The steel Kampfschwimmer ref. 3646


Exceedingly rare, early and historical Panerai ref. 3646, made in 1944.

In order to meet the military needs of the Royal Italian Navy - which it had already been supplying 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.

The radium based compound, when applied to the dial, allowed the viewer to see the time in any weather condition. Panerai produced its first Radiomir prototype in 1936.

The first professional diving watches were worn by the daring assault swimmers of the Italian Decima MAS, a unit that pioneered the underwater warfare.

Rolex designed and produced different references on specific request of G. Panerai e Figlio in Florence. Panerai received the exclusive rights for a duration of 15 years. The majority of the historic Panerai watches were designed and produced by Rolex.

Panerai was responsible for the highly sophisticated Radiomir dials with an outstanding legibility in the main application area of the Decima MAS assault swimmers, dirty and murky waters of enemy harbours.

During WW2, Italy formed part of Axis powers, tighter with Nazi German and Japan. 

After the invasion of Sicily and the bombardment of Rome, Italy surrendered in September 1943. The Nazi Germany immediately attacked the Italian military and occupied large part of the Italian territory.

The Italian soldiers were given the choice to keep fighting for the Axis or be deported to Germany for slave labour. Thousands of Italian soldiers were killed for not surrendering.

Part of the Decima MAS remained loyal to the Axis, in order to protect Italian interest and they agree to train German Kampfschwimmer (camp swimmer) which arrived in Valdagno in January 1944. 

Since the officer in charge of the Kampfschwimmer - Lieutenant Commander Heinz Schomburg - was about to go to Florence, the Decima MAS asked him to collect a number of watches and instrument the Decima MAS had ordered and paid for months before.

Schomburg gave all the watches and instruments to his German recruits and the Decima MAS did not received a single item.

First arrived in Florence in 1940, Reference 3646 represents the most rare and sought after vintage Panerai.

Preserved in wonderful original condition, the present early example comes from the Rolex Panerai seized by German forces during the WW2.

It features a gorgeous dark tone “Anonymous” Panerai dial which appeared for the first time in 1944. The dials were anonymous because the makers did not want to be associated with the Nazi regime.

The blued Radiomir hands gives a warm and fascinating aura to the whole timepiece.

The extraordinary rarity of this specimen is enhanced by the amazing and barely ever seen white original Rolex dial, which accompanied the watch during the delivery process from Rolex to Panerai.

The case back is engraved with a sought-after Kampfschwimmer engraving, made with a modified electric razor to commemorate having served as Kampfschwimmer.

The inner case back features the typical 1944 Rolex hallmarks and the case number underneath the reference number.

The movement is an elaborate Cortebert 618 caliber, coming with a fully jeweled escapement wheel and a Breguet overcool hairspring. 

The ratchet and crown wheel is beautifully decorated with a swirl finish.

The crown features the typical  “Brevet +” engraving.

Definitely a unique opportunity to get one of the most rare and emblematic historical Panerai wristwatch.

Case n. : 260xxx

Mov: Cal. 618

Diam: 47mm

Manufactured in: 1944

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