817 Breitling CP-1 Italian Army Chronograph
When you approach the entire world through watches, it’s easy to get a slightly skewed view of things. See, I imagine all Special Ops guys running around with Sea-Dwellers on their wrists. I imagine every runway model wears a vintage Tank. Every F1 driver must rock a vintage Autavia, right? George Santos must wear a Santos. But it is not so, except for that last one as we found out last week much to my dismay. I only know the Italian Military through watches. And every single watch they’ve had made to specification is endlessly stylish. So much so, they must be diving in Prada & Panerai, performing raids in Gucci boots and repelling in the alps wearing Moncler goose down, right? Certainly, if this Breitling is anything to go by.
Of all Italian Army issued watches, the 817 is by far the least common. Its also one of the best looking, with a very stark dial and simple Breitling print. It is thought that the initial order was for just 500 watches. Breitling in the 1970s were on the verge of bankruptcy, and as such were willing to oblige such a relatively small special order. Unlike the Zenith or Leonidas, there were no civilian versions. Each watch was built to CP-1 spec and engraved with a military serial number. The 817s were known to be issued to Army helicopter pilots (not Air Force) and the Battaglione Paracadutisti Carabinieri Tuscania, an elite military police unit.
Most were destroyed upon decommissioning. In 2017, just 30 examples were known to the market. Then, out of the blue, the Italian Ministry of Defense announced it was going to auction of its remain supplies of 40 817 examples, all at once. Even with that auction, the number of survives examples is thought to be well under 100. There were all sold on a Japanese expandable bracelet, as shown here. Quite the tactical bella donna if you ask me, Scarlett Johansson in that mil-looking black widow fit, in vintage watch format.
This example comes with its original box, original bracelet, and is in fantastic shape. The slightly greenish dial compared to orange hand lume is actually quite normally for these, and a good sign. You won’t find an original one without that contrast. Its lugs are sharp, the who thing looks barely worn. I would want to see the back to be sure there’s an EI serial number there, not pictured here likely to protect the number. It comes from a well-regarded collector and retailer on IG.