A fine and very rare stainless steel chronograph wristwatch, made for the Italian army

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  • Manufacturer: Breitling
    Year: 1974
    Reference No: 817
    Case No: Stamped E. I. 0346 on the back and 1'433'377 inside caseback
    Material: Stainless Steel
    Calibre: Manual, cal. 236, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Maruman flexible link bracelet
    Dimensions: 39.5mm. Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed and numbered

  • Catalogue Essay

    When collectors and aficionados mention the word chronograph, the watch most likely to spring to mind is the famed Daytona Cosmograph, however there are other rare and exclusive timepieces that should be considered when forming a well rounded collection. The present, hardly ever seen, military-issued Breitling 817 is such a watch. Made in 1974 for Italian army helicopter pilots and commanders of the Battaglione Paracadutisti Carabinieri Tuscania, it is believed the production numbers for the Breitling 817 were fewer than 1000 and research shows very few have appeared in public over its 40-year history. One likely theory on why so few watches are known is that the manufacturer destroyed most of them following regulation changes for radium usage.
    Similar to other countries, the Italian army in the 1970s reached out to various Swiss manufacturers with specifications for watches to be used exclusively by their military. The denominations CP-1 and CP-2 were used for the case size, 39.5mm and 42mm respectively. Breitling’s 817 with its 39.5mm case is a CP-1 and while today is a wonderful collectible chronograph, during its usage pilots complained about the manual wound movement and small round pushers, which were difficult to engage with gloved hands. The present example remains exceptionally well preserved with an unpolished case, factory finishing, and straight, clean bevels. One of the most distinguishing characteristics is the engraved case back, “E. I. 0346”, which stands for “Esercito Italiano” (Italian Army). The inscription remains crisps and sits on top the factory satin finish. The coin-edge bezel retains each notch, and the black paint on each end remains intact. The dial has nicely aged over the years and looks as fresh today as it did when first produced in the 1970s. Accompanied with the original Japanese-made Speidel bracelet on which it was originally issued, the present lot is a wonderful example of this rare and highly sought after military-issued chronograph.

  • Maker Bio

    Breitling

    Swiss • 1884

    The firm started by Leon Breitling in 1884 is best known for its technical aviation and oceanic watches. Today, all models are outfitted with certified chronometer movements, used for accurate timing. Early aviation pioneers in specialized chronograph timepieces, Breitling introduced the circular slide rule to watches in the 1940s for use by pilots. The firm’s most iconic chronograph, the Navitimer, was introduced in 1954 and continues to be manufactured today. Another key model is the Duograph, a split-seconds chronograph that was Breitling's most prestigious wristwatch during the 1940s through '60s. Their watches are built on their reputation for precision and sturdiness.

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Breitling

Ref. 817
A fine and very rare stainless steel chronograph wristwatch, made for the Italian army

1974
39.5mm. Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed and numbered

Estimate
CHF6,000 - 8,000 
€5,500-7,300
$6,200-8,200

sold for CHF13,750

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
+41 22 317 81 89

The Geneva Watch Auction: FOUR

Geneva Auctions 12 – 13 November 2016