Recent re-editions of the Breitling AVI, Heuer/Sinn Bundeswehr, and Zenith’s A. Cairelli have brought increased attention to vintage Air Force chronographs. There’s one that often goes forgotten, simply because the manufacture no longer exists. 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 Army. 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.
Vintage 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.
This example presents fairly strong. The case is sharp, with enough raw-edged knocks to see that it hasn’t been polished. The military engravings on the case back are strong. That’s important with with these. No cracking is visible on the lume and all markings are evenly patinated.
The watch is completely original and comes from S. Song, a well-respected dealer out of Malaysia. Moreover, compared to references with similar provenance, it’s a bit of a steal.
Find this CP-2 here for 5800 USD.