Rolex Movement - Marina Militare Stamped Dial and Caseback
Official 'Comsubin' Provenance
This watch was an official ‘Marina Militare’ timepiece as identified by ‘Marina Militare’ on dial and caseback stamped ‘MM SMZ 103’ where MM stands for Marina Militare and SMZ is an abbreviation for ‘Sommozzatore’ (Italian word for Frogman/Diver).
This watch is representative of Panerai’s very unique (and privileged) relationship with Rolex in the midst and aftermath of WWII where Panerai sourced their watches almost entirely from Rolex for fulfilment of MilSpec contracts with special force military groups. To this day, it endures as a very special (and unexplained) relationship the likes of which existed between Rolex and no other company. From the early 1900's and leading up to the eventual sale of Panerai to Vendome Luxury Group (now Richemont) Panerai was less known as a Watch Company and more regarded as a Military Contractor and that may serve to explain how Panerai was able to purchase and sell Rolex manufactured Dials, cases and movements under the Panerai name.
One of Panerai's deepest military contracts was with the Italian Marina Militare. COMSUBIN (Comando Subacquei Incursori) is first and foremost a secret special operations unit within the MM. Its membership is a fairly well-guarded secret (We could tell you, but then we would have to kill you) and their archives are regarded as a national secret. Even so, Official Comsubin records obtained show that this watch, as of 1988 was an official inventoried and tracked timepiece in their inventory. Not sure where this watch was or what it did in the time from when it was manufactured circa 1950’s to 1988 but I bet it if it could talk, oh the stories it would tell!
The Reference number of this watch (stamped between lugs and matching to inside of caseback. The serial number identifies the case as being made in the 1950’s while the movement serial number identifies this Rolex movement as being made in the 1940’s. It was not uncommon to have mismatched watches with cases and movements from different eras as the cases and movements were frequently stored and set aside and swapped outover the years.
This watch represents the 1940 Radiomir Case design; a hybrid case with the solid lugs of the Luminor case fused with the cushion shaped case of the Radiomir. And no signature Crown Protector which sort of makes sense since the Crown Protector wasn’t invented until 1950 but required a flattening on the side of the case in order to install. The final touch is the oversized Rolex ‘Brevet’ stamped winding crown that gives this watch a truly unique look and feel. The generously oversized ‘Brevet’ barrel shaped winding crown screws down flush to the case and is representative of the patented (aka ‘Brevet’) winding crowns found on the original (now Vintage) Rolex ‘Big Crown’ Submariners. When they designed the new Radiomir 1940 model released circa 2012, they must have been looking closely at this watch (or one just like it) which is very plausible considering the deep collection of vintage Panerai watches they maintain under lock and key and in their museum.
Further research on vintage Panerai 6152 models reveal that Panerai released Ref 6152 stamped models with the patented Crown Lock and with the Brevet Style winding crown, and without distinction in their records. This is probably a result of the cases and movements being swapped around so much over the course of the life of the watch. Once a watch was used, it was disassembled, cleaned, possibly re-cased or swapped with a different movement and then sent out on a soldier's wrist. There was not much clarity or consistency other than the tracking of the case serial numbers and the watches were not considered prized possessions but rather 'tools of the trade.'
Original ‘Sandwich’ dial is minimalist and iconic PANERAI amplified by the bold ‘MARINA MILITARE stamp in center of dial. This watch has been well preserved and the luminous material has formed an amazing (and perfectly matching) vignetting/fading patina throughout the markers on the dial and gold tone hands.
This watch is a living piece of Panerai/Rolex history, an actual Marina Militare registered timepiece, made by Rolex with confirmed provenance and a storied history. If this watch could talk, oh I bet the stories it could tell. No doubt, this watch is one of the cleanest and crispiest examples of an actual Panerai by Rolex ‘Military Use’ Timepiece you will ever see.
**From the Atlas Collection**
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