There are plenty of stories about the ill-fated Operation Market Garden, the allies’ bold plan to win the war in one concerted effort. One of the most interesting, at least horologically, is the acquisition of some very special Panerais by allied forces, of which this historical treasure is one.
“Bridges blown by Germans. B Sqn captured 5 of the party. Swam down the Rhine from Germany in special rubber swimming suits with rubber feet like frog’s feet. Rather a clever performance on part of Jerry.”
This journal entry from Captain Alfred Packer of the 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment documents the moment that he and his squad captured a team of German Kampschwimmers, specialist naval saboteurs. What it doesn’t mention is that, along with their diving suits, each troop was equipped with the famous Panerai Radiomir.
When captured, they were unceremoniously relieved of their watches – spoils of war and all that – before being sent to a POW camp. Now, the watch comes back to us at the Fellows Watch Sale in April, complete with both Captain Packer’s journals and his very own military jacket.
The story behind this Radiomir might seem familiar; Fellows previously sold another watch from the same haul, complete with a piece of those specialised diving suits that impressed the Captain so much. But don’t worry, this isn’t a common watch; far from it. It’s one of an estimated 16 that were picked up at the same time.
There are some differences between the pieces also; for one, this belonged to the squad captain, already a step up from the previous watch; secondly, it has the name of the German soldier engraved into the back, Kurt Kohlrusch, who can be traced through wartime records to have been a PoW.
Condition-wise, this Radiomir has, for want of a better phrase, been through the wars. It has no strap and shows considerable wear on the dial. As a historical artefact however – not to mention one of the only success stories to come out of Operation Market Garden – this watch is a phenomenal find.
Estimated at £20,000 – £30,000, the Radiomir will go to auction April 2nd at the Fellows Watch Sale.