Type A: The Warbirds
The story of the incredibly famed, Panerai ref. 3646 begins with one particular species of the watch that the world knows better as the Type A ref. 3646. Now, because this is the earliest known of Panerai’s watches — a watch created in war time no less— the Type A’s story begins with a fair amount of ambiguity as to exactly when the watch came into existence. Some will argue that the watch was only designed in 1936, produced in 1937 and delivered in 1938. In any case, it is safe to assume that it was produced sometime after 1935.
For Panerai, the assigned task from the Italian Navy, known as the Regia Marina then, was to produce a watch that could be taken underwater and there, remain legible. Panerai, rather than going through the trouble of trying to figure out how to make a watchcase that could keep water out, went to Rolex SA, who already had a waterproof case patented, which was the Oyster case.
So you see these first of the ref. 3646 watches produced, the Type A, are very special, because these are the ones that went into war and witnessed war. It is, therefore, that we know the Type A also as the “Warbirds”.