Twice each year, the world’s foremost watch dealers and collectors descend upon the Italian city of Parma. Famous for its incredible epicurean delights including prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano hard cheese and stuffed tortelli pasta, Parma is situated in the North of Italy, amidst the region of Emilia-Romagna. On the outskirts of the city lie a series of large halls that each spring and autumn host the Mercanteinfiera Parma. The event is vast and covers a huge array of stalls from every corner of the collecting world. Classic cars, vintage Louis Vuitton trunks, neon lights, vintage clothing, militaria… whatever you are into there will be an area of the fair to interest you. However, for the lover of horology of all shapes and sizes, the south-west side of Hall 6 is the must-see destination.

I visited the fair this September and asked a few of the people I met to tell me about the best find they ever had at the fair.

Eric Ku

Ku is one of the world’s leading authorities on vintage Rolex watches and is the owner of 10pastten.com, the Vintage Rolex and LA Watch Works.

“My best find was in 2013. I was walking around the fair and spotted this rose gold Rolex 8171, in stunning condition, on the wrist of a gentleman. We began chatting and we did a deal right there!”

The Rolex 8171 is better known by its Italian nickname ‘Padellone’, which means frying pan; this is a big round watch!

Eric Ku's Rolex 8171
Eric Ku's Rolex 8171

Philipp Stahl

Philipp Stahl runs Rolex Passion Report and Rolex Passion Market and was the co-founder of the original Rolex Passion Meetings (the epic Rolex get-together) in the Netherlands.

“For me, the best find was this double name vintage Rolex chronograph from Joyeria Riviera. I managed to buy it from a well-known Italian gentleman collector. He doesn’t speak a word of English, which didn’t make it easy to negotiate! Following our deal, however, we became lifelong friends!”

Joyeria Riviera was the luxury watch and jewellery retailer in Havana, Cuba in the 1940s and ’50s. Rolex watches retailed by Joyeria were sometimes modified with the retailer’s name on the dial – these watches are now highly sought-after.

Rolex Chronograph from Joyeria Riviera
Rolex Chronograph from Joyeria Riviera

Fabrizio Caso

Fabrizio Caso, alongside brother Roberto, has run their boutique in Napoli, Italy for 20 years. They have recently opened a shop in London’s historic Burlington Arcade and are regulars at Parma. “I have had so many great finds at Parma. One special example that stands out, however, is a Longines Sommatore in yellow gold that I found a couple of years ago. I really love vintage chronos and it was the first yellow gold Sommatore I’d ever owned!”

The Longines Sommatore is the Italian nickname for the 13ZN-12, with the rare additional centre minute hand. It’s a rare watch that was only made for two years from 1945 to 1947 in steel and yellow and pink gold cases.

Longines Sommatore
Longines Sommatore

Jean-Paul Menicucci

If you love vintage leather watchstraps, in the Italian style, then you will no doubt have seen the work of Jean-Paul Menicucci. The world’s leading horological leather accessories manufacturer, JPM’s facility in Lucca hand makes every single item using traditional methods. “For me, my favourite this year is a Patek Philippe World Travel reference 1415 from my friend Corrado Mattarelli. I love this watch so much and it is in stunning condition for a piece from 1946.”

Reference 1415 was produced between 1939 and 1954 and this example is from the second series that featured 41 world locations – the first series featured 28 locations.

Patek Philippe World Travel Reference 1415
Patek Philippe World Travel Reference 1415

Detlev Weers

One of Europe’s pre-eminent collectors and boulevardiers, Weers has handled some of the most important watches to appear on the market. “This year I loved two manual-wind oversize Rolex Oyster Precisions from Roberto Randazzo. I actually bought them both and adore the almost frosted seconds hands and the circular brushed finish on the silver dial. They’re big watches for the era too, at 36mm!”

Reference 6424 is a manual-wind watch in an oversize Oyster case. The manual-wind movement means that the case is slim and elegant – perfect for all occasions.

Rolex Oyster
Rolex Oyster

Corrado Mattarelli

Originally based in Rome, Mattarelli now has a large boutique in Monaco where he sells incredible pieces that he acquires on his many world-wide trips. “I started participating in Parma Fair around 20 years ago. I can remember lots of watches that have come and gone during this period of time, some were what we would call great deals, others had exciting stories behind them. One of the latter is a Rolex Daytona 6263 in yellow gold, made for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said, with green Oman swords and killer brown registers. I bought it from a good friend of mine who happens to be one of the most important dealers and you can imagine that price-wise, it was not a bargain! However, it was for sure an unforgettable timepiece that ended up being a great deal.”

The allure of the Rolex Daytona needs no explanation; it’s become its own microcosm of watch collecting. Daytonas with the Oman swords are hot. Daytonas with tropical dials are incandescent. An example with both? Explosive!

Rolex Daytona 6263 in yellow gold, made for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said, with green Oman swords and brown registers
Rolex Daytona 6263 in yellow gold, made for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said al Said, with green Oman swords and brown registers