Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI Geneva Saturday, November 5, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 2008
    Reference No: 16600
    Case No: V319075
    Model Name: Sea-Dweller, "Polipetto"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3135, 31 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet, max length 190mm.
    Additional Atelier del Cinturino "Octopus" leather strap

    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster extendable deployant clasp stamped PJ1 and 93160 A.
    Additional stainless steel Rolex pin buckle

    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex Guarantee card in the name of Giovanni De Gennaro, stamped by La Spezia retailer "Montres et Bijoux di Giorgini" and dated December 2008, decompression table, plastic anchor, literature, green document holder, fitted presentation box and outer packaging.
    Furthermore delivered with original sale declaration of Giovanni De Gennaro dated June 23, 2014, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic badge, vintage 2006 bespoken 75cl bottle of red wine "Auxo Colli di Luni" in bespoken wooden box with drinking tools (thermometer, bottle opener, cap, oxygenation tool and anti-drop ring), Italian Police (IP) shirt and baseball cap, IP notebook and pen, 15 IP pins, 6 IP wooden crests, 1 FBI wooden crest, 1 DIA wooden crest, 2 IP paperweights and 1 IP fabric emblem.
    Additionally, delivered with a binder including numerous newspaper articles about De Gennaro and a 6-page letter about the reasons why he was awarded the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievements.

  • Catalogue Essay

    As any collector knows, a watch can take many aspects. It can be a simple tool for telling time; it can be a mirror of one’s tastes, likes and dislikes; it can be an indication of wealth and power. In some rare instances, however, a watch can transcend all of the above and turn itself into a testament to an epoch, a totem representing specific moments in time or the life of a man of uncommon talent. It is in this cases that a timepiece truly becomes history crystallised, and when such a piece comes in absolutely pristine condition and with an impeccable pedigree - such as in this instance - the collector knows they are in the present of a watch of gargantuan importance.

    The Rolex Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 made for the Scuba Diving Corps of the Italian State Police - a.k.a. the “Polipetto” - was realised in 78 examples in 2008 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the division. None of the watches were ever available to the general public, rather they were assigned to internal police personnel, and all of them were sold by the La Spezia (an Italian coastal town) Rolex retailer.

    It is understood that of these 78 examples, about 50 bear a back with only the commemorative engraving and 25 were assigned to scuba divers and bear the brevet number of the owner to the back. This leaves 3 watches left, which have been spoken about in hushed tones since the model became one of the most collectible modern Sea-Dweller references, in the mid 2010s. These pieces were reserved to high ranking police officials and each bear a personalised engraving. In fact, the watch bearing the engraving “C.N” - the specimen here proposed - was reserved for the highest ranking Police official overall: supreme Chief of the Italian Police Giovanni de Gennaro, making it without a doubt the most important example of the series. Any Polipetto is by now an enormously collectible timepiece, but the historical importance of Chief De Gennaro and the absolutely mint condition of the piece propel this specimen to the stratosphere of collecting.

    Offered in absolutely untouched condition, the piece retains all the factory stickers and even sports its unmolested QR code - which often tends to partly or totally rub off - to the left band sticker. Its provenance is as transparent as its condition is flawless: a 2-owners-since-new timepiece, it was purchased from De Gennaro by the current owner - as testified by the accompanying sale declaration signed by De Gennaro and dated June 23, 2014.

    Such a document not only fully certifies the complete history of the watch but it furthermore offers some insight into the “C.N.” engraving. Being the watch known by the community, collectors have put forward theories about the meaning of such a cryptic monogram - which does not match even remotely the name of the original owner. A popular theory is that C. N. means “Cavaliere Nero”, dark night. As peculiar and fascinating as such an explanation may be, it misses the mark by miles.
    Chief De Gennaro wrote in the declaration the following statement “In order to protect my safety and that of my family, I will not put in writing the personal meaning of the engraving, but I will verbally divulge it to the new owner of the watch”. True to his word, he did in fact explained this detail to the buyer, who communicated it to Phillips. While incredibly inspiring and a superb example of the moral strength and rectitude of Chief De Gennaro, we decided to honour his desire for privacy and will not put the information into this catalogue. Rather, it will be verbally communicated to the new owner of the watch.

    The watch is of course sold with its full original sale kit - as expected from a mint piece - but that is not all. While many Polipetto are accompanied by military memorabilia, the one formerly belonging to the Chief of Police goes above and beyond anything seen so far, a direct testimony of the prestige and power that role affords in general, and the historical relevance of Chief De Gennaro specifically.

    The most historically relevant accessory is without a doubt the badge he received when he was knighted “Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” (Cavaliere di Gran Croce Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana) on June 2, 2000, one of the highest ranks of the Order, which is the senior Italian Order of Merit. The highest honour bestowable by the Italian Republic, it is awarded for either social, professional or military merits - as in this instance.

    A much less historically relevant but very intriguing accessory is a vintage 2006 bottle of red wine produced especially for the 50th anniversary of the Scuba Diving corp, cradled in an elegant wooded case with the Italian Police crest and designation on the lid and a series of drinking tools housed on the inside of the lid. Beyond its allure, this accessory underlines the prestige of the Chief of Police, as we can be positive not many such elaborate cases were made.

    Furthermore, the accessories include Italian Police (IP) shirt and baseball cap, IP notebook and pen, an outstanding collection of 15 IP pins, 5 IP wooden crests from various departments, 1 DIA crest and 1 FBI crest, two IP paperweights and one IP fabric emblem, making this without a doubt the most rich and relevant group of military accessories to ever appear with a Polipetto.

    Finally, history buffs will rejoice in finding a binder holding not only a number of articles about De Gennaro from Italian papers, but also a 6 page letter in Italian explaining in detail the reasons why he was awarded the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievements. While unfortunately there is no substantiation for this hypothesis - and the owner does not recall how he came in possession of this letter - given that the letter begins with “It is with great honour that we design Dr. Gianni De Gennaro, Chief of Italian Police, for the FBI Medal of Meritorious Achievements…” this appears to be a direct translation of the official FBI letter conferring the Medal to the Chief. According to this document, Rudolph Giuliani was one of 6 people who were interviewed when considering De Gennaro as a candidate for the Medal.

    Reuniting flawless condition, absolute rarity, an unmistakable dial, perfect provenance and remarkable historical relevance, one can unarguably say that the present piece is one of the most important Rolex Sea-Dweller of the 21st century.


    Born in Reggio Calabria on August 14, 1948 Giovanni “Gianni” De Gennaro, has been a pivotal figure of the fight against criminality in the second part of the last century, both in Italy and abroad.

    His career begins in Rome in the 1970s, when he becomes close friend of Giovanni Falcone - arguably the person most representative of the fight against Mafia, which would tragically and notoriously claim his life in 1992. The “Servizio Centrale Operativo” (central operative service) - the coordination unit of the Italian Police - was built by him in the late 1980s.
    After his experience with the creation and management of the SCO, he moves on to DIA (Direzione Investigativa Antimafia - Anti-Mafia investigation Directorate) of which he becomes director in 1993. He holds the position for 4 years before becoming Vice-Chief of Police in 1997 and eventually Chief of the Italian Police in 2000. In 2007 he serves as Head of Staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the first of a series of important managing positions among which, in 2008, Director of the DIS (Dipartimento delle informazioni per la Sicurezza - Department of Security Intelligence), which is according to their website “the collective name given to the authorities and organisations responsible for intelligence policies, intelligence coordination and intelligence operations”. Basically, the Italian counterpart to the CIA.
    In 2013 he is nominated Director of the defence contractor Finmeccanica (later called Leonardo), a position he holds until 2020.

    His fight against criminality, most notably organised crime, is recognised worldwide and it earned him not only, as aforementioned, the highest honour the Italian Republic can bestow (Cavaliere di Gran Croce dell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica italiana), but also the FBI’s Medal of Meritorious Achievement. Part of 4 medals awarded by the FBI to employees and other law enforcement members working with the FBI, it is awarded for “extraordinary and exceptional meritorious service in a duty of extreme challenge and great responsibility, extraordinary and exceptional achievements in connection with criminal or national security cases or projects, or a decisive, exemplary act that results in the protection or the direct saving of life in severe jeopardy in the line of duty”. This honour was in virtue of the efforts of De Gennaro against organized criminality, most notably taking part in the historical “Pizza Connection” and “Iron Tower” operations in the USA, but also for his overall heroism, professionalism and continuing support over the years to the cooperation of international police forces.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 16600
A "new-old-stock", highly important stainless steel diver's wristwatch with center seconds, date, helium escape valve, bracelet, bespoke dial, engraved caseback, box, Guarantee, historical documents and military accessories. Made for the Chief of Italian Police Giovanni De Gennaro

40mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

CHF150,000 - 300,000 

Sold for CHF277,200

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East
+41 22 317 81 81

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva
+41 22 317 96 63

The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI

Geneva Auction 5 - 6 November 2022