Chronographs TIPO CP-1/CP-2 (Universal Geneve, Leonidas, Zenith, Breitling) adopted by the Italian Air Force

Click here to see the Italian Air Force chronograph in the video.

There may not be many Italian watch brands that come to mind, but the watches issued to the Italian military after the end of World War II were all high-spec, stunning timepieces.

The article is divided into five parts

1.What are CP-1/CP-2/TIPO?

2. Universal Geneva watch explanation

3. Leonidas' clock explanation

4. Zenith watch explanation

5. Breitling watch explanation

6. Summary

It is as follows.

Italian Air Force Chronograph

The appeal of each chronograph delivered to the Italian military

There were four companies that supplied watches to the Italian military.

1. Universal Geneva

2. Leonidas

3. Zenith

4. Brightening

All of these are well-known Swiss watch makers that have the skills to be called "chronograph specialists."

Leonidas is not very well known in Japan, but it is a sister company of Heuer and produces a variety of chronographs.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, these four companies produced chronographs for the Italian Air Force.

What is TIPO CP-1/TIPO CP-2?

"TIPO" means "type" in Italian.

"CP" stands for "Cronometro da Polso," or "wristwatch."

In the 1960s, the Italian military chronograph specifications changed to the TIPO CP-1, and soon after to the TIPO CP-2.

The biggest difference between the CP-1 and CP-2 is the case size.

The CP-2 is significantly larger at 43mm compared to the CP-1's 39mm.

CP-1 is Leonidas and Breitling

CP-2 is Leonidas, Universal Geneva, Zenith

Manufactured by.

A. What does the Cairelli logo mean?

From here, we will explain about A. Cairelli, which is included in the watch logo .

A. Cairelli began as a watch repair shop in Rome, Italy in the 1920s, and from 1932 acted as an agent for the Italian Air Force and several Swiss watch manufacturers.

A. Cairelli brokered the deal with two companies: Universal Geneve and Zenith.

For this reason, the dials of the chronographs made by these two manufacturers for the Italian Air Force feature the "A. Cairelli Roma" logo.

Universal Geneve A. Cairelli TIPO HA-1

Universal Geneva HA-01

First, I would like to explain about a special watch that is different from the watches that appear in the Italian Air Force.

That's the Universal Geneva A. Cairelli TIPO HA-1.

This watch was delivered to the Italian Air Force around 1953.

So it is the standard before CP-1.

This chronograph was issued to pilots flying patrol aircraft around the Mediterranean coast .

A patrol aircraft is an airplane that detects not only ships but also submarines.

I'm sure you've seen a special aircraft like this before; it's an aircraft that detects tiny disturbances in the electromagnetic waves emitted by submarines and searches for them.

A distinctive feature of the watch is that the case size is made very large at 45mm to ensure visibility so that the time can be easily checked even during night flights.

The white dial features black Arabic numerals and the name "A. Cairelli" printed at 6 o'clock.

The hands are blued Breguet hands.

Another major feature is that it is a 24-hour clock.

It has two registers, a 16-minute counter at the 3 o'clock position and a small seconds counter at the 9 o'clock position.

The movement is a hand-wound 17 jewel Valjoux 55.

It is equipped with a flyback mechanism and a split second function.

Universal Geneva HA-01

*Source: Christie's

Split seconds is a function that allows you to measure not only the total time but also lap times by using two chronograph hands simultaneously.

When you start the chronograph, the two chronograph seconds hands will start moving together, and if you stop the chronograph midway to measure a lap time, only one chronograph seconds hand will stop while the other chronograph seconds hand continues to move.

When you check your lap time and press the pusher again, the stopped chronograph second hand will catch up with the moving chronograph second hand and start moving again.

Something like this.

This chronograph has a single push button on the crown; pressing the middle pusher starts/stops the chronograph, and pressing the top pusher activates the split-second function.

The Universal Geneve A. Cairelli TIPO HA-1 was originally produced in very limited quantities, making it a very valuable military chronograph.

The case is made of stainless steel and has a snap-on case back with the words "AMI (Aeronautica Militare Italiana)" engraved on it, indicating that it belongs to the Italian Air Force.
Italian Air Force Universal Geneve Chronograph AMI engraved case back

*Source: Christie's

Then we remove CP-1 and start manufacturing CP-2.

Universal Geneve A. Cairelli TIPO CP-2

Universal Geneva CP2

Among the TIPO CP-2 models, the A. Cairelli TIPO CP-2 from Universal Geneve is said to be a particularly rare and beautiful chronograph.

"A. Cairelli Roma" is printed at the 6 o'clock position on the dial.

The movement is a hand-wound 17-jewel caliber 285P.

Universal Geneve Cal.285

Universal Geneve is not a very well-known brand these days, but the watches it made before the quartz shock are extremely fine, and one of its biggest attractions is that it makes its own movements.

Next, I will explain Leonidas from TIPO CP-1,2.

Leonidas TIPO CP-1, TIPO CP-2

Leonidas CP1 CP2

The Leonidas CP-1/CP-2 chronographs were produced in the 1960s.

The Italian Air Force's specification CP-1 was quickly replaced by the CP-2, making the Leonidas CP-1 extremely rare and highly coveted by collectors.

Both the Leonidas CP-1 and CP-2 feature large Arabic numerals on a matte black dial and a rotating bezel.

It has two registers, a 30-minute counter at the 3 o'clock position and a small second counter at the 9 o'clock position.

The movement is Cal. 222, a hand-wound 17-jewel Valjoux 22 with a flyback function.

Also equipped with the same Movement are the Breguet, Dodanne, and Eyrann watches, which were delivered to the French Air Force's Type 20.

However, the French Air Force watch does not have a hacking function, but the Italian Air Force watch, this Leonidas chronograph, does.

This has a hack function.

The hack function means that the second hand stops when you pull out the crown.

Leonidas CP1

The case also features a sturdy clamshell case, enhancing waterproofing.

A clamshell case is one that has a screwed back cover.

Italian Air Force Leonidas Chronograph Clamshell case back

The Leonidas CP-2 is characterized by its large size of 43mm.
The design is almost the same, just the size is larger.

Leonidas CP2

Although there are more CP-2s than CP-1s, they are still valuable military chronographs.

Leonidas later merged with Heuer, and when Heuer became TAG Heuer, the name disappeared.
However, they still have some really cool chronographs like this!

Zenith A. Cairelli TIPO CP-2

Zenith Italian Air Force Chronograph CP-2

Zenith Italian Air Force Chronograph A.Cairelli Logo

As mentioned above, Zenith supplied watches to the Italian Air Force through A. Cairelli.

The dial is black lacquer and the baton-shaped hands are coated with tritium luminescent paint.

The "A. Cairelli Roma" logo printed on the dial speaks to this connection.

The movement is a hand-wound 17-jewel Zenith Cal.146DP.

Zenith Movement Cal.146DP

This caliber was developed by Martel, a company Zenith acquired in 1959 .

Later, Universal Geneva, mentioned earlier, adopted the prototype of this movement, and Zenith and Movado jointly developed it based on that Universal movement.

The surface is rhodium plated.

The back cover has a double structure and is shock-resistant, magnetic-resistant, and equipped with a cover to prevent dust from entering.

Zenith TIPO CP-2 Chronograph Case Back Cover Delivered to the Italian Air Force

The case is made of polished stainless steel and has a screw-down case back.
Zenith case back of a chronograph delivered to the Italian Air Force

Zenith CP-2

In total, around 2,500 Zenith CP-2s were made, but the Italian Air Force reportedly cancelled their order before they were all delivered.

A. Cairelli then sold the remaining Zenith CP-2s to the general public.

The case back of Zenith CP-2s delivered to the Italian Air Force bears the letters "AMI" for the Italian Air Force, and in rare cases, "MM" for the Italian Navy. The words "Matricola Militare" are engraved on it.

The case back of the Zenith CP-2 sold to the general public does not have this text engraved on it, but only the words "CRONOMETRO - TIPO CO-2 - A. CAIRELLI-ROMA".

Breitling CP-1 Ref.817

Italian Air Force Chronograph Breitling CP-1

Breitling Ref817

Last but not least, we have the rarest chronograph on this list, the Breitling CP-1 Ref. 817.

Under the Breitling logo on the dial is the number "817," which stands for the reference number.

The Breitling CP-1 Ref. 817 was produced between 1974 and 1975 for helicopter pilots of the Italian Air Force.

Although it is small at 39mm, the clean black dial is highly visible and it is clear that it was designed with functionality first and foremost in mind.

The original bracelet is made of elastic metal bracelet made in Japan.

Breitling Ref817 Bracelet

The bidirectional rotating bezel is made of aluminum and the crystal is acrylic .

The case is made of stainless steel and has a screw-down case back.

The letters "EI (Esercito Italiano)" engraved on the case back stand for "Italian Army."

Italian Air Force Chronograph CP-1 Breitling engraved on the case back

The movement is a hand-wound 17-jewel Valjoux 236.

It is the Valjoux 236, but it seems to have been actively adopted for military watches, as the same caliber is also used in the Canadian Air Force's push-button chronograph.

Italian Air Force Chronograph CP-1 Breitling 817

It is believed that between 500 and 1000 were made, but only 31 are known to exist.

The reason why there are so few of them left is said to be that many were destroyed when radium, which was used in the luminous paint, was banned.

Breitling Ref817

Then in 2016, the Italian Ministry of Defense auctioned off 40 more Breitling Reference 817s.

It is very unusual for a government to directly auction watches.

These 40 were issued to paratroopers, not helicopter pilots.

For this reason, the 40 units have been nicknamed "Folgore Forty" after the Italian airborne brigade "Folgore."


So that's it for today, I've introduced you to the Italian Air Force's military pilot watch.

We believe that even people who are not interested in military watches can feel a sense of familiarity with our products because they are supplied by Zenith and Breitling, brands that we still admire.

Also, because this is a watch adopted by the Air Force, the case, movement, and dial are all built with a solid structure, so it's nice to know that it feels sturdy.

Italian Air Force watches do not appear on the market very often and may be difficult to obtain, but the CP-2 has a case size of over 40mm, making it a great choice for those who like large watches.