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Details & Cataloguing

Important Watches

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Geneva

Panerai/Rolex
REF 3646 STAINLESS STEEL WRISTWATCH CIRCA 1945
Dial: black
Calibre: manual winding, 17 jewels
Case: stainless steel, screw-down back
Case number: 260730
Closure: stainless steel buckle
Dimensions: 47 x 46 mm
Signed: movement signed Rolex
Accessories: additional dial with baton indexes and Arabic numerals 
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Catalogue Note

The present lot reference 3646 demonstrates a very interesting, if not perhaps slightly embarrassing, period in the watches’ production history.  In 1944 a mistake was made.  It is unclear whether this was a mistake on the part of Rolex or indeed of Panerai, all that can be discerned is that it was almost certainly an error in communication.

The California dial, loved by collectors, was developed in 1941 by Rolex, but would only appear on the 3646 three years later. The first order for these dials however was confused, and, while the dials were meant for wristwatches they were produced for pocket watches (dial reference 103*2731).  The feet therefore were positioned in such a way that the dial, once fitted, would have sat rotated at 90 degrees.  To amend this, and salvage the dials, the feet were removed, at times very crudely, and the dials were mounted instead with screws at 12 and at 6.  

Later in 1944 these ‘faulty’ California dials were replaced, research suggests, by Arturo Junghans who produced the dial that accompanies the present lot. Of course, upon opening the watches it was clear that the dial was attached with screws, and so, Junghans attached his dials in the same way, as is evident from the notches visible at 12 and 6.  

Interestingly Rolex, having realised the mistake, changed the batch of California dials to correct the feet placement (dial reference 103*2802). This was apparently around the same time as they decided to stop signing the watches Rolex to the case back and movement. Added later, and replacing the ‘Junghans’ dial, this is the dial type currently fitted to the present lot.

Examining the case and movement numbers and movement ring, it is clear that this watch is original in all parts as the accompanying ‘Junghans’ dial  was, in all likelihood, made for this watch. While the dial fitted at present is a later type, it is still period, made after Rolex rectified the initial problem, acting almost to bring the story full circle. This watch is undoubtedly a superb physical representation of an incredibly interesting piece of history.

With thanks to Jose Pereztroika for his research on this topic. 

Important Watches

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Geneva