The story behind “History1”

by on Jun.23, 2014, under Allgemein

For years, the uncompromised functionality, the mechanical precision and an incomparable design have fascinated collectors of the early Panerai diving watches, which were important instruments for their users during their deployments. Exact timekeeping, perfect legibility in the dark and faultless functioning under water were the characteristics that were demanded by the Navy, which the watches from Florence fulfilled reliably.

The four stories in our book “History1” take the reader back to the time of the Second World War. With the second, expanded edition of the sold out book “Vintage Panerai – Watches with History” (published 2007) we give collectors of historical Panerai watches a deeper and more comprehensive insight into the wearers and the purpose of these watches. Today, subsequent generations can hardly imagine the conditions under which people lived and carried out their dangerous missions back then. Pictures from the period bear silent and impressive witness to the conditions and living circumstances, which we have also been able to supplement with rare map and image materials from various national and international archives.

For anyone who has collected these watches for some time, a number of questions arise automatically, answers to which cannot be found in any history book or company chronicle. It is simply not enough to know that the watches derive from a certain time and have the characteristics for which they are now famous. Instead, the collector with an interest in history wants to know who once owned the watch, and often tries to find out a name or some other information about the origin of the watch by examining the rarely-found engravings on the case. Happy are those who receive this information directly from the previous owner. But today – after 70 years – this is only seldom possible.

Our database of today existing Panerai watches, which we have built up and which continues to expand, forms the basis for dating and categorising these timepieces. It provides us with precise expertise, in especially rare cases also with information about the first owner of the watch. The findings from this database, together with the information known today about the original owners of the watches, give an insight into the time of their manufacture and use. In the confusion of the Second World War the watches often ended up in the hands of the Allies upon the imprisonment of their owners, the Italian and German combat swimmers, and some of them – to the great joy of many collectors – still re-emerge in this day and age.

Lost forever during their owner’s deployment, destroyed immediately after the assignment to get rid of evidence, exchanged immediately after the war in return for necessary everyday items – in times of bitter desperation such a watch often held no value for its owner and during its final operation changed from being a diving object to a pawning object…

A small number of historic Panerai watches reveal their secrets to the readers of “History1” and answer the ever-recurring question: Who used the watch? When did the operations take place, and to what purpose? And further: where and under what conditions did the comprehensive training of the special maritime unit take place? How and by what means were the deployments of the combat swimmers carried out? What do the veterans think of those missions today? We pursued the answers to these questions and, thanks to the help of some surviving veterans of the Second World War, their descendents, or by means of analysing previously unknown documents such as diaries, interview records or recordings by opposing spies, we managed to compile very impressive and authentic chapters.

It was and remains our objective to report factually and comprehensively about the historical Panerai watches and their wearers. “History1” is not a political statement about the time of the Second World War – rather, we have attempted to document the historically proven facts about the circumstances and events of this time, during which the Panerai watches were not items of jewellery for their wearers, but rather an important part of their equipment. It is particularly important to us that this book gives the veterans a “voice” that presents their stories authentically. “History1” describes their very personal experiences and touches on reminiscences, at times in the greatest detail, which in part brought back painful memories and emotions during discussions and in written correspondence with the veterans, even after so many decades. Without their inspiration and great support, this book would not have been possible in this form. For this we would like to express our deepest thanks to “our” veterans.

Our book “History1″ is in stock. It can be ordered directly at our bookstore. Enjoy reading!
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]


Comments are closed.