Rare watch causes a stir at auction

Laura White
Laura White

At an auction run by Piers Motley in Exmouth on 17th September, one lot caused quite a stir.

This was their online fine art sale – in fact, bidding was opened a week before the sale! The undoubted star in the sale was Lot 245, a rare Italian WWII Frogman’s watch, believed to be only the 28th specimen to have been discovered.

It was made by Panerai, which is still an exclusive brand of watch today worn by both Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

This vintage Kampfschwimmer (combat swimmer) dates from 1944, had a case made by Rolex, a 17 Jewel movement and original leather strap. This particular watch ended under the hammer with a bid of £24,000.

However, earlier this year another Rolex Panerai Military Diver’s watch was put up for auction through Fellows of Birmingham. As with all antiques, if an item comes with proof of authenticity then the value will be much higher.

This watch came into the possession of British soldier Sgt George H Rowson during an attempt by German forces to destroy the Nijmegen Bridge in the Netherlands in September 1944.

With the item was a first-hand account written by Mr Rowson, telling the story of his team capturing the German Kampfschwimmers who had fixed explosives to the bridge at Nijmegen. The watch was put into one lot with a section of the rubber diving suit worn by the German soldier, the account written by Rowson and photocopies of important documents related to Mr Rowson.

This watch, after a telephone bid war between three bidders, finally sold (including fees) for £52,316.

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