Panerai very rare and special Second World War military Diver wrist watch Panerai very rare and special Second World War military Diver wrist watch

The watch came into the possession of a British soldier during WWII. 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.

Bridge at Nijmegen Bridge at Nijmegen

The aim of the Battle of Nijmegen Bridge was for the Allies to secure the bridge in order to gain quick access to the Dutch city of Arnhem. This effort was part of a wider initiative known as Operation Market Garden, in which Allied airborne and land forces attempted to liberate the cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen in the Netherlands from German occupation.

George H. Rowson George H. Rowson

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.

details_ Details of the Panerai

According to Rowson's first-hand account of the incident, at 06:30am on September 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.

Account from G H Rowson Account from G H Rowson

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 watch is accompanied by Rowson's hand-written account of the event and a piece of the rubber diving suit acquired from the German soldier.

What is touching about this piece is it offers a rare insight into the life of a British soldier during WWII. Not only do Rowson's own handwritten accounts show us  a soldier's experience during the war but also a letter dated 1951 reveals Rowson's character. A glowing letter of from his leutenant colonel describes Rowson as ''honest, reliable, intelligent.''

Letter of reccomendation for a move to Australia that didn't happen.

Fellows experts have estimated the Panerai watch to sell for between £30 000 - £40 000. Last November, a Rolex Milgauss, the watch designed specially for scientists working around strong magnetic fields, sold for £110 000 against an estimate of £40 000. This Panerai will be included in Fellow's Watch Sale on January 30th. Check out more here.