Zenith “Cairelli” AMI pilot’s chronograph

The Roman watchmaker’s shop A.Cairelli supplied the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana, or AMI) with CP-2 chronographs in the 1960s and the 1970s. CP (cronometro da polso) referred to a chronometer watch. The first watch that was delivered was a CP-1. The diameter of this CP-1 model was 39 mm, whereas the CP-2 model had a diameter of 43 mm. Only a total of 2,500 watches were ever made, and the Italian Air Force returned some of them. Cairelli sold the returned watches for civilian use without the Mil-Spec marking on the case back. For collectors, the most interesting specimens are the ones supplied to the Air Force, bearing the “AMI” text . The watch in the photo is one of these rare specimens.

The Start-Stop-Reset chronograph auction, held by the Phillips auction house in 2016, featured two such chronographs: an early Universal HA-1 model (A. Cairelli) and a Zenith TP-2. The Universal was sold for 65,000 CHF, and the Zenith for 62,500 CHF. We have had only one such watch for sale before, in 2016.

Below, you can find a description of the Zenith “Cairelli” AMI chronograph, written by Phillips’ Livia Russo:

One cannot help but be impressed by this distinguished and extremely rare vintage military issued Zenith stainless steel chronograph – the CP-2 (Cronometro da Polsa Type 2). Measuring a substantial 43mm in diameter, it is understood that Zenith in the 1960s and 70s produced approximately 2,500 examples of the reference for the Italian Air Force,the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI).

They were all supplied through A. Cairelli, the prominent Roman retailer of watches, clocks and mechanical instrumentation. Designed for AMI’s pilots for mission use, many were not issued due to an abrupt cancellation by the AMI. A. Cairelli sold the remaining stock – all with no military inscriptions on their casebacks – privately to civilians.

The present watch is therefore a rare military-issued version, illustrated by the engraving on this caseback, reading “AMI CRONOMETRO TIPO CP-2 MM …..”. It’s fitted with a beautiful, matte black dial adorned with luminous hour markers, with a classic two-register configuration enhanced by the prestigious “A. Cairelli Roma” signature at 6 o’clock.

Housing a high grade, hand-wound movement – the caliber 146 – this historically significant chronograph remains in excellent overall condition. Combined with its masculine presence, military provenance, and eye-catching dial, it’s a superb timepiece for any vintage watch enthusiast.

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