Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ultra-Rare 1955 Luminor Panerai Prototype Up For Auction at Sotheby's

Ultra-Rare 1955 Luminor Panerai Prototype
Sold For $477,000 at Sotheby's

Reference 6152/1: Case Number 12948

Sotheby's Auction house offered an ultra-rare Prototype Luminor Panerai which includes a special prototype diving bezel, which is removable. The watch sold on May 14, 2014 for $477,000. I believe this set yet another International record for auction results for Panerai watches!!! What exactly is this unusual prototype watch about? and what is the deal with the bezel? This watch basically marked the end of the line for Panerai's research & development of the watches in the mid 1950s. 

This unusual Panerai was discovered by Dino Zei, who is the ex-chairman of Panerai SPA, and the watch once belonged to Admiral Birindelli of the Royal Italian Navy.

Essentially Panerai watches were obsoleted by the Rolex Submariner and Tudor Submariner models. In other words, when the Royal Italian Navy divers became aware of the Rolex Submariner models, they grew to prefer them, and though the Panerai watches were archaic. Today these vintage Panerai watches are each worth a small fortune since they have stood the truest test of time, which is based upon the timeless nature of the designs. 

It is ironic that many of the vintage Panerai, Rolex and Patek Philippe watches that are worth a fortune today, were not popular when they were originally sold, but from having studied the auction market results for many years, I have noticed their is a strong correlation between a watches value and how timeless its design is. The ultimate measure of how timeless a watches design is, would be based upon how it would look on your wrist today. With the 47MM Panerai models, like the one pictured above, the design is soooo today. In other words, if you wore it today, it would look so contemporary and modern, yet is was made in 1955–now that's timeless design, and auction results consistently typically reward this.

Supreme Irony

Ironically Rolex had experimented with making a 47MM Rolex Diving tool watch in 1954 which also lacked the spinning bezel insert and it can be seen below. This ultra-rare Rolex featured a reference number of 6154.

So basically the Luminor Panerai's which featured the half-cresent tight-seal crown guard represented  the tail end of Panerai's experimenting with Diving tool watches. When Rolex showed off the Submariner in 1953, is had an invaluable feature that the Panerai could not compete with, and that was a spinning bezel that could be used for timing dives, and in particular, making certain the diver would not run out of oxygen, since the Rolex Submariner bezel was only unidirectional, meaning it could only spin counter-clockwise, thus ensuring the diver could not reset it to give himself more time by mistake. The Rolex Submariner pictured below was made in 1953, and offered many features that functionally obscoleted all the Panerai models, including the unidirectional spinning bezel as well as the stainless steel bracelet.

So now let's get back to examining this rare Luminor Panerai. On a side note, it dawned on me that the Luminor Panerai had the half-crescent (Tight-Seal) crown guard long before the Rolex Submariner gained crown guards, and it makes me wonder if Rolex was inspired to add crown guards after seeing them on the Luminor Panerai?

The bezel insert is easily removable from the Luminor Panerai 6152/1, and in the photo below, we see the bezel by itself.

The photo below shows the inside of the case back which has the standard Montres Rolex SA, Geneva, Switzerland, Patented, Stainless Steel, Swiss Made, 6152 1 etching.

Below is a photo of the Rolex Calibre 618 Movement, which contains 17 Rubies. This Rolex movement is a simple, yet reliable workhorse movement.

Southeby's Catalogue Notes

With a certificate letter signed by Dino Zei, ex Chairman of Panerai S.p.A dated 2009, a pouch and a DVD.

Reference 6152/1

In the early 1950s, Ref. 6152 replaced Ref. 3646, the first Radiomir Panerai produced by Rolex for Officine Panerai. The Florence based Panerai company had received a commission from the Royal Italian Navy to produce a military-grade wristwatch which would, not only keep exact time, but also withstand a harsh maritime environment.

The Ref. 6152/1 distinguishes itself from Ref. 6152 in that its case is slightly larger and is therefore able to carry either the Rolex cal. 618 or the Angelus cal. 240. It is estimated that, in total, 300 examples of Ref. 6152/1 were created. Although the crown guard seen on the present example can be found on Panerai wristwatches beginning in the 1940s, the patent for this iconic design element was not issued until 1955.

This extremely rare and historical reference 6152/1 was unknown until recently when it was rediscovered by scholars and especially through the research of Dino Zei, ex -Chairman of Panerai SPA, before the Florence based company was bought by the Richemont Group. This Luminor Panerai model 6152/1, has a unique prototype polycarbonate see-through bezel with three black dots at 3, 6 and 9 and a luminescent dot at 12, in addition, it also bears smaller black dots at each hour. Interestingly, throughout the many years he spent at Panerai, Dino Zei knew of another bezel of the same design as the present watch which was stored in the drawers of his office, but it was only upon discovery of the present watch that he was able to see how, and on which model, the bezel had originally been mounted.

The impeccable provenance of this watch, offered as it is by the descendents of Admiral Birindelli, add greatly to its historical importance and place in the history of Panerai watches.

Admiral Birindelli

Gino Birindelli was born in Pescia on January 19th, 1911. Studying first at Florence’s Scolopi school, Birindelli entered the Royal Naval Academy, Livorno, at the age of 14 and served with distinction as a junior officer.

After a series of postings at sea, Birindelli went on to graduate from Pisa University with a degree in engineering. His lungs were damaged by the inhalation of pure oxygen during dives, but this did nothing to dampen his physical and mental strength, especially during World War II, in which he earned the Silver Medal of Military Valour, for Bravery. He was also Commander of the Fifth Squadron M.A.S.

Following the end of the war, Birindelli went on to Command the Gruppo Operativo Incursevi (G.O.I.), various Fighter Squadrons, Livorno’s Naval War Institute, and the Commandment of divers. His eminent place in the Italian Navy led him to cross the seas from September 1st 1956 to March 1st 1957, after 33,170 miles, he then became Chief of Staff added to the Command of the Naval Academy. He rose to Senior Commands, the last of which was a Commander (in the early 1970’s) of NATO forces in the Mediterranean.

After retiring in 1973, Admiral Gino Birindelli (who became an MP in 1972) served in Parliament until 1976. He devoted himself to the interests of the Navy, and had also been involved in Britain to preserve the wartime submersibles.

He died on August 2nd, 2008, aged 97.

For further information please refer to Dino Zei and Mario Paci, Panerai Watches, p. 115.

No comments:

Post a Comment