A war souvenir from the river Elbe in shape of a 3646

by on Nov.14, 2017, under Watch Point

Rahmen_Bild_2017_3646_B_Sothebys04Sotheby’s will auction a Ref. 3646 / Type B “Radiomir Panerai” with engraved caseback in their New York auction Important Watches on 6 December 2017. The watch (lot 946) has been recorded in our database in 2016, along with information which we have received from the descendants of a British Army veteran who brought this watch back home as a souvenir from the Second World War.

Featuring the small Oyster Watch Co hallmark on its inner caseback, an onion shaped “Brevet +” crown (Type 11) and Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1 movement, the watch with a “Radiomir Panerai” sandwich dial stands in our database as another surfaced Ref. 3646 / Type B with an engraved caseback, providing a very interesting story in terms of how these watches changed ownership at the end of the war.

Rahmen_Bild_2017_3646_B_Sothebys03The history behind the engraving on the caseback of the watch in auction at Sotheby’s has been provided to us by the family of Captain Coltart.

Here is a little information on the watch since it came into the Coltart’s possession in 1945: Captain John Maxted Coltart, initially a member of the Black Watch Regiment (RHR) was transferred to the Gordon Highlanders of the 15th Scottish Regiment for the balance of the war.  After his marriage on March 17, 1945 he returned to duty in Germany to do his part in the crossing of the Elbe. He had tales of the struggle to build and maintain the bridge across the Elbe between Tespe on the South shore and the bridgehead at Tesperhude on the North bank. The bridge was under continuing assault by artillery fire, swimmers in the water and terrifyingly fast jet planes which had just entered the war. Captain Coltart brought a number of war souvenirs back to Scotland, including a Luger pistol, the Panerai divers watch and a dagger. He brought them to Canada when he and his family immigrated in 1955. His daughter inherited the watch upon his death in 1984. She had no idea the watch had value other than a keepsake until a Scottish cousin with a good memory emailed a clipping describing the sale of a similar Panerai watch. Captain Coltart had the back of the watch engraved to commemorate the last battle he took part in and the location where he obtained the watch. At this point it is unclear exactly how he managed to collect these mementos but it is clear that they were obtained while on active duty in Germany during the Second World War and have been in the family ever since.

On “Operation Enterprise” (source: wikipedia):
The particular distinction for the 15th Scottish was to be selected to lead the last set piece river crossing of the war, the assault across the River Elbe (“Operation Enterprise”) on 29 April 1945 spearheaded by the 1st Commando Brigade (commanded by Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts), after which they fought on to the Baltic occupying both Lübeck and Kiel. The 15th (Scottish) was the only division of the British Army during the Second World War to be involved in three of the six major European river assault crossings; the Seine, the Rhine and the Elbe.

The crossing of the river Elbe at Lauenburg has been part of our research for our book “History2”, chapter IX (page 825-845 with historic maps and photos taken during “Operation Enterprise” in the river Elbe area at Tespe – Artlenburg – Lauenburg) in which a surviving frogmen particularly mentioned the railway bridge of Lauenburg (see photo above, page 824-825) being one of their mission targets in the last days of the Second World War (19 April 1945), followed by the attemp to destroy the 946 ft. “Class 40 Bailey Pontoon Bridge” at Artlenburg (west of Lauenburg, 28/29 April 1945) by a group of German frogmen (see photos on page 842 and 843).

Rahmen_Bild_2017_3646_B_Sothebys01Photo left: view onto the Rolex Cal. 618 / Type 1 movement of the watch in auction. Similar watches of the Ref. 3646 / Type B with “Radiomir Panerai” sandwich dials have been published earlier here and here.

A special thanks to the descendants of Captain Coltart who provided us information on the Ref. 3646 / Type B and its story behind. We hope that this watch will find a good new home and remains surfaced in the Vintage Panerai collectors world.
[Ralf Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann]

[Photos of the Ref. 3646 / Type B watch with kindly permission / courtesy of www.sothebys.com]

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