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

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  • Manufacturer: Breitling
    Year: 1975
    Reference No: 817
    Case No: Inside caseback stamped 1'433'734, outside caseback stamped with military issue number E.I 0253
    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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Military watches are not rare, per se, as the volume of the orders for these were quite large. However, these watches tend to be difficult to find for the simple reason that they were tools to be used by the armed forces and as such were either destroyed when no longer used or have survived in poor condition.

    The present Breitling 817 is one of the rare military watches to have survived unscathed as it remains in overall very good condition. Intriguingly, Breitling never issued a civilian version of this model.

    Made in 1974 for Italian army helicopter pilots and commanders of the Battaglione Paracadutisti Carabinieri Tuscania, the Breitling 817 was produced in very limited numbers. It is believed that fewer than 1000 were delivered, and only a handful have appeared in public over its 40-year history. It has been theorized that so few watches are known because the manufacturer destroyed most of the models produced following regulation changes.

    The reference 817 was made according to military specifications, using the smaller CP-1 case measuring 39.5mm, instead of the CP-2 which measures 42mm.

    The present example remains exceptionally well preserved with the issue number “E. I. 0253”, which stands for “Esercito Italiano” (Italian Army), still crisp and legible on the caseback. The dial has aged nicely over the years, as evidenced by the vivid contrast between the green luminous markers and orange hands. This discrepancy in color has been consistently observed across all known examples of this reference.
    The present lot is a wonderful example of this rare and highly sought after military-issued chronograph. Add to that its charismatic design, large proportions, and appealing condition and you have a watch that’s worthy of any vintage collection.

  • 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

1975
39.5mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

Estimate
CHF8,000 - 12,000 
€7,000-10,600
$8,200-12,300

sold for CHF15,000

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Sale
+41 22 317 81 89
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: EIGHT

Geneva Auction 10-11 November 2018