Our survey of worldwide army timepieces is again with half 2 of the chapter centered on Italy. You possibly can learn half 1 right here. We’re selecting issues again up mid-century with chronograph watches.
Italy has an necessary place within the historical past of the army chronograph, although on this case not one of the watches produced beneath contract for its army was made by an Italian firm, however somewhat by storied Swiss maisons.
The earliest — and by far, the rarest — of those chronographs was retailed by A. Cairelli within the 1950s, a Roman subcontractor of army tools in the same vein to the early Panerai firm. This watch, the HA-1, was an outsized, 44.5mm stainless-steel chronograph that includes a singular 24-hour dial and meant for aerial navigation, maybe for submarine hunter crews. Outfitted with the famed, manually wound Valjoux cal. 55 VBR motion with flyback characteristic — the identical caliber that powered the Rolex ref. 4113, one of many rarest Rolexes on this planet — the HA-1 was produced by Common Genève and equipped by Cairelli to the Aeronautica Militaire Italiana (Italian Air Power). These watches are fairly uncommon and consequently, extremely fascinating: one hammered at auction in 2016 for practically 200,00 CHF.
1960s | 1970s
No much less stunning however considerably much less uncommon (in sure iterations) are extra fashionable chronographs produced beneath contract by Common Genève, Leonidas, Breitling and Zenith for the AMI within the 1960s, a few of which had been additionally retailed by A. Cairelli. St. Imier-based Leonidas — which was later bought by Heuer — produced the CP-1 (cronometro da polso, or “wrist chronometer”) within the mid-1960s to specs required by the Italian army. 38mm in diameter and housing the handwound Valjoux cal. 222 with flyback operate and hacking seconds, it featured a dual-register chronograph structure, rotating 12-hour or 60-minute bezel and a black dial with tritium-based luminescent paint.
The CP-2 watch was basically an upsized CP1 measuring 43mm in diameter. Produced by Common Genève, Leonidas, and Zenith from the late 1960s by way of the mid-1970s., the CP-2 in its Zenith-made iteration was manufactured in a run of roughly 2,500 items, although apparently, many remained unissued following an abrupt cancellation of the contract by the AMI. A. Cairelli, which fulfilled the CP-2 contract, subsequently offered off a lot of the remaining inventory to civilians. These examples, that are largely devoid of army case again markings, are nonetheless extremely fascinating on the classic market, albeit much less so than their issued counterparts.
The Zenith watches had been powered by the cal.146DP — a manually wound motion produced by Martel, an organization bought by Zenith in 1959 — whereas the Leonidas CP-2 was powered by the Valjoux cal. 222. Common Genève’s model of the watch, marked with the A. Cairelli title, utilized the cal. 265P within the late 1960s, although manufacturing of this specific mannequin was supposedly restricted on account of value. All CP-2s featured a three-part case with screw-down case again, a large, graduated rotating bezel, an internal mud cowl, a black dial illuminated with tritium, a dual-register chronograph structure and a fifth-second outer railroad monitor. These watches had been distributed by way of the early 1970s and discontinued in 1985.
Within the mid-1970s Breitling was additionally contracted to provide chronographs for the AMI, which it did within the type of the reference 817. This watch was based mostly upon the smaller CP-1 case, although it’s not at all times referred to by this designation, making for some confusion. Produced to be used largely by helicopter pilots and officers of the Battaglione Paracadutisti Carabinieri Tuscania, a particular operations-capable paratrooper battalion, it’s believed that just one,000 examples had been made, signed with “E.I.” for Esercito Italiano (“Italian Military”) and a problem quantity.
1980s | 1990s
Evidently pilots complained, nonetheless, concerning the manually wound cal. 236 motion and the watch’s small pushers, which had been tough to function with gloves. These points led to the event of computerized chronographs produced with the famed Lemania cal. 5100, one of many nice mechanical workhorse actions of the 20th century, distinctive in its structure and utilization of a central minutes counter.
Produced by Heuer and Lemania from the early 1980s by way of the 1990s, these 5100-based watches had been housed in 40mm stainless-steel, tonneau-shaped instances with screw backs, screw-down crowns and two spherical chronograph pushers. They featured black dials that made use of the cal. 5100’s thee sub-registers, tritium illumination and day-date shows in Italian or German. Examples will be discovered adorned with totally different squadron logos.
Additionally through the 1980s and 1990s, an Italian agency, DPW, contracted Swiss producers to provide timepieces that noticed supposed use by numerous branches of the Italian armed forces — although it might be that these watches had been merely offered in base exchanges and weren’t issued tools. Many of those use 80s-era, early PVD-coated Breitling Colt instances measuring roughly 38mm in diameter, quartz actions with the date, and dials stamped with totally different items’ insignia. Completely different fashions used totally different case sorts, nonetheless, and it’s even potential to seek out watches with analog/digital shows. Sadly, there isn’t a lot scholarship on these extra fashionable contracted watches, and little data appears to be out there in English relating to manufacturing numbers, procurement, and so on.
At the moment
Even much less data is available as to what, if any, wristwatches are nonetheless issued to Italian forces. Given the rising worldwide pattern of getting troopers procure and buy their very own wristwatches to be used whereas in service — typically of a budget, dependable, digital selection — there’s little doubt that issued watches have largely gone the best way of the dodo in Italy, and will they nonetheless exist, solely accomplish that throughout the ranks of extremely specialised forces, equivalent to particular operations items.
Finally, although the event of AMI-issued chronographs within the 1960s and 1970s constitutes an attention-grabbing chapter within the historical past of army tools, it must be understood that with out Panerai, a agency based in Florence within the mid-19th century, the army instrument watch panorama would possibly certainly look very totally different than it does immediately.