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: 124’833
    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

    What makes a Panerai a Panerai is without a doubt the presence of the half-moon shaped crown-protecting device. The iconic crown guard is the ultimate distinguishing feature that sets Panerai apart from other watch brands. First used in the gigantic GPF 2/56 from 1956, G. Panerai & Figlio soon found a way to install the bridge also on Ref. 6152/1.

    To install the crown guard, the rounded 6152/1 case required some modifications. To provide a flat seat for the bridge, Panerai milled two grooves onto the side of the case. One to the left and one to the right of the crown tube. The Rolex Big Crown (8mm) was replaced by a shorter but wider winding crown (8.5mm).

    Ref. 6152/1 was produced by Rolex in 1955. G. Panerai & Figlio ordered 500 pieces for their client the Italian Navy. Prior to Ref. 6152/1, Rolex produced a very small number of Ref. 6152 in 1954 and Ref. 6154 in 1954 for testing purposes. Both references had a distinct crease around the case which gave the watches a very elegant look. In addition, Ref. 6152 had a recessed Big Crown which can be considered Rolex’s first attempt at creating a “crown guard”. Only a handful Ref. 6152 and around twenty Ref. 6154 have surfaced until today. In tests, Ref. 6152 performed better and consequently, Rolex developed with Ref. 6152/1 an improved version with less decorative elements and thus less expensive to produce.

    Official Navy documents show that 6152/1 watches delivered to the Italian Navy in March 1958 still featured the original Rolex Big Crowns and Radiomir dials. G. Panerai & Figlio archive photos from the late 1950s/early 1960s show Ref. 6152/1 with crown-protecting device featuring a Radiomir dial. It can be assumed Panerai started outfitting Ref. 6152/1 with their patented crown guard towards the end of the 1950s.

    Most crown guards found on Ref. 6152/1 are stamped with numbers between 1 and 10. The significance of these numbers is unknown. It could be some kind of quality check or a remark related to the fit in case the part had to be replaced. Later crown guards were additionally engraved with “Brev. Ital.” to refer to the Italian patent.

    Until 1965, all watches delivered to the Navy were equipped with Radiomir dials. Radiomir was a radioluminescent mixture which used radium-226 as an energy source to excite zinc sulfide (inorganic phosphor). Zinc sulfide emits light upon excitation by radiation. If exposed to sun or artificial light, it glows for a short period of time.

    The lifespan of radium-based Radiomir dials was somewhere between three and five years. This was the time it took for the radium-226 to completely destroy the zinc sulfide. For this reason, Radiomir dials had to be replaced periodically. After tritium-based Luminor became available, the Navy decided to replace all highly radioactive Radiomir dials with Luminor. The story goes that the old Radiomir dials, some outdated 3646 and a bunch of Radiomir instruments were sealed with cement into an ammunition crate and sunk in the Golf of La Spezia. According to Franco Zavattaro, former Commander of ComSubIn until 1971, this event took place in 1968.

    The first Luminor dial batch which replaced the old Radiomir dials bore Marina Militare engravings. At some point, Panerai started supplying these watches also to Italian law enforcement agencies like the Carabinieri (CC), Polizia di Stato (PS) and Guardi di Finanza (GF) who’s underwater specialists received their basic training from the Navy special forces. The dials of these timepieces had Luminor Panerai engravings. It appears Marina Militare signed dials were discontinued fairly early and all new batches received Luminor Panerai engraved dials. Evidence for this can be found in the fact that watches with the highest known Marina Militare matriculation numbers (e.g. SMZ. No. 189) pertaining to the very last batch supplied to the Navy featured Luminor Panerai dials. This is absolutely consistent with an Italian Navy inventory list from 1988 where SMZ. No. 189 is listed as having a Luminor Panerai dial.

    The present watch is of special interest as it was published on the cover a Japanese watch magazine in 1992. This very watch was also presented on the inside of the magazine as part of an extensive 16 pages long article about Panerai and their history. This report was crucial for Panerai.

    As a matter of fact, it was this very article and the positive feedback from the Japanese watch collecting community that inspired Officine Panerai SpA to recreate the so-called Luminor in 1993. A comparison of the movement screw positions of the present watch with the picture shown in the Japanese article reveals the watch remained literally untouched for the past 38 years. Even the strap is still the same. Compared to the pictures from the article, it doesn’t show any further wear. A veritable time capsule.

  • 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

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

HK$240,000 - 380,000 

Sold for HK$907,200

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi

Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2031

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XI

Hong Kong Auction 29 November 2020