Zenith Heritage Cronometro TIPO CP-2

Zenith Heritage Cronometro TIPO CP-2: Tribute to a Legendary watch

by Zenith - 17/10/2016

In recent years, the 2,500 units produced by Zenith in the 1960s for the Italian armed forces have been fetching sky-high prices on the vintage market. The iconic TIPO CP-2 is one of the historical treasures of the Manufacture in Le Locle. To celebrate this legendary timepiece, Zenith is launching a modern version entirely in tune with the spirit and design of the original:  introducing the Heritage Cronometro TIPO CP-2, the latest addition to the Heritage collection.

The history of the Manufacture Zenith harbours priceless treasures composed of fabled models that have shaped the history of watchmaking. From the early 1960s onwards, the Italian military chose Zenith to equip the pilots of its Navy and Air Force. The Rome-based distributor “A. Cairelli” handled delivery of the 2,500 chronographs that were still being worn by pilots of the U.S. Lockheed F104 Starfighter aircraft in the late 1970s to the Marina Militare and the Aeronautica Militare Italiana.

The military chronograph code-named TIPO CP-2 featured two counters in its initial version and its 43 mm diameter ensured a degree of legibility that was essential for pilots. The Zenith Calibre DP 146 powering this top-flight instrument was a token of reliability that proved a determining factor in the precision of the missions on which it served. An eminently useful piece of back-up equipment complementing the onboard instruments installed in the cockpit, the Zenith chronograph rarely left pilots’ wrists, even when they were not on missions, thus exemplifying the powerful ties between each wearer and his timepiece.

The Heritage Cronometro TIPO CP-2 was universally appreciated by its users and once again demonstrated Zenith’s expertise in mastering time measurement. From the early 20th century onwards, a number of different armed forces entrusted Zenith with equipping their military with models meeting their demanding technical specifications in terms of reliability, indications, readability, as well as their robustness in every situation.

In light of aficionados’ tireless enthusiasm for this exceptional timepiece, the Manufacture Zenith is issuing a new 1,000-piece limited series of its historic chronograph. This time around it has the most iconic movement of them all: the famous Zenith El Primero, another history-maker beating to the rhythm of 36,000 vibrations per hour. Entirely respectful of its predecessor’s spirit and characteristics, this new version of the chronograph also brings the convenience of automatic winding with a 50-hour power reserve.

Its presence on the wrist confirms its military DNA and its perfect subtlety makes this a model that defies fleeting fashions and time itself. Nothing is missing from its impressive range of assets. Its hands designed to ensure perfect readability even in tough conditions; its bezel enabling reliable and accurate handling; along with its easily accessible and responsive pushers, all testify to impeccable compliance with the drastic set of technical specifications imposed by the military.

Few modern chronographs so fully respect the form and spirit of the models that inspired them. The Manufacture Zenith once again asserts itself by rising to a challenge on a par with its ambitions: transcending time!

Background

In the late 1950s, the Italian armed forces wished to renew the Tipo CP1 chronographs that were standard equipment for pilots of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana and the Marina Militare. The technical specifications called for a model delivering perfect legibility; a 43 mm case that could be worn over pilots’ flight suits; immediate and secure access to the pushers and bezel; and of course a reliability worthy of the most accurate chronometers.

Hand-wound Zenith Calibre 146 DP was one of the most renowned and most reliable movements available at the time. The chronograph christened TIPO CP-2 by the Italian Air Force was delivered by A. Cairelli, the Manufacture’s Rome-based distributor. Worn by the pilots of the famous American Lockheed F104 Starfighter, these timepieces became an important extension of the onboard instruments installed in the cockpit. Pilots became attached to them to the point of wearing them at all times, even when not on official duty.

The Manufacture delivered 2,500 units to its Italian distributor, some of which were kept in reserve and never actually used. That explains the fact that some of these watches do not bear the letters MM (Marina Militare) or AMI (Aeronautica Militare Italiana) engraved alongside a serial number and the TIPO CP-2 reference on the back of the timepieces that were taken aboard planes.

The Lockheed F104 Starfighter planes were known to be dangerous, and pilots were doubtless glad to keep these reassuring chronographs with them. All models were delivered with chronometer-worthy precision timing as specified by the Italian Air Force. Zenith’s TIPO CP-2 chronographs remained on the wrists of Italian pilots until the late 1970s and even into the early 1980s.

Having now become some of the world’s most sought-after collector’s items, TIPO CP-2 chronographs – often identified by collectors under the name of the distributor “A. Cairelli” – are universally acknowledged as being among the most iconic timepieces in military history.

The Manufacture Zenith has a longstanding tradition of supplying watches to armed forces around the world. From 1916 onwards, the U.S., British, German, Polish and Italian armed forces were among those who benefited from the expertise of the Zenith engineers and watchmakers. The TIPO CP-2 chronograph belongs to the exclusive circle of legendary chronographs that have earned the status of exceptional timepieces in both military and watchmaking history.