The name Radiomir to the dial references the radium-based powder that gives the dial its luminosity.
The example offered at Fellows’ The Watch Sale on January 30 came with a powerful backstory. The vendor was the son of George H Rowson, a soldier who acquired the watch from a German frogman during a thwarted attempt to destroy the Nijmegen Bridge in the Netherlands, in September 1944.
The watch has a hand-etched inscription detailing Rowson’s name, rank and the year 1944. It comes with a hand-written account of the event by Rowson, and even a section of the Italian-made rubber dive suit also ‘liberated’ from the enemy.
Estimated at £30,000-40,000, bidding on January 30 came down to two phones with one winning at £41,000.
Several other variants of this watch have appeared for sale recently. In September 2016 Great Western Auctions of Glasgow sold a Panerai Type D Model 3646 for £44,000 while Cheshire auction house Wright Marshall has sold two: one in March 2016 for £46,000 and another two months later for £55,000.
The latter was engraved Kampf- Schwimmer and marked LK700 for LehrKommando 700, the base on the island of Sylt where the German frogmen units were headquartered.
Wright Marshall uncovered another iconic Second World War wristwatch for its sale on January 30: a B-UHR Luftwaffe navigator’s watch by IWC.
A total of five manufacturers supplied the iconic B-Uhren with those by the Swiss International Watch Company (suppliers of watches to both Axis and Allied forces throughout the war) considered to be the rarest.
IWC produced 1000 of these and only a few survived the heavy losses. This example had, and complete with original strap and unrestored, was estimated at £2000-3000 but sold via thesaleroom.com at £14,250.
Although the Rolex GMT-Master was designed essentially for professional use – displaying three different time zones – its rugged good looks has attracted a much wider collecting base. This battered but rare example, valued at £3000-5000, sold for £33,000 at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on December 6.
The watch – unearthed at a charity valuation day in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, in October – proved of particular interest as an early colour combination of dial and yellow gold, and as a watch in unrestored condition (even down to a burn mark in the original acetate glass).