Resilient, robust, reliable whatever the weather, the Rolex Panerai 3646 was a prime piece of a wartime navy diver's underwater military ware

Fine Watches & Wristwatches
4 Dec 2013
London, New Bond Street

The Rolex Panerai 3646 will be a highlight at Bonhams Fine Watches & Wristwatches sale on December 4 in London's New Bond Street. It is estimated at a value of £18,000-22,000.

The popularity of Panerai watches stems from the part that they played in the Navy. The watches were originally supplied under commission to the Regia Marina (Italian Royal Navy) during the Thirties. The Rolex Panerai 3646 was produced from about 1938 onwards, and it was a vital piece of underwater military equipment.

Only a relatively small number of these watches from the Thirties survive, so when they do appear, they attract plenty of interest with collectors and buyers. The Rolex Panerai 3646 is all the more special because of its size: At 47mm in diameter, it is exceeded only by the goliath German Observation watches from Lange & Söhne, Laco, and Stowa.

Panerai watches had to be resilient under extreme conditions; they also had to be unfalteringly accurate. Their makers employed the manual wind Cal.618 movements and waterproof cases supplied by Rolex. They also employed an arrangement known as a sandwich dial, forming their dials with two discs: An upper black disc with cut-out numerals revealed a second disc coated with luminous material beneath.

Panerai watches frequently feature engraved casebacks. They have an unusual type of lattice engraving, and often bear the word "Kampfschwimmer" ("combat swimmers", aka Germany's commando frogmen). In an additional personal touch, The Rolex Panerai 3646 also features the entwined initials "SBHC".

Paul Maudsley, Head of Bonhams Watch Department, comments: "It's often uncertain whether these special watches were engraved during actual military service or in memory of that time spent in the Navy. What is certain, however, is that they provide us with proof that they were a vital piece of the divers' equipment".

For further information and images call Chloe Ashby on 0207 468 5870, or email or


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to

Related auctions