth for diving with oxygen rebreathers as used by the raiders is around 40ft/12m. Below this depth, oxygen becomes rapidly toxic and can lead to fatal accidents.

    Divers on compressed air can go much deeper but need to be constantly aware of the dangerous effects of nitrogen narcosis which kick in below 100ft/30m. Accordingly, Panerai produced depth gauges for maximum depths of 7, 15, 16, 30, 35, 40, 50 and 60 meters.

    It appears that for the Egyptian Navy, Panerai produced hundreds of compasses and depth gauges. The Egyptian compasses are marked with the Panerai model name GPF 4/55 (4th product in 1955) and featured matriculation numbers between the lugs at six o’clock. The highest registered number so far is Matr. No. E 251.

    Both present examples have Radiomir dials and sandblasted cases. It can be assumed they were produced between 1957 and 1965. The depth gauge features an adjustable dial disc with a maximum depth display of 165ft/50m. The first 20 meters are displayed in 2.5 m increments. From 20 meters to 50, the intervals change to 5 meters. Both instruments have retained their original leather straps.

  • 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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Lot offered with No Reserve

An extremely rare pair of sand blasted steel diver’s compass and depth gauge

Circa 1957-1965
Both 68mm diameter
Both case, dial and movement signed

HK$48,000 - 78,000 

Sold for HK$107,100

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi

Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2031

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XI

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2020