A Panerai acquired from captured German frogman with remarkable provenance goes under the hammer.
by James Buttery
A Panerai 3646 acquired from a captured German frogman just days after Operation Market Garden has sold for £41,000 at Fellows this morning.
The Second World War Panerai 3646 was acquired from one of six German Kampfschwimmer frogmen captured by British soldier Sgt George H Rowson after an attempt to destroy Nijmegen Bridge in Holland in September 1944.
Rowson also claimed a shred of the diver’s wetsuit which was part of the lot, along with a treasure trove of provenance including his military service record, photographs, the original leather strap and pin buckle, a letter from his commanding officer and Rowson’s handwritten account of the action that led to him coming into possession of the watch.
The 47mm watch, serial number 1010292, features a hand engraving on the caseback with Rowson’s name, rank and the year the watch was acquired. It was put up for sale by Sgt Rowson’s son.
Sgt Rowson’s account gives a fascinating glimpse of a period of Panerai’s history that is the subject of much discussion. Rowson reveals that the six thwarted German frogmen emerged from the River Waal, each with a watch on one wrist and a compass on the other.
The Type C Ref. 3546 was part of a batch intended for the Italian Decima MAS but which were taken by the Germans. The Type C was the last 3646 to bear Panerai’s branding as the company was later seized by the Germans. Rolex, which made the watches for Panerai, also later anonymised the cases and movements it used.
Despite the watch’s Rolex movement not running, the hammer went down at £41,000, just north of Fellow’s estimate of £30,000-£40,000.