Recent re-editions of the Breguet’s XX, Breitling AVI, Heuer/Sinn’s 3H Bundeswehr, and Zenith’s A. Cairelli have brought increased attention to vintage Air Force chronographs. But there’s one that often goes forgotten, simply because the manufacture no longer exists to capitalize on that reissue dough. Leonidas merged with Heuer in 1962. Before that union, they made small batches of beautiful chronographs issued to the Italian Air Force.
Leonidas and Zenith both made flybacks for the Italian Air Force. Zenith used a Martel, while Leonidas utilized a Valjoux 222. The two-register dial is simple and in a robust 43mm size to ensure legibility under pressure. It’s utilitarian in the extreme. Zenith’s similar CP-2 went to AMI pilots. Interestingly, this Leonidas would have been issued to a helicopter pilot in period. There’s little else to distinguish the two, and yet, because the name is marginally less sexy, the Leoniadas will often trade hands for half the Zenith’s value. That’s an opportunity worth underscoring.
Vintage flyback pilot chronographs are doubly interesting to me because they tether historical provenance to watchmaking complication. No one really needs a moonphase. But pilots sure as hell needed a flyback in period. Moreover, you know it’s been through far more than your weekend outing away can throw at it. Someone may have crawled through trenches, jumped down from a heli, or shot close groupings with this movement still beating. And that giant plot of shovel-shaped tritium in the chronograph hand? Yeah, it’s fair to say it’s sexy.
This example has the correct four screw back. That’s important. Also it’s signed correctly for the Italian Army on back, still deep. The dial is incredibly well-preserved for a tool, and I love the golden tritium tones. It comes from a well-regarded Dutch retailer.
Find this CP-2 here from Bulang & Sons for 7900 EUR.