Finds Vintage

Civilian Zenith A. Cairelli CP-2


It would be the height of understatement to say Zenith are known for their chronographs. In fact, with the exception of one literally out-of-this-world competitor, their reputation is almost synonymous with hi-beats and elapsed intervals. Undoubtedly, the El Primero range comprises the manufacture’s primary notoriety. Hey, if you can’t actually be first, just name it that (I jest). However, it says a lot that their back-seat contract-military offering is actually more attractive than many brand’s foremost efforts. I give you the purposeful, practical, aviation-borne CP-2.


There’s a lot to be said for getting the proportions just right in any watch. You don’t want oversized pushers. The bezel shouldn’t be too thick. Big-eye subs are just outright sexy. That’s definitely the case in this dual register 30-minute counter. Then there’s the vaguely-utilitarian yet artfully shaped shovel of lume at the top of the seconds hand. The undersized sans serif font. Watchmaking is about details, but even ‘simple’ watches are made or broken in the execution of their details. This one is the former. Though the CP-2 was created for the Italian Air Force (AMI), civilian versions were also retailed. This is one lovely example of just that. Zenith’s similar issued CP-2 went to AMI pilots. Interestingly, Leonidas CP-2s would have been issued to a helicopter pilots in period. This civilian variant is, in essence, just the Zenith CP-2 with a bit less engraving on the back.


One last detail I always enjoy is the manual Martel 146 DP movement. It’s surprisingly aesthetic for the workhorse. Zenith and Martel went way back in a love triangle that involved Universal Genève, but the result is an unfussy and robust column wheel chronograph with a Breguet hairspring, shock protection, anti-magnetic iron cap, and rhodium plating. Function, when taken to an extreme, is often beautiful.


This example has a sharp, unpolished 42.5mm case. The pushers are original. Its lume is evenly yellowed with a big orange triangle as these should be, all fully intact. There is a pin-size breakage on the hour lume. The movement is clear of corrosion and it comes with warranty. It is sold by ACM, but not through their main site. They have a few pieces on Chrono24 which, I’m guessing, weren’t quite right for their current image in the independent limelight. They’re beautiful and not advertised, but still come from one of the best names around. So browse their C24 listings as well.

Find this CP-2 here on Chrono24 for 12850 USD.

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