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27th Sep - 28th Sep 2019

Peterborough - Festival of Antiques

Rare WWII Rolex Watch originally found at Car Boot Sale for £10

Rare WWII Rolex Watch originally found at Car Boot Sale for £10 has sold at auction for £46,000

In a chest drawer found at the home of his late father, a Cheshire man uncovered a watch that he had never seen before. It was a clock of which only 618 others were made. They sold for around £500, or that is what he expected, but when the auctioneer told him that the sale price had reached three times higher than that, the man was dumbstruck.

What was the watch found? It was a Rolex-Panerai that they issued exclusively to divers of the Royal Italian Navy. The watch came from a humble purchase at a car boot sale or antique fair that cost £10, but it sold for over £55,000 because of the rarity of this Rolex that they issued to the Italian navy divers during World War II. When clearing the drawers of his father’s house, the Cheshire man felt shock at what he had discovered especially at the final sale price. Panerai, an Italian company, made these watches while collaborating with Rolex’s movement. It is a somewhat over-sized wristwatch, but what is interesting is that it sold for £55,000 without a strap, and it had a non-functioning mechanism. Imagine what price that watch could have fetched if it had been fully functioning. It still managed to attract enough interest that it sold for £46,000. However, when you add all the fees, the total price at the end was around £55,660.

Rolex-Panerai 1940

A classic timepiece, it was one of 618 Rolex 17 Rubis Panerai 3636 made from 1941 to 1943. Panerai, a famous Italian watchmaker, used the Rolex movements, and he made it specifically waterproof for the Royal Italian Navy. They made the face of this timepiece over sized because they wanted it to be visible even in the dark.

Divers of the Royal Italian Navy often used this for operating a human torpedo, and they sometimes rode the missiles underwater because they had a detachable warhead that they could time as a limpet mine against enemy ships. Because the divers could not operate their torpedo craft unless at night, they had to have a watch that gave them accurate measuring of the time while still being visible under water.

Rolex-Panerai Italian Navy

Most likely, the reason that the watch sold for such a great price is because of the fact that it can be viewed as a souvenir. In fact, it is likely that British servicemen first encountered the watch, and they took it back as a memory near the end of the war. The watch became an item bought at a car boot sale in northwest England, where the Cheshire man’s father bought it 10 to 20 years prior. During that time, he paid no more than £10 for the watch. Niall Williams sold the watch at Wright Marshall, an auction company in Cheshire. These watches were fairly rare, and most of the owners had these watches engraved. However, this particular watch had no signs of ownership on it.

Niall Williams walked up to the auctioneer because he had it in his pocket. The wind-up mechanism did not work correctly, and was not in the best condition. Nevertheless, Wright Marshall took a strong interest in it, and 10 phone lines were taken up by the bidders. The auctioneer said that when he sold the watch for £46,000, the vendor thought that he had said £4,000 to £6,000, and he had to repeat himself three different times before Niall found it believable. It is a considerable amount of money, and the result was rather remarkable considering that he had no idea that it would sell for that price.