Italian Navy Frogmen and Deep Divers watches

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Italian Navy Frogmen and Deep Divers watches

Post by Gatt » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:15 am

I'm an enthusiast PADI deep diver and a former recon diver during my military service. Recently I begun researching the italian military divers watches used after the Panerai and up to the end of 90's and beyond. In other words, from the Panerai to the G-Shock invasion. About 25-30 years. There is no article, no book, nothing about it. Only a friend, a former Navy officer, self-published a monograph about diving watches and, for the first time ever, wrote about a Citizen NY0040, used by italian Navy frogmen. He personally saw those Citizens worn by frogmen based in La Spezia, home of the Comando Subacqueo Incursori, aka COMSUBIN. They are organized in two main groups: GOI (Gruppo Operativo Incursori, Commando that is) and GOS (Gruppo Operativo Subacquei, Deep Divers and EOD).

COMSUBIN frogmen just released from the submarine Scire' in the Gulf of Taranto, late summer 2013:


Navy Deep Diver (Palombari, on his badge) close to the wreckage of the sunk italian liner Costa Concordia, Isola del Giglio, 2013:

Image Image

Here is a very short story of those years through the watches worn by italian commando frogmen and deep divers. Obviously the time separation is imaginary. Many of these watches have been worn during the same time period.

All these watches are dismissed/sold/lost/you_name_it from the Marina Militare stocks. Many of them come well worn, flooded, often with the crystal, bezel and crown in horrible conditions. I've never seen a Marina Militare Squale, Breil, DPW or Citizen in NOS conditions. Never.

Here is an unusual picture of a "group" of dismissed Marina Militare watches. You can recognize Squale 50 atmos with stainless steel or black PVD cases, Squale Saphir 100 atmos with yellowish bezels, Citizen 500 (NY0040), Breil 50 bars and 100 bars (with blue or black/orange bezels):


Well, here is the last dismissed one, the Citizen "500" MM , a normal Citizen NY0040, with the dial and caseback modified by the Navy. These watches should have been used during the 1997-2007 (circa) period:



As you can see the dial is marked Marina Militare and the water resistance inscription changed from 200 to 500mt. If you check the dial with a magnifying glass you can still see the original Citizen inscription.

Here is the backside:


Oddly, the Marina Militare has added an "M" to the 200M engraving.

The frogman on the left actually seems to wear a Citizen 500:


Probably before the Citizen "500" there was the DPW 1000:


DPW was an italian company founded in 1979 and based in Genova. Before going into Chapter 11 DPW produced sport and diver watches. It bought cases from Candino, Breitling and Eberhard and sold watches with customized dials (very often in military PXs). The movement of this sample is a non-hacking, gold finished ETA 2824 (sometimes hacking ETA were mounted) and the case is the same of the Beuchat 1000, famous for being assigned to the deep divers of the french Marine Nationale (Ushuaia and Abyss models had this case too) and the Candino 1000. These watches should have been used in the 1985-1995 period. Here is the backside:


As you can see there is a serial number (all the SN I have seen are below 100) and the Ref., the same Ref. you can find on the caseback of the Beuchat and Candino 1000's. I have seen "Marina Militare" DPW 1000's without SN and with "Marina Militare" imprinted with smaller fonts as well.

Here is a model sold in the PX of the COMSUBIN base of Varignano, La Spezia. These kind of dials were ordered by different corps of Army, Navy and Aviation directly to DPW:


During 1980 and '90s Squale's 50 atmos has been used as well. Powered as usual by the ubiquitous ETA 2824 movement. Here you can see a PVD finished sample with black rehaut. Squale, albeit small, had been and still is today a pretty famous divers watch maker. We got a written confirmation from them stating that they supplied the Italian Navy.
All the PVD finished Squale 50 atmos I have seen, coming from at least three different sources, seem to have "camouflaged" indexes. The tritium is actually covered by something in order (I guess) to conceal their fluorescence.



Some Squale 50 atmos MM had stainless steel case and Marina Militare inscripted on the dial with smaller fonts. Some had a serial number engraved between the lugs and their bezel indexes changed to orange (probably due to sun and water infiltrations). Here is a 50 atmos Marina Militare with both these features:


Togheter with the Squale there was the Breil Manta 50 bars. Breil was then a little company, based in Milan, producing mainly sport and diving watches. Breil often used Squale produced cases (and other components) for his watches. The company begun to release the Professional line of watches (Manta 50 and 100 bars) at the end of 70's. Here is a military 50 bars model:


Inside, there is a silver finished ETA 2824. Some Manta have an "R" and a 4 digits number engraved on the back. Some others have an engraving with "Certificat" and a serial number:


This is probably due to the fact that Breil divers watches were waterproof tested by Longines in Milan:


We have been told that Squale 100 atmos have been tested and/or used by the italian Navy in the 70's and 80's as well but, so far, we have no dial or caseback with special inscriptions to show. Here is a beautiful sample of a yellow bezel Saphir 100 atmos:


Some Breil 100 bars, Manta and OKAY, allegedly coming form the Marina Militare depot, togheter with the R XXXX engraving, had a C XX (2 digits) engraving on their caseback:




There are reports about Tudor and Longines 2 crowns used by the Navy in the 70's as well but, so far, we dont have any evidence or picture to show.

More recently other companies (Memphis Belle and O.P.V.) claim to have been the supplier of Marina Militare Italiana. As often happens in the last years, is difficult to tell if a watch is being presented and often "donated" to the Navy for publicity or really bought by the Navy and then issued. Moreover, small units of Marina Militare like the COMSUBIN have some autonomy as far as buying technical stuff is concerned. So, we often cant talk about "issued" divers watches but rather "bought and used" by some units. This is true especially for special forces.
Last edited by Gatt on Mon Nov 17, 2014 3:19 am, edited 123 times in total.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by poppydog » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:20 am

Very cool, thanks for sharing. What are the divers carrying, and do you have any more photos like that one? :thumbsup:


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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by 4pfrench » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:26 am

Your English is excellent and the write up is too... Thanks!

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by aikiman44 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:27 am

Great report. You read frequently of German post war watches, but save for Panerai little mention is made of Italian gear. I love the Squales and the Breil.

On a side note, some ex members of the COMSUBIN went to Israel post war and trained their early naval commandos.
This later was used as 'evidence' by the PLO and IRA that Israel is a fascist state because they were were trained by fascists. They don't mention ex-SS members training the Egyptian military in their own brutally efficient methods. (Ex-SS also fought via the French Foreign Legion in SE Asia/VietNam. Another fascinating story in itself. ).
Sorry for the historical digression.
Last edited by aikiman44 on Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:59 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by jimyritz » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:33 am

Interesting stuff.. Thanks for sharing...

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by unixshrk » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:33 am

Great to know :thumbsup:


Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by carlodwc » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:39 am

Awesome, thank you Federico.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by Nomadz » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:42 am

Interesting stuff. Thanks for posting it.
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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by CesarG » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:43 am

Interesting bit on the Citizen piece.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by Expat » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:43 am

This gets the rare

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Full on egg head corporate job and I fly quite a bit so I'm really looking forward to adding to my collection of TSA friendly self defense tools. I have amcouple tactical pens, but I want to up the game and get into some custom stuff. Been watch obsessed for a while but this seems more fun.

Thanks for letting me play! "



Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by falcon4311 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:48 am

Thanks for the post! Welcome.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by AntonioPD » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:54 am

Well done sir! Grazie tanto!
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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by Panerai7 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:59 am

Very interesting and thanks for sharing

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by bzabodyn » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:04 am

I'm generally not a huge vintage guy but a got wood over a couple of those - esp the MM Squale PVD.

Thanks for the info!

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by koda240 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:06 am

Great write up and interesting history.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by AtomicTom » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:30 am

So cool Federico ! Really didn't know much about this, or these.

Fantastic to learn about honestly sir. :)

Thanks very much for all of the insight, along with pictures.

Your English is terrific by the way. :thumbsup: Thanks again !

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by igorfiume » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:37 am

Great article,enjoyed it a lot.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by demer03 » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:38 am

Great post. Thanks.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by Galpo » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:40 am

A very interesting read, thank you!

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by hazmatman » Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:46 am

Good stuff :thumbsup:

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by dukerules » Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:01 am

This is really a cool post. Thanks for the info :thumbsup:

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by River Rat » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:02 pm

Nice collection of issued Italian Navy watches. I got a question I would like to have ships clocks from eaach Navy of WW2. I all ready got a few from the US Navy and the Japanese Navy and I know what the Germans used I will get one of those when I can afford it. What type of ships clock did the Italian Navy use in WW2 ? Figured since you collect Italian militry pieces you might know.

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by Pasquale » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:04 pm

Bravo uaglio


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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by scurfa » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:46 pm

Excellent post good info I've heard Ralf Tech are supplying some Navies are they supplying the Italian Navy?

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Re: Italian Navy watches after the Panerai

Post by snootydog » Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:13 pm

Great stuff :thumbsup: I love that kind of history.
Andy :uj:

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