One of the most fascinating items in the history of Fellows has just gone under the hammer with a sale of an extremely rare and historic Second World War Panerai military Diver watch. The Panerai had a hammer price of £41,000 and a price realised (fees included) of £52,316, it sold at approximately 12:24pm during Fellows’ Watch Sale on Tuesday 30th January 2018.
Bids came flying in from three telephone bidders as they went head to head to head. The tension could be felt across the room as the asking price for the Panerai quickly grew to above £30,000. There were gasps amongst the saleroom as the winning bidder placed £41,000 on the watch.
This watch came into the possession of a British soldier during the Second World War. George H. Rowson acquired the watch from a Kampfschwimmer (German frogman), during a thwarted attempted on behalf of the German forces to destroy the important Nijmegen Bridge in the Netherlands, in September 1944.
The incident occurred following the Battle of Nijmegen Bridge. The aim of the battle was for the Allies secure the bridge in order to gain quick access to the Dutch city of Arnhem. Part of a wider initiative known as Operation Market Garden, Allied airborne and land forces attempted to liberate the cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen in the Netherlands from German occupation.
This model of Panerai watch was initially intended for the Italian Decima MAS until they were taken by the Germans. The German Kampfschwimmer who owned the watch is known to have recieved special training in Italy and wore an Italian-made specialised rubber dive suit.
According to Rowson’s first-hand account of the incident, at 06:30am on Sept 29th 1944, German Kampfschwimmers fixed charges underwater to the main supports of the bridge at Nijmegen. Once the German soldiers had completed their mission, they exited the river thinking they were back within their own lines. At this point, they were captured by a section of British soldiers which included Rowson. The charges they had placed were defused and so Nijmegen Bridge remained undamaged.
The timepiece was eventually passed down to Rowson’s son and has remained in single ownership since, having been worn only a few times. The Panerai was sold with a hand-written account of the event by Rowson, a section of the rubber diving suit acquired from the German soldier, and photocopies of important documents related to Rowson.
Laura Bishop, watch manager at Fellows Auctioneers, said: “It is amazing to have a piece of history sell at Fellows Auctioneers. We are delighted to have been able to sell it for the local family.”
Alexandra Whittaker, a spokesperson for Fellows Auctioneers, said: “Fellows is becoming known for our monthly specialist watch sales and we are happy to have started out first sale of the year with such a prestigious piece as our star lot. I am excited to see what our February Watch Sale will bring.”
Fellows’ next Watch Sale will take place on Tuesday February 27th, starting at 11am.
The auction is available to view in person at the following times:
20 February 2018 12pm – 7pm (London)
24 February 2018 11am – 4pm (Birmingham)
26 February 2018 10am – 4pm (Birmingham)
27 February 2018 8.30am – 11am (Birmingham)