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Military watches, with their stark--usually black--dials, sturdy cases, and reliable movements, are meant to be tough. But there are certain examples of military watches, particularly chronographs, that are undeniably beautiful. The Zenith A. Cairelli CP-2 is one of the latter.
Like the heralded Type 20--the most famous example, of course, being the elusive and sought-after Breguet--the A. Cairelli was made according to military specifications, and it was meant to fly. Zenith produced the CP-2 for pilots in the Italian Air Force or Aeronautica Militare Italiana. It followed the CP-1, which was manufactured by Breitling and Leonidas for helicopter pilots in the Esercito Italiano--Italian Army.
A. Cairelli--a retailer of primarily wristwatches and other aviation instruments--sold the Zenith Type CP-2 to the Italian military. They stamped their signature onto the dials of the watches they supplied to the pilots: glossy black dials with bold, luminous Arabic numerals. The twin chronograph registers are an exercise in balance, artfully-arranged on a horizontal axis. Naturally, the dial was designed to be legible in the low-light conditions of the cockpit, but there is something about its sparsity that is so aesthetically pleasing.
The cases are--as one can expect from a military chronograph--large, at an impressive 43mm. In all, 2500 of these chronographs were produced under Zenith's contract with the AMI, but not all of them saw military service. Those that were inducted into service received the engraving: Aeronautica Militare Italiana. These cases, true to their military heritage, often bear the scuffs and dings inevitable in the field, and their rotating bezels--surmounted by a luminous triangle at 12 o'clock--have often faded over the years. Ours has a handsomely-faded bezel and the requisite military markings that designate it as a true combat veteran.
Inside it beats the Zenith Caliber 146, which the brand inherited after buying èbauche manufacturer Martel. Despite its humble beginnings, the Caliber 146 went on to be the base on which Zenith built its automatic chronograph movement, the El Primero. With a deceptively-beautiful exterior and a redoubtable movement, the A. Cairelli has certainly become the stuff of collecting legend--a reputation that is well-deserved.
Stainless steel case is approximately 43mm (excluding crown and pushers). Zenith Type CP-2. Zenith Caliber 146 Manually-Wound Chronograph Movement. Circa 1970s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition with sharp bevels on the case and no signs of over-polishing. Case does have signs of use and wear in keeping with its age, including some slight scratches and tool marks on the sides of the case and on the lugs. Dial is in very good condition over all with fine even patina to the luminescent elements on the hour markers and hands. Zenith crown; Zenith case back bears Italian military engravings: "A.M.I. Cronometro Tipo CP-2 M.M. 202."
Includes one 22mm navy blue leather strap and two 22mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle