Sotheby’s, London, March 8 2016
Sold for: £112,500
Undoubtedly the most collectable of all vintage Panerai watches – aside from the ultra-rare prototypes – is the celebrated Ref. 3646, the original model designed for the Italian navy and manufactured to Panerai’s specification by Rolex. The 3646 prevailed from 1936 to the early 1950s, by which time it had been replaced by Ref. 6152/1 which featured a case made from a single block of steel and substituted the old, soldered wire lugs of the 3646 for more secure solid lugs with spring bars in between.
The Ref. 6152/1 could be had either with or without Panerai’s signature crown guard and locking lever – this one sold at Sotheby’s being an example of the latter. Fitted with a simple Rolex crown and a Rolex Calibre 618 movement, the watch appeared to be in great original condition with the proper markings between the strap lugs to show the reference and serial numbers.
The correct Rolex-signed case back was a further pointer to originality, and the icing on the cake was the evenly-toned “tropical” dial, which had faded gracefully from its original black to a delectable toffee colour. Such nuances are what get serious Panerai collectors excited, so it was almost expected that this watch would exceed its high estimate and, in the event, it sold for 25 per cent more than predicted.
Fewer than 90 examples of the 6152/1 with a Rolex movement and no crown guard are known to still exist, but the most expensive example of the model was a crown guard version with a unique polycarbonate bezel, originally owned by Admiral Gino Birindelli, of the Italian Navy, which sold for CHF425,000 at Sotheby’s in 2014.
In summary: A must for any serious Panerai collector – with a known military history the price could have been considerably higher.