These are two of several impressive pieces from Zenith that I saw this year at Baselworld. I continue to be impressed with Zenith and the direction the brand is headed, and their Pilot’s collection is undoubtedly a part of their success. Shown here, the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT in steel and the Special Edition (500 pieces) Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT “Rouge Baron” (Red Baron) with DLC-finsihed titanium case, have many admirable qualities. I’ve got all your details and analysis, below.
Inspired by the historical Zenith aviation watches, this watch has a 48mm x 15.8mm stainless steel case with a massive crown and GMT quick-corrector. The sapphire crystal is slightly domed. And how about the geometry on those lugs!
Generally speaking, Zenith has opted for a very masculine design for most its Pilot’s watches, and although such a look will turn away some who prefer the understated, I find the the large mushroom/onion-style crown and large case size of the Pilot to be alluring, and more importantly, authentic. In fact I think the same can be said of the entire Zenith Pilot collection. Everything presents itself as being in the proper context – pilot’s watches of yore needed large, quickly readable dials with easy-to-manipulate crowns even while wearing gloves. Authenticity, by the way, is a trait severely lacking in many watches today, and one which thus makes this piece all the more special.
The dial is basic but superb. Matte black background, hours and minutes in the center, and small seconds sub at 9 o’clock. The large hands have a gorgeous shape to them, including the red-tipped hand which is the GMT hand (or second time zone). What is to be appreciated about the GMT is that it is advanced not by turning the crown but by using the integrated pusher on the upper left side of the case — one push advances the GMT hand forward one hour.
Another great feature are the very nicely styled Arabic numerals — entirely made of SuperLuminova, too:
The case-back is engraved. Here is the Red Baron model:
And here is the stainless steel, in a bit better resolution:
Powering the watch is the automatic mechanical Zenith Elite 693 caliber, pulsing at 4 Hz and with a “Côtes de Genève” patterned rotor (nice, even though the caliber is not visible):
And how about this — fitted on a stitched calfskin strap with rubber lining and pin buckle, the steel Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT is priced at 7,200 Swiss Francs, or about $7,500 US at current f/x (exact USD price quote to be provided). Not sure on the Baron Rouge price — I’ll update when I get info from Zenith.
On another note, how about a quick flashback:
Zenith is not a watch I cover much on this blog mostly because I find their watches in recent years to be much less than impressive. Seems this is changing a bit with new Zenith CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, on board since mid-2009. I dare say that he may have a winner on his hands with this new Zenith El Primero Foudroyante 1/10th Chronograph. I think that this watch just goes to show that if you stick with what you know and do best, well, good things will happen.
And so I guess you could say that it took me three years to get there, but today I see that Zenith really is firing on all cylinders — making authentic watches, leveraging great assets/heritage (El Primero), building great partners, collaborations and complications (Felix Baumgartner/Red Bull Stratos, MIH Annual Calendar, Christophe Colombe), and a offering a great range of price points. Did I just talk Zenith on to my “favorite brands” list? Seems so!