Acquiring vintage timepieces can be a tricky business - as with any specialist collectable, if you are not in the know, how do you know where to look? Independent auction houses are a good place to start and the best ones are increasingly savvy to the fact that beyond the inner workings that make a watch tick, design is a key factor in collecting.

The result is more sales dedicated to modern names and watches with a recognisable aesthetic. And Panerai is way up there. The Florentine watch marque's precision instruments, secretly created for and supplied to the Italian Navy in the 1930s, have a clean, graphic code that has become the benchmark for military-watch design today.

Now, these 20th century design credentials have become the starting point for a brilliantly curated sale by the French auction house Artcurial. Its watch experts have worked for over a year to collect around 100 seriously special pieces for its 'Panerai Only' auction in Paris on Monday 8 December.

With estimates commencing at €2,000, it's a good starting-point sale for anyone keen to start a collection. But the star lot is undoubtedly the 1956 Egiziano, (estimated at €100,000 - €150,000) created for the Egyptian navy in 1956. Only five have come up for sale at auction in the last 12 years.

'Panerai's forms, colours and designs are a perfect represention of the 20th century object. More than a wristwatch, some of these pieces have become incredible works of art,' says Marie Sanna-Legrand of Artcurial watches department. We couldn't agree more.

TAGS: WATCHES