How to visualize a frogman’s pencil written diary from 1945?

by on Feb.16, 2024, under General

During the research on the history behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” with engraved caseback, we were able to study the diary of the first owner of the watch. This diary survived the last days of the Second World War and the veteran kept it for decades, willed to share it with us and partially featured in chapter II of our book “History2”.

Thanks to the many detailed descriptions (e.g. the water temperature, current, weather conditions and explosive charges carried) which the frogman wrote down and the examination of historical maps of the 1940’s it was possible to analyze his diary entries precisely and visualize his memories to the readers of our book in an impressive way. The collected documents and additional information let this chapter become one of the unique stories behind a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch.

History1_frontal_300x300Reading page 83 of “History1” reminds on a part of our research which did happened not often. The frogman wrote the following lines in his diary at the beginning of March 1945:

“The next morning we set off towards the east in a truck. With unbelievable power, the Russians have pushed thru as far as the [river] Oder in their last offensive. They even managed to build two bridgeheads at Fürstenberg [in November 1961 the city was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt]. Reconnaissance flights tell us that they are putting tremendous amounts of people and material into these bridgeheads”.

Reconnaissance flights? Having this information in mind, we started to search various archives for still existing aerial photographs – maybe the one which the frogmen mentioned in his diary still exists? After the war, some remaining photos were transferred to archives which stored these photos for bomb clearance works. Good luck on the hunt! Guess how easy this search would be? Where to start? To find a aerial photo from the same date, same area and even showing the target, not knowing if its existing at all? We found it – a needle in a haystack – the photo which was shown to the frogmen as their next target.

IMG_3659_600x600Dated to 1 March 1945, the photo taken by a reconnaissance flight shows one of the pontoon bridges built across the Oder by the Russian troops just shortly before – which became soon later the target for the “Keller Group” just as the frogman wrote it down in his diary. Read more on the diary and various historic documents which helped us to visualize this source of information during our research on a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer” watch here.

The coffee table shot shows page 110-111, chapter II of “History2” next to one of the few original photos of the “Keller Group” taken shortly before their missions at the eastern front (spot some Panerai gear in it). This photo is published on page 94 in the same chapter. The coffee table shot includes also a Ref. 3646 / Type D “Kampfschwimmer”, featured in chapter V of “History2” – the watch of frogman Siegfried Köneke, who was also a member of the “Keller Group”. Read more about this chapter here.

Our two “History” books can be ordered only in our bookstore.

Enjoy reading stories behind these watches!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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The Radiomir which returned from Gibraltar to Italy…

by on Feb.01, 2024, under Allgemein

IMG_2843_600x600…but alone – without the SLC pilot who used it on his wrist during the mission B.G.5 in December 1942: Licio Visintini.

Born 1915 and enterred the Royal Italian Navy in 1933, Licio Visintini took part in several missions against the allied fleet in Gibraltar as a member of the Decima MAS. In 1941 Visintini was promoted to Tenente di Vascello. After surviving from SLC missions B.G.3 (May 1941) and B.G.4 (September 1941), carried out by the transport submersible “Scirè” under the command of Junio Valerio Borghese, Visintini returned to Gibraltar undercover in June 1942 where he built the core of the “Orsa Maggiore” on board the tanker Olterra – the hidden base for the SLC units in the bay of Gibraltar.

IMG_2842_600x600According to legend, Visintini’s „Radiomir Panerai“ was returned to his mother after the end of the Second World War by his former enemy, Lieutenant „Buster“ Crabb (head of the Underwater Working Party in Gibraltar). The return of personal items to relatives showed a great respect that the combatants on different sides had for one another. Crabb, who was himself an experienced diver serving the British Navy, knew from experience all too wellt he level of courage and determination that was neccessary to carry out missions of this kind. Before Visintini’s mother died, she gave the watch to Vittorio Stradi, her son’s best friend. Vittorio Stradi was a „Gamma“ frogman in the Second World War. Fourty years later he passed the watch to his friend Isidoro Mario Nardin, who was also a member of the „Gamma“ frogmen during the Second World War.

IMG_2841_600x600To commemorate the order of ownership, the three names were inscribed for posterity on the caseback, as shown on page 358-359 and 360. For Isidoro Mario Nardin, Licio Visintini’s Panerai watch became a symbol of cameraderie and a memento of his fallen comrade.

Chapter II.III in our book “The References” (first volume / 1930’s-1940’s) features the story behind this Ref. 3646 / Type C „Radiomir Panerai“ and its three owners, Licio Visintini (M.O.V.M.), Vittorio Stradi and Isidoro Mario Nardin, on page 350-397.

Information on “The References” 1930’s-1940’s (first volume) can be found here.

Enjoy reading!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

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Our database – an interim status on 1 January 2024

by on Jan.16, 2024, under Allgemein

What happened after 1 January 2016 when we “paused” counting new entries in our database for a moment to complete our book set “The References”? We continued to count and still do that – since 2003 (…21 years ago). January 2024 was a good time to pause again and see how our records have changed in numbers of known watches in our database. The total number of all historic Panerai watches in our database from the 1930’s to the 1960’s has grown to 452 known watches.

Back in 2016 we had 211 entries of the Reference 3646 in our database (seven different number groups, from 3646 / Type A to 3646 / Type G). Since then, 55 watches of the References 3646 have been added into our records, making a total of 266 watches of the reference 3646 today. Find an interim status on 1 January 2024 below:

Reference 2533: 3 examples known (2016: 3)

Reference 3646 / Type A: 18 classified (2016: 18)

Reference 3646 / Type B: 21 classified (2016: 16)

Reference 3646 / Type C: 66 classified (2016: 52)

Reference 3646 / Type D: 108 classified (2016: 79)

Reference 3646 / Type E: 32 classified (2016: 26)

Reference 3646 / Type F: 11 classified (2016: 11)

Reference 3646 / Type G: 10 classified (2016: 9)

Mare Nostrum Chronograph: 1 example known (2016: 1)

The watches made by Guido Panerai & Figlio after the Second World War, those with solid lugs, references 6152, 6154, 6152/1 and GPF 2/56 as well as the transitional references and those with Angelus movements increased from 162 to 182. Most additions are watches of the reference 6152/1 – all four versions (Rolex and Angelus movements, Rolex crown and Panerai crown guard) increased from 103 (2016) to 118 specimen classified in our database on 1 January 2024.

Reference 6152 / Type A: 7 classified (2016: 7)

Reference 6152 / Type B: 2 classified (2016: 2)

Reference 6154: 18 classified (2016: 15)

Reference 6152/1 Rolex with Rolex crown: 24 classified (2016: 23)

Reference 6152/1 Rolex with Panerai crown guard: 74 classified (2016: 64)

GPF 2/56 Angelus: 27 classified (2016: 25)

Reference 3646 Angelus: 5 classified (2016: 5)

Reference 3646 Transitional: 5 classified (2016: 5)

Reference 6152/1 Angelus with Rolex crown: 8 classified (2016: 6)

Reference 6152/1 Angelus with Panerai crown guard: 12 classified (2016: 10)

At this point, again, we want to thank those who shared information on the watches lined up above with us. Auctioneers, collectors, veterans or their family members and friends.

Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann

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Naval heritage – Ernesto Notari’s Radiomir

by on Dec.28, 2023, under Allgemein

heritage_696_notariSince 1992, the Vintage Panerai watch which was worn by SLC pilot Ernesto Notari during the Second World War, is on display at the Museo Tecnico Navale in La Spezia. Back then, the watch’s first owner decided to give the watch to the museum on his own wish. It was accepted into the museum’s inventory and since then, it has been on display in a cabinet with other rare items from the Mezzi d’Assalto, where it is resting on one of the last remaining SLC devices.

In its unaltered original condition, it was an important source of information for us. With the support of the museum we were able to enter all details of the watch into our database. Beside the importance by the history behind, this watch marks the earliest known 3646 / Type A and so became the first watch in chapter II. With its engraved caseback it is of enormous significance with regard to the history of the Mezzi d’Assalto of the Royal Italian Navy.

Page 60 – 61: Comparing photos of Ernesto Notari’s Ref. 3646 / Type A from 2014 and 2008.

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Being a member of the Mezzi Subacquei, Ernesto Notari trained at Bocca di Serchio, the secret base of the underwater special unit in Tuscany. In early 1940, the first training exercises were carried out, resulting in the 1935 concept of Teseo Tesei and Elios Toschi evolving into a real, secret weapon. After the desaster of Malta in July 1941, Ernesto Notari was commander of the training base Bocca di Serchio.

In 1943 Notari posted to the secret base in the Bay of Algeciras, the Olterra. After the successful return from mission B.G.6 in May 1943, Notari was awarded with the M.A.V.M. (silver medal for galantry at war) in the rank of Capitano di Corvetta. He solved another successful mission in August 1943: B.G.7, for which he was awarded M.A.V.M. one more time. B.G.7 was the last mission carried out from the tanker Olterra. The declaration of the ceasefire by Italy on 8 September 1943 brought all further plans to an end. The secret of the Olterra was only discovered by the British in October 1943. The undercover missions of the Decima MAS in Gibraltar were therefore highly successful. Although they did not have any major successes like in Alexandria, the continued presence of the Decima for a period of almost three years exercised constant pressure on the British. The use of Villa Carmela and the Olterra as secret starting bases for night-time missions showed the decisiveness of the Decima MAS and its courageous men – one of whom was Ernesto Notari.

Page 150 – 151: Illustration of the missions completed by the “Orsa Maggiore” in the Bay of Algeciras in 1942 and 1943.

heritage_696_notari_150-151

After the Second World War, Ernesto Notari continued his career with the Marina Militare. As a Capitano di Fregata, he commanded the reformed special unit from 10 October 1947 to 25 September 1948. As a Capitano di Vascello, Notari served his second captaincy from 1 October 1950 to 14 March 1951. In 1952, he assumed command of the Sezione Tecnica Autonoma in Bacoli. The secret base in the province of Naples existed from 1949 to 1957 before being moved to Varignano as part of a restructuring process . This site was home to some of the remaining Mezzi d’Assalto equipment. By the end of his Navy career, Ernesto Notari had reached the rank of Vice-Admiral (Ammiraglio di Squadra).

Page 92 – 93: About the first owner of the watch, Admiral Ernesto Notari, photo taken after the Second World War.

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The watch of Ernesto Notari (a Ref. 3646 / Type A with „Radiomir Panerai“ dial) and the history behind can be read in the book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s (chapter II.I, page 58 to 153). Read more on the Olterra here. Enjoy reading!

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Naval heritage – Luigi Ferraro’s Radiomir

by on Dec.27, 2023, under Allgemein

heritage_696_ferraroWithout a doubt, Luigi Ferraro was a man whose entire life was shaped by the sea. As a talented swimmer, he had been fascinated by the element of water since his youth. During the Second World War, he became one of the best-known frogmen of all time and showed great courage and skill during his dangerous missions, taking himself into the very limits both physically and mentally.

His Radiomir watch, a Ref. 3646 / Type B with riveted plastic dial, has been with him since he was a “Gamma” frogman in the Second World War. With the kind support of his family we were able to document his watch in chapter II.II of our book “The References” together with a view onto his life – before, during and after the war.

Page 194 – 195: View on the engraved caseback of Luigi Ferraro’s 3646 / Type B.

heritage_696_ferraro_194-195

In January 1943, Luigi Ferraro obtained his qualification to carry out underwater missions. He was first posted to North Africa, where he was to attack ships from the British armed forces in the Port of Tripoli. Before the attack could take place, he was ordered back to Italy. Soon later he became an instructor for “Gamma” frogmen of the Mezzi d’Assalto. In May 1943, he was posted to La Spezia and received instructions from Junio Valerio Borghese for a new mission – this time, in the eastern Mediterranean.

Page 204 – 205: About the first owner of the watch. Luigi Ferraro in uniform, photo dated to 1943. The white collar insignia (with an anchor symbol at the top) show that he is a member of the Mezzi d’Assalto.

heritage_696_ferraro_204-205

Luigi Ferraro carried out four missions during July and August 1943 in the Turkish ports of Alexandretta and Mersina. These four missions resulted in the sinking of two ships and the deactivation of a third. Undiscovered and highly successful, the “Operazione Stella” was one of the most effective operations of the Mezzi d’AssaltoLuigi Ferraro was awarded with the M.O.V.M. (gold medal for galantry at war) in the rank of Tenente Artiglieria.

Page 210 – 211: Sketch of two of the four “Stella” missions carried out by Luigi Ferraro in Alexandretta.

heritage_696_ferraro_210-211

After his time as a “Gamma” frogman, he used the skills and abilities he had learnt in the war for civilian purposes. He was able to pass on his extensive knowledge and significant experience to countless divers. Luigi Ferraro was promoted by the Marina Militare to Capitano di Fregata di Complemento in the year 2000.

The watch of Luigi Ferraro (1914 – 2006) and the history behind can be read in the book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s (chapter II.II, page 190 to 225). Read more on “Operazione Stella” here. Enjoy reading!

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Naval heritage – Licio Visintini’s Radiomir

by on Dec.26, 2023, under Allgemein

heritage_696_visintiniSLC pilot Tenente di Vascello Licio Visintini M.O.V.M. took part on several missions against the allied fleet in Gibraltar as a member of the Mezzi d’Assalto.

After returning from the SLC missions B.G.3, being pilot of SLC 160 in May 1941 and B.G.4, being pilot of SLC 220 in September 1941 (both carried out from the transport submersible “Scirè” under the command of Junio Valerio Borghese), Licio Visintini, twice awarded with the silver medal for galantry at war (M.A.V.M.), returned to Gibraltar undercover in June 1942. He built the core of the “Orsa Maggiore” on board the tanker Olterra – the new, hidden base for the SLC units in the bay of Gibraltar (which remained undiscovered until September 1943). Read more on the Olterra here.

After months of preparations and training in complete secrecy, the SLC mission B.G.5 took progress in December 1942 with three SLC devices of the 200-series: 228, 229 and 236. For Licio Visintini, Giovanni Magro and Salvatore Leone it was a missions with no return. Read the complete story about their fateful SLC mission and how Licio Visintini’s Ref. 3646 / Type C with “Radiomir Panerai” dial returned to Italy and changed ownership two times after, on page 368-397.

Page 354 – 355: Licio Visintini’s 3646 / Type C. The strap has been decorated with coat-of-arms of the Sommergibilisti (submariners) and COMSUBIN (Raggruppamento subacquei e incursori “Teseo Tesei”). The Rolex movement of the watch has been introduced here.

heritage_696_visintini_354-355

Page 368 – 369: About the first owner of the watch. Tenente di Vascello Licio Visintini M.O.V.M.

heritage_696_visintini_368-369

Page 386 – 387: Illustration of the secret SLC base Olterra at the pier in Algeciras / Bay of Gibraltar.

heritage_696_visintini_386-387

The watch of Tenente di Vascello Licio Visintini (1915 – 1942) and the history behind can be read in the book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s (chapter II.III, page 350 to 397). Read more on Licio Visintini here. Enjoy reading!

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Naval heritage – Luigi Durand de la Penne

by on Dec.25, 2023, under Allgemein

heritage_696_De_la_PenneLuigi Durand de la Penne was one of the famous SLC pilots of the Mezzi d’Assalto who wrote naval history in the Second World War. Luigi Durand de la Penne was born in Genoa, where he also died (11 February 1914 – 17 January 1992). He graduated from the Naval Academy in Livorno in 1934. He was one of the first crewmen of the 1° Gruppo Sommergibili who realized Teseo Tesei’s and Elios Toschi’s idea of a new, secret weapon in La Spezia: The SLC. At the training base Bocca di Serchio he was a member of the legendary group which founded the famous „Spirito del Serchio“.

The first remarkable milestones of his naval career was the rescue action of the transport submarine for SLC devices, the Iride: On 22 August 1940, in the Gulf of Bomba, the Iride was sunk by a torpedo released by a British Swordfish bomber. The air attack happened during an exercise, in shallow water, when four SLC teams were around, including  the officers Teseo Tesei, Gino Birindelli and Luigi Durand de la Penne. They started an immediate rescue action. Of the 12 Iride crewmen who survived, two died during an unsuccessful attempt to surface, nine were retrieved alive (two of them died soon, due to wounds), and one was too shocked to leave the sunken submarine. Luigi Durand de la Penne tried to persuade him to surface, and even gave him his own rebreather, but the seaman refused surfacing and died.

Page 1016 – 1017: “Uomini della prima ora” – spring 1940 – before the mission G.A.1 failed dramatically. Luigi Durand de la Penne (3rd from left) together with the commanders of the 1st MAS Flotilla (Aloisi and Giorgini), surrounded by Stefanini, Bertozzi, Falcomatà, Tesei, Birindelli and Centurione.

preview_refv2_De_la_Penne_1016-1017

The second milestone in Luigi Durand de la Penne’s naval career was the sinking of the British battleship Valiant. In December 1941, he was one of the “fab six” (Emilio Bianchi, his co-pilot; Antonio Marceglia with Spartaco Schergat and Vincenzo Martellotta with Mario Marino) that attacked the Port of Alexandria. As a result, four ships were disabled: the British battleships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant, the oil tanker Sagona and the destroyer HMS Jervis. Luigi Durand de la Penne was awarded the M.O.V.M. (the Italian highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy”). At the end of the war, Admiral Charles Morgan (the Valiant’s Captain at the time of the attack in Alexandria) wanted to confer himself the medal to Luigi Durand de la Penne in a ceremony in Taranto.

Page 122 – 123: Illustration of the mission G.A.3 on 18/19 December 1941 in the Port of Alexandria.

preview_refv2_De_la_Penne_122-123

After 8 September 1943, Luigi Durand de la Penne was offered the opportunity to be released from prison and fight for the Allies. He accepted and returned to duty as a frogman. In June 1944, he participated in a joint Italian/British operation against the Germans (mission QWZ). A team of British and Italian divers sank the cruisers Gorizia and Bolzano before they could be used to block the harbour entrance. After the Second World War, Luigi Durand de la Penne stayed in the Marina Militare. He was promoted to Capitano di Fregata in 1950 and Capitano di Vascello in 1954. In 1956 he was appointed as Naval Attaché in Brazil.

Luigi Durand de la Penne‘s family donated decorations he was awarded during his career, and his Panerai watch to the museum at the COMSUBIN headquarters in Varignano / La Spezia. The Panerai watch, a Ref. 3646 / Type C with “Radiomir Panerai” dial has been recorded in our database in 2015. Enjoy reading more: Luigi Durand de la Penne M.O.V.M. is featured in chapter I (page 35), chapter II.I (page 94-123) and VIII.II (page 1016-1034) of our two “The References” books.

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A look into our book “The References” 1950’s-1960’s

by on Dec.24, 2023, under Allgemein


Page 924-925 – the patented, L-shaped lever with crown-protecting device of a Ref. 6152/1.


Page 1148-1149 – patent 545668 (dated 30 November 1955) presents the O-ring used in the GPF 2/56.


Page 1332-1333 – the casebacks on the compasses, which are screwed in at six points, ar signed in the center with „OFFICINE PANERAI – FIRENZE“ and below with the patented trademark „BREVETTATO“. The Radiomir compass on the right also features the „MOD. G.PF. 4/55“.

“The References” 1950’s-1960’s at a glance:
37 Vintage Panerai watches from the 1950’s to 1960’s. Featured References: 6152, 6154, 6152/1, GPF 2/56 and modified References, compasses and depth gauges followed by an overview of the straps and buckles used in this era.

26 x 26 cm, 696 pages, trilingual (German, Italian and English language in one book), 27 database charts, 353 illustrations, including rare historic photos from Italian and Egyptian frogmen, hardback jacket, slipcase.

Visit our bookstore and enjoy reading soon!

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A look into our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s

by on Dec.23, 2023, under Allgemein


Page 70-71 – engraved caseback of a Ref. 3646 / Type A “Radiomir Panerai”.


Page 112-113 – 25 July 1941: „Operazione Malta 1“ – setting out for the Augusta base, heading towards Malta: Teseo Tesei (SLC), Vittorio Moccagatta and Giobatta Parodi (MAS 452).


Page 358-359 – contemporary illustration of SLC missions starting from the “Olterra” in the Bay of Gibraltar (1942 and 1943).

“The References” 1930’s-1940’s at a glance:
33 Vintage Panerai watches, history, instruments and straps of the 1930’s-1940’s. Featured References: 2533, 3646, the Mare Nostrum chronograph and compasses.

26 x 26 cm, 696 pages, trilingual (German, Italian and English language in one book), 19 database charts, 383 illustrations, including rare historic photos from the 2nd World War, hardback jacket, slipcase.

Visit our bookstore and enjoy reading soon!

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18 December 1941 – today in history…

by on Dec.18, 2023, under Allgemein

After the failed missions in August and September 1940, the Decima MAS returned to the eastern Mediterranean in order to make another attemp to attack the Harbour of Alexandria with SLC devices of the Mezzi d’Assalto: “Operazione G.A.3”, carried out by Tenente di Vascello Luigi Durand de la Penne and Capo Palombaro I Emilio Bianchi (SLC 221), Capitano Genio Navale Antonio Marceglia and Sottocapo Palombaro Spartaco Schergat (SLC 222), Capitano Armi Navale Vincenzo Martellotta and Sottocapo Palombaro Mario Marino (SLC 223).

Alexandria_GA3_12-1941_600x600What turned out to be one of the most famous SLC missions in the Second World War has been announced in the Italian War Bulletin N. 585 of the 8th of January 1942: “On the night of the 18th December assault craft of the Italian Royal Navy entered the Harbour of Alexandria and attacked two British battleships anchored there. It has only just been confirmed that a battleship of the Valiant class was seriously damaged and put into dock for repairs, and is still there.”

Bulletin N. 586 of the 9th of January 1942, added the following: “In the Operation conducted by assault craft fo the Royal Italian Navy in the Harbour of Alexandria and reported in yesterday’s Bulletin we now have definite further intelligence that, in Addition to the Valiant, a second battleship of the Barham class was also damaged.”

img_0628_600x600Winston Churchill announced in a speech before a secret session of the House of Commons on the 23rd of April 1942: “A further sinister stroke was to come. On the early morning of December 19 half a dozen Italians in unusual diving suits were captured floundering about in the Harbour of Alexandria… Four hours later explosions occurred in the bottoms of the Valiant and the Queen Elizabeth, produced by limpet bombs fixed with extra-ordinary courage and ingenuity, the effect which was to blow large holes in the bottoms of both ships and to flood several compartments, thus putting them both out of Actions for many months…”

Read chapter II.I of our book “The References” 1930’s-1940’s to find out what happened on 18 December 1941 (page 118-125). More on the historic content in our “The References” book set with a total of 1392 pages can be found here and here. You can purchase “The References” 1930’s-1940’s  in our bookstore. Enjoy reading!

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