Breitling - The 2021 New York Watch Auction New York Saturday, December 11, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Breitling
    Year: 1975
    Reference No: 817
    Case No: 1’433’429; outside of case stamped with military issue number E.I. 0451
    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, caseback stamped by Italian military.
    Accessories: Accompanied by military issue box by Breitling. Further accompanied by Extract from the Archives indicating that the case was manufactured in January of 1975.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Since pilots began wearing watches on their wrists during combat, in the dogfights of World War I, the watches themselves have evolved and adapted to match the tastes and requirements of those pilots, in partnership with the militaries writ large and the watch manufacturers. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the global arms race of the Cold War and the technological advancements being made particularly in the realm of air transportation and defense, analog watches still had their role to play. The Breitling 817 is unique amongst the mechanical wristwatches of this era for a few reasons: a few pristine examples have survived for documented reasons and a civilian version was never made.

    Ordered in 1974 and produced in 1975 for Italian army helicopter pilots and commanders of the Battaglione Paracadutisti Carabinieri Tuscania (1st Carabinieri Paratroopers Regiment “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 publicly in the past half-century. The regiment dates back to World War II, and is currently a special operations unit of the Italian Carabinieri based in Livorno. Nicknamed the “Desert Lions”, their motto is “Se il destino è contro di noi, peggio per lui” or “If Destiny is against us, then too bad for him.”

    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. 0451”, which stands for “Esercito Italiano” (Italian Army), still crisp and starkly 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. This exact example is believed to be one of the batch deaccessioned by the Italian government in 2016 and sold as a single lot only to registered Italian companies. It comes on its original Japanese extensible Speidel bracelet, and with special original military-issued box reading "Cronometro da Polso Mod. 1 Unif” in absolutely top condition for the connoisseur of vintage military watches.

  • Artist Biography


    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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Ref. 817
An extremely well-preserved and historically important stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with bracelet and box, made for the Italian Army

39.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed, caseback stamped by Italian military.

$8,000 - 15,000 

Sold for $18,900

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros

Head of Watches, Americas

+1 (212) 940-1293


The 2021 New York Watch Auction

New York Auction 11 - 12 December 2021