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

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  • Manufacturer: Panerai
    Year: Circa 1960s
    Reference No: 6152-1
    Case No: 124’614
    Model Name: Luminor
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. Rolex 618, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: 47mm diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    124614 is one of only four Ref. 6152/1 watches known to feature a prototype rotating bezel made of plastic. One of these watches is believed to have belonged to Admiral Gino Birindelli who as a manned torpedo pilot deployed from the famous Italian submarine “Sciré” in October 1940, participated in an attack on the British Naval Base of Gibraltar and was subsequently captured by the British. In 1944, Birindelli was repatriated in order to join the Allied forces in the south of Italy and fight against the German occupation of Italy.

    The Rolex-made watches delivered to the Italian Navy were developed for diving with oxygen rebreathers at maximum depths of around 40ft/12m. Below this depth, pressurized oxygen becomes rapidly toxic which can lead to fatal accidents. Depending on the size of the oxygen cylinder, the divers could remain submerged for up to 5 hours. Decompression stops are not required. All the watches had to be was water tight and legible in murky waters.

    Oxygen rebreathers are closed-circuit breathing apparatuses which do not create bubbles. They are perfect to sneak into enemy waters but useless for working at depth. To do actual work underwater, the divers relied on compressed air. The open-circuit-demand, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) for compressed air was invented in 1942-1943 by Émile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau.

    This form of diving requires planning ahead of the dive. Maximum depths and submersion times need to be calculated. In addition, decompression stops are absolutely required before surfacing in order to expel dissolved gases in the blood and avoid the bends (decompression sickness). For this reason, modern diving watches like the Rolex Submariner were equipped with a time-recording rotating bezel.

    The French Marine National and the U.S. Navy developed special diving tables to assist divers around the world in planning their dives.

    Around 1964, the Italian Navy acquired a batch of Eterna Super KonTiki diving watches with automatic movements which could be used for both, diving with oxygen rebreathers and thanks to the rotating bezel also with compressed air.

    Panerai watches started to look outdated. Panerai was sitting on hundreds of unsold Ref. 6152/1 watches and faced with a big loss, they had to come up with ideas to keep the watches relevant.

    One of these ideas was the present plastic rotating bezel which made Ref. 6152/1 more versatile. With its five minutes calibration, the bezel helped divers on compressed air to keep track of the elapsed time and measure crucial decompression stops.

    The plastic rotating bezel was a typical precision part made by G. Panerai & Figlio in the 1960s. Three tiny spring-loaded metal pins placed at an angle of 120 degrees to each other engaged with a groove milled to the side of the plexi crystal and locked the bezel into place. Twelve round recesses drilled along the groove were responsible for the five minutes calibration. Due to its construction, this type of bezel could not withstand heavy shocks and was lost easily. There are a number of Ref. 6152/1 watches with grooves and recesses on their crystals but only three of them are known to have retained the original bezel.

    The present watch is an impressive example of Panerai’s ingenuity. Its plexiglas crystal has developed an amazing, spiderweb-like craze over time. It is believed the tiny cracks were caused by constant contraction and expansion after exposing the watches for prolonged periods of time to cold water and to hot mediterranean weather after surfacing. Crystals with this type of patina are extremely rare.

    Both the crystal and the rotating bezel have changed colour to an almost identical hue which suggests this ensemble left Panerai in this very form. The Rolex 618 caliber with 17 jewels and Incabloc shock protection is in great shape for its age and still safeguarded by the original soft iron magnetic cover. The watch is further complemented by the original leather strap and stainless steel buckle.

  • 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. 6152-1
A very rare, oversized and attractive stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with crown guard and prototype Plexi bezel

Circa 1960s
47mm diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

HK$380,000 - 780,000 

Sold for HK$1,260,000

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi

Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XI

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2020