Swiss watch maker Zenith is best known for its fine range of chronograph watches which are powered by the brand’s El Primero movement, famous for being able to operate at 36,000vph.
Of course the El Primero collection isn’t the only thing that Zenith is well known for. Delve a little deeper into the brand’s rich watch making history and you’ll see it has been responsible for making a number of precision timepieces for the world of aviation since the early 1900’s.
Perhaps one of the most significant chapters in the history of Zenith and the aviation world occurred in 1909 when Louis Bleriot crossed the English channel in his homemade Bleriot XI aircraft, wearing a Zenith watch on his wrist.
Almost thirty years later, Zenith’s Montre Aeronef Type 20 watch was so well known for its accuracy that it had almost become standard issue for many French pilots, with the watch featuring in the dashboard of French Air Force planes – the term ‘montre aeronef’ meaning on-board watch.
Zenith underwent a major relaunch of its Pilot collection in 2012, with a number of models directly inspired by the early watches used by the French Air Force. Zenith also released four new novelties to its Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 collection at Baselworld 2013, which included an annual calendar and a tourbillon.
Zenith Pilot Chronograph
The Zenith Pilot Chronograph features a Swiss automatic, COSC certified chrono movement that beats at 36,000 vph and which has a power reserve of 50 hours. The brushed steel case, oversized crown and matte black dial all pay homage to the military watches of yesteryear.
Taking a closer look at the dial, you’ll find a 30 minute counter at 3 o’clock, as well as a small seconds counter at 9 o’clock. The watch is presented in a 42mm steel case case and comes with a brown alligator strap. £4,600.
Zenith Pilot Big Date Special
Inspired by Zenith’s legendary chronograph watch of the 1960’s, the new Pilot Big Date Special is both stylish and functional. The watch includes a moderate and classically styled 42mm diameter case with a satin brushed and polished finish. The black matte dial has been sandblasted five times and offers excellent readability. The automatic movement offers a power reserve of 50 hours. The watch is then finished with a mesh steel bracelet. £5,300.
Zenith Pilot Doublematic
The Zenith Pilot Doublematic watch is powered by the superb El Primero 4046 chronograph movement, which uses two separate barrels – one for timekeeping, the other driving its alarm function. The watch comes with a power reserve of 50 hours and is made up of 439 individual parts.
The Doublematic also includes a number of useful functions such as a world timer, 30 minute chronograph at 3 o’clock, large date at the position of 2 o’clock and an alarm on/off indicator between 8 and 9 o’clock. There is also a power reserve display at 7.
The satin brushed steel and polished case measures 45mm in diameter and features a sapphire crystal and see through case back. The watch is presented on a black alligator leather strap. From approx £8,500.
Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 Manual Watch
The Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 manual watch was named Mechanical Watch of the Year in 2012 by WatchPro Magazine. The watch is powered by Zenith’s legendary hand wound Calibre 5011K movement, which is COSC certified and comprises of 134 individual parts, beating at 18,000 vph. The watch also includes a two day power reserve.
Functions on the Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 Manual Watch include centrally displayed hours and minutes, with a power reserve indicator at the position of 3 o’clock and a small seconds dial at 9 o’clock.
The stainless steel case measures 47mm in diameter and is covered by a glare proof sapphire crystal, with a sapphire crystal case back, providing water resistance to 30 metres. The oversized onion crown harks back to the days when pilots, wearing thick leather gloves, needed to make adjustments to the watch. Limited to 250 pieces, the watch is available from £8,600.
Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 Annual Calendar
The Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 Annual Calendar follows from the manual watch above and is one of the standout timepieces in the brands new range of pilot watches. The Annual Calendar watch displays the day, date and month, with a small seconds at 9 o’clock and a 60 minute chrono counter at the position of 6 o’clock. The watch is driven by an El Primero 4054 automatic chronograph movement, which offers a power reserve of 50 hours.
The titanium case includes a rose gold bezel that measures 48mm in diameter with a thickness of 15.8mm. The dial is protected by an anti reflective sapphire crystal. £14,900.