The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean
Chapter 3: Panerai & The Italian Royal Navy
The First Professional Rolex Diving Watch
[Part 4 of 5]
Sylvester Stallone & A New Italian Renaissance
In 1993 the Officine Panerai brand was resurrected. The company based their new models largely on the historic Rolex made models from the past. Sales were not going very well, until American actor Sylvester Stallone happened to walk into the Panerai boutique in Florence. Sylvester "Sly" got so excited about the designs he bought a bunch, and wore them in the movie he was just about to make named "Daylight."
Panerai even made special limited edition versions for Sly named Slytech models. Almost overnight, Panerai took off and has been extremely successful ever since.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Panerai
Sylvester Stallone gave one of his Panerai watches to one of his good friends and fellow actor, Arnold Schwarzennegger and Arnold wore Panerai for years. This is ironic since both Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger previously only wore Rolex.
One Mystery Leads To Another
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
We have one more mystery to uncover in this chapter and that is the mystery of the Rolex Panerai-case watches that recently sold at auction from the Antiquorm auction house for some really heavy cash.
First a little background. The two following photo are of two different watches sold by the Antiquorum auction house. The first one pictured below was sold [Lot 194] in Switerland on October 14, 2007 for 221,500 Swiss Francs which is around $200,000 U.S. today. The second watch pictured below was sold at an earlier Antiquorum auction in New York on June 14, 2006 [Lot 162] for $86,400. Somehow the price almost tripled in 14 months!!!
The first watch pictured belwo was described by Antiquorum as:
"Military" Rolex "Oyster Precision", Ref 6154, case No. 997572. Made in 1954. Exceptionally rare and fine large, cushion-shaped, water-resistant, stainless steel, military diver's watch with a stainless steel Rolex buckle. Three-body, polished, screwed-down case back, strain lugs, 8mm Rolex screwed-down winding crown, dustprotection cap. D. Black with luminous round and baton indexes, outer minute divisions. Luminous "baton" hands. M. Cal 618 - 15 3/4", signed Rolex, rhodium-plated, "faussses cotes" decoration, 15 jewels, straightline lever escapement, monometalic balance, shock-absorber, self-compensating Breguet balance-spring, index regulator. Dial case and movement signed. Dim. 47 47mm. Thickness 14mm."
Antiquorum continues the description:
"The Ref. 6154 is identical in case and movement to the watches supplied by Rolex to Panerai, under the same reference number. The difference between the watch made by Rolex for Panerai and the present model is in the dial. The Rolex dial is a traditional single plate with luminous coated indexes, whereas the Panerai dial is a two-plate dial, the first plate being coated with luminous material and the second plate pierced through for the indexes and numerals. Rolex Ref. 6154 is mentioned in the combined reference booklet sent by Rolex to their various retailers and workshops in the 1950s. To our knowledge only 6 pieces were made of this model; this is the first one."
The back-story/legend/myth is when Rolex stopped making Panerai watches in or around 1954, they had a bunch of extra 47mm Panerai cases in-stock so they decided to make up these watches. The really interesting thing is the design language of these two watches look like you morphed a 5513 Submariner dial with a small Egiziano Panerai 6154 case. Brilliant!!! Simply brilliant!!!
The lost Rolex Panerai Submariner watches have finally been found and brought to auction in 2007!!! They even let us know in their expertise "To our knowledge only 6 pieces were made of this model: this is the first one." Let's do some simple math. Multiply $200K U.S. times 6 watches and you get $1.2 Million. That is a lot of money–and what a great story!!!
The challenge is that I argue the authenticity of these watches is in controversy!!! The first clue was when one of the most respected Rolex experts on earth tapped me on the shoulder and told me he thought there was a VERY high likelihood they were not authentic.
The other thing is that he has pointed out to me that many other watches sold at auction for heavy-duty cash by the Antiquorum Auction House are highly questionable.
Another obvious question, is how and why did these watches fist come to auction in 2006? To the best of my knowledge, they are previously undocumented, but if they existed, why didn't one sell at auction 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Why do they not appear in any historical books or magazines? Why are there not photos of them published by anybody including Rolex in a catalog? The watches just seem to have appeared from out of the blue!?!?
Oh, and it just happens to be a coincidence the only two examples of this watch ever sold just happened to be sold at the same auction house? This is not the first time we have seen this happen. Just look at the Ferrari red Paul Newman Daytona watches!!! I imagine it is a coincidence that every one ever sold happened to be sold by the same organization!?!
I strongly believe Antiquorum perpetuates false myths in order to achieve higher auction prices, and thus make more money. Take for example their recent auction of Steve McQueen's Rolex Submariner [Reference 5512]. It is an undisputed fact Steve McQueen wore a Rolex Submariner, but Antiquorum has been, for many years, perpetuating the myth that Steve McQueen wore an early "orange hand" Rolex Explorer II witch I argue he never wore–and they know it or should know it since they are experts that know about the the 6 missing Rolex Panerai watches.
The supreme irony is that in the same recent Antiquorum catalog they sold Steve McQueen's supposed Submariner and in that auction they also offered a "Steve McQueen" Rolex Explorer. Yet they know Steve McQueen NEVER wore this watch that has been falsely dubbed with his name to help achieve higher auction results. If in the future, the Antiquorum or any auction house on earth refers to any Rolex Explorer as a Steve McQueen Explorer, it means they are deceptive or stupid–or both.
I defy Antiquorum to produce a photo or any piece of evidence that proves Steve McQueen ever wore a Rolex Explorer of any kind. This false historical attribution must stop. This is not just my opinion, the Wall Street Journal published a huge expose on this on October 8, 2007 named "How Top Watchmakers Intervene In Auctions" and the International Herald Tribune published a story on April 3, 2008 named "Time Bomb Ticks At Antiquorum" which goes into much detail on this and far beyond.
This chapter has been the mother of all chapters and it covers so much fascinating ground!!! I must admit that when I first came across Panerai watches I hated them. As a matter of fact, in 2001, my younger brother, who is a retired U.S. Navy Seal and I were hanging out in New York. My brother was wearing his Panerai and I was wearing a my stainless Rolex Daytona. My brother was staring at my Daytona and he said "take of your watch and let me see it."
I proudly handed it to him. He shook his head and said "I just cant get into it." I shook my head and said something like "Oh, sorry Mister wearing a big mac on your wrist, or is that a hockey puck." I thought his Panerai was stupid and ridiculously big–like he was a fashion victim.
I was wrong. He was really cool and just too far ahead of me to understand. As I have said so many time before, often times I have to hate something before I can love it, and that has been the case with Panerai. These days, I like Panerai as much as I like Rolex.
In some ways more and in some ways less. In my design mind, it strikes me that perhaps there is a way to combine the two and add some flavor to achieve the ultimate watch design. Who knows? I might try to design something like this myself!?! It just goes to show, you never know!?!?
Table Of Contents
Part 8: The Birth Of The Rolex DEEP-SEA: Jacques Piccard & Captain Don Walsh aboard the U.S. Navy Bathyscaphe Trieste
Part 9: The First SEA-DWELLER's: Doctor Bond. U.S. Navy Project Genesis and Jacques Cousteau & Project CONSHELF
Part 10: The Birth Of The Rolex SEA-DWELLER: Bob Barth, Scott Carpenter & U.S. Navy SEA-LAB
Part 11: Henri Delauze & COMEX
Part 12: Dr. George Bass [The Father Of Underwater Archeology]
Part 13: Dr. Sylvia Earle: The First Female Aquanaut
Part 14: Dr. Phil Nuytten [Pioneering DEEP-SEA Explorer: The Real Aquaman]
Part 15: Dr. Robert Ballard: The Ultimate U.S. Navy DEEP-SEA Discovery Of The 20th Century–Finding The Titanic
Part 16: The Return of The Rolex DEEP-SEA