The 3646 / Type D which surfaced in former Yugoslavia

by on Mar.15, 2013, under General

Recently I had the chance to see another Ref. 3646 / Type D watch, which surfaced into the Vintage Panerai world a few months ago. The pictures which were available haven’t been very detailled so it was interesting to take a close look on the details of the watch and take some photos.

The first noteable thing is of course the replacement dial, taken probably from a cockpit instrument (VDO gauges) which is using a very reduced design, bearing only 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Needless to say on which brand’s dial design this is a reminder…

The fact that such a dial was used for replacement is answering the question byself, with which dial this watch once came. Because of the flat bezel of the watch (see photo), only a flat dial (“California Dial” or painted brass “Kampfschwimmer”) is possible (for explanation read also our book “History1”, Chapter II.I page 162-163 or “The References”, Chapter I.VII page 156-157).

The comparing photo shows the watch (3646 / Type D 260838 on top, flat bezel) placed above another 3646 / Type D (260554) with the high version of the bezel, using a sandwich dial from Panerai.

Features of the watch:
Reference: 3646 / Type D
Dial: flat, matching with the bezel (anonymous)
Case number: 260838
Movement: Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1

The original strap has not “survived” but we know this has happened on most of the sewn-onto-the-case straps of Ref. 3646. It should be easy to find a “vintage style” strap, so there are many options for this kind of  “personalization” in the future to let this watch look nicer than on the actual bracelet. From what I was able to see, the steel bracelet did not cause serious damage (abrasion / wearout) on the welded-to-the-case lugs.

Once again, this “new surfaced” Ref. 3646 watch is matching our Type D criteria by its details, which has risen the number of Ref. 3646 / Type D database entries up to 60 watches (as of march 1st, 2013). In combination with the 6 digit case number, the Rolex SA embossing on the fully decorated inner caseback is a typical feature of Ref. 3646 / Type D watches (this particular watch has the highest number – 260838 – expanding the Ref. 3646 / Type D number group to 260408 – 260838).

Matching with the inner caseback engravings is the Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1 movement with its typical engravings on the center bridge. The outer caseback bears no engraving. The steel hands have kept their blueish color, the luminous material partially felt off but is worth to conserve as is. Seal rings should be attached as well to keep humidity off the case.

It may not easy to find an original onion crown in the future to bring back the original appearance. Actually the watch bears a replacement crown, as we know this watch was used for a long time, the winding crown is one of the main parts which had to be replaced. Lack of original spare parts caused the use of different crowns than the originals, which has happened on other 3646 watches too.

Informations provided by the owner of the watch, answering questions I asked him via e-mail are the following:

Question 1: Is there any known history coming along this watch?
“The watch was in possesion of a yugoslavian army officer. Actually its function was a “polit komisar” in the army. This was a quite high titule in the communist yugoslavian army. We know the name of this officer but at this time his relatives would prefer to keep it secret since they do not know why it would be of interest to anyone, so I also do not see a reason to disclose it. The watch has been worn until the death of this person in 1982, daily. Thats why also the parts where exchanged. The dial actually was not readable anymore. After 1982 it was more or less in a wardrobe closet. It must have been obtained in the second world war, where directly is not known since this officer has been active on different parts and battles against Italians and Germans at that time.”

Question 2: Do exist any photos of the past, showing the previous owner wearing it?
“Yes we have pictures of the owner wearing the watch in different decades. Actually a picture from the year 1954 then in the sixties and late seventies. In the 50s and 60s the original dial is seen as also the leather strap. Then in the late 70s we can see the metal bracelet, at that time also the dial has been changed with the VDO. After the death of the owner in 1982 the watch was more or less left on side at one of the sons of the owner.”

Watches with a history like this show us the way which some of them took during or after WW2. The lack of original spare parts caused many untypical appearances like – in this case – an untypical dial taken from a VDO cockpit clock… If we can take a close look at the watch and see its details, together with information available from previous owner(s), it can help to find answers on the questions which arise when such a watch surface today. The fact that the watch changed ownership in former Yugoslavia confirmed our knowledge about italian and german frogmen units which were captured at the end of WW2 in this area. Just as some of the watches changed ownership with west allied forces (where they surfaced as well) it has happened in eastern europe too.
[Volker Wiegmann]

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