Many a Revolution reader will have followed with interest the Phillips Start-Stop-Reset auction of “88 Epic Steel Chronographs” that took place in Geneva last spring. It proved to be a “white glove” affair (ie, every lot was sold) with Rolex and Patek Philippe predictably dominating the headlines, a 1942 ref. 4113 split-seconds watch taking the top spot when it sold for SFr.2.4 million to establish a new Rolex record.
But perhaps the most interesting were the estimate-busting prices achieved for many of the other offerings from less obviously collectable dial names – not least the remarkable Zenith CP-2 “Cairelli” that soared to a triple-estimate SFr.62,000 as reported by our own Helen Cruden on Revolution online here.
As Helen’s piece explains, the CP-2s (for Cronometro da Polsa Type 2) were originally produced during the 1960s for the Italian Air Force, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana or ‘AMI’ – but a cancelled order meant that many ended up being retailed to civilian buyers. Those that did see military issue (such as the Phillips example) were engraved on the back, with the signature of the Roman retailer A. Cairelli – through which they were supplied – appearing on the dial.
The current popularity for military chronographs combined with the rarity and superb condition of the 1970 CP-2 offered by Phillips made it almost inevitable that the watch was going to exceed expectations – and the price it realised has probably set a precedent that will put other military examples beyond the reach of many enthusiasts.
The good news, however, is that (coincidentally or otherwise) Zenith has recognised both the historic significance of the model and the relevance of its classic “tool watch” look to today’s buyers – and seen the sense in re-launching it in a contemporary version called the Cronometro Tipo CP-2, which is pretty much a dead ringer for the original. At 43mm, the case is exactly the same diameter as that of the 1960s watch and the bi-compax dial configuration remains the same. The bezel is spot-on, too, and so are the crown and push pieces. The most obvious differences to the front of the watch are the substitution of the Cairelli signature for the word “automatic” and the slightly altered design of the hours, minutes and central seconds hands. Flip the watch over and you’ll find a steel caseback engraved with a special Cronometro Tipo CP-2 logo, encasing the celebrated El Primero movement in place of the original CP-2’s hand-wound Calibre 146 mechanism.
In most people’s opinion that will make the new, 1,000-piece edition seem even better than the old one in terms of performance, convenience and reliability – rather like the all-new Triumph Thruxton R motorcycle which appears alongside it here in Amy Shore’s photographs.
The simultaneous revival of the two machines seemed to make them ideal partners for our shoot, not least since the Thruxton R recalls an original Triumph model from the same, mid-1960s era of the first CP-2.
Like the military-issue CP-2, first generation Thruxton Rs are something of a rarity. Developed from the class-leading Bonneville road bike, the Thruxton was named after the English race circuit adapted from a former RAF airfield during 1950, at which a tuned Bonneville T120 won the challenging “500” race in 1962. In honour of the victory, the Thruxton racer was developed and hand-built at Triumph’s Meriden factory. Using especially selected components, it was tuned to produce 53 horsepower at 7,200 rpm, almost 20 per cent more than the standard Bonneville.
Although just 55 examples of the bike were made, the Thruxton name continues to resonate among British motorcycle fans as a byword for performance and, in 2004, it was reinstated by the modern-day Triumph on a retro-look cafe racer with dropped handlebars and rear set footrests – but with disappointingly similar performance to the standard Bonneville on which it was based.
In with the new
The Thruxton R you see here, however, is a very different animal. New from the ground up, it is the souped-up range-topper in the latest Bonneville line-up launched earlier this year. The result of a redesign programme instigated back in 2011, the new family of bikes takes the beloved “Bonnie” into the future while retaining the essential character associated with the name.
At the entry level, the Street Twin offers a 900cc engine and no-frills, stripped-back styling; then come the more comprehensively equipped T120 and T120 Black with 1200cc engines and enhanced performance, with the ultimate iterations being the 1200cc Thruxton and Thruxton R, the latter being the fastest and best-handling Bonneville ever made.
All have state-of-the-art features such as electronic “ride by wire” throttles, anti-lock braking, traction control and LED lighting, but are styled to cloak any essential modernity (such as the low emission, water-cooled engines) in the retro image, which recalls the Bonneville’s illustrious heritage. And a key feature of all the bikes is that they can be customised in order to make them stand out from the crowd – because the buzzword in motorcycling these days really is ‘individuality’. As a result, owners can choose from a wide range of high quality, factory-made components designed to give their machines a bespoke look that chimes with motorcycling’s current zeitgeist.
No fewer than 160 “dealer fit’ accessories are available for the Street Twin and T120, ranging from fly screens and ‘bench’ seats to dropped handlebars and sports exhausts systems. And buyers who can’t quite visualise how to develop a look of their own can opt for one of three ‘inspiration’ kits that will transform a standard Street Twin into “Scrambler”, “Brat Tracker” or ‘Urban’ guises. Buyers of the T120 and T120 Black can also buy a “Prestige” kit to up the bikes’ cool quotient – while Thruxton and Thruxton R riders will be offered a range of individual accessories designed to enhance their sporting pretensions as well as a trio of ‘inspiration’ kits that includes a high performance package designed to turn the standard road bike in to a full-blown closed-circuit racer. For fast road use, however, we found the standard Thruxton R more than adequate. Its 1200cc, 97 horsepower engine combined with a dry weight of around 200 kilos makes for a decidedly lively ride, while top quality suspension by Ohlins and Showa offers superb handling which is backed-up by reassuringly powerful Brembo brakes.
Compared with the many faster and more powerful motorcycles on the market, the Thruxton R does not, of course, offer the ultimate in outright speed and performance – but it is certainly quick enough to excite even the most enthusiastic of riders while its looks will appeal to anyone who appreciates the sort of retro-classic styling that is equally popular right now among both motorcyclists and watch lovers.
And we can’t imagine a more suitable pairing than Zenith’s reincarnated CP-2 and a 21st century Thruxton R – especially when combined with a bit of classic riding kit and the freedom of some of England’s finest biking roads. In fact, if the past is the future of bikes and watches – please may I go back to it?
SPECIFICATIONS – THE WATCH
Movement: El Primero 4069 automatic
Chronograph type: Column wheel
Oscillation frequency: 36,000 VPH
Power reserve: 50 hours
Case material: stainless steel
Water resistance: 10ATM
SPECIFICATIONS – THE BIKE
Engine: Liquid cooled, eight valve, 1200cc four-stroke twin.
Power: 97 bhp at 6,750 rpm
Transmission: Six speed
Frame: Tubular steel with aluminium swing arm
Brakes: Twin discs with Brembo calipers front, single disc with Brembo caliper rear.
Top speed: 130 mph (est.)