In the run-up to Baselworld brands will often issue pre-releases of new watches, before an official Baselworld launch. Today’s offering from Zenith is one such watch, a piece that I had the opportunity to look at in Geneva in January.
On 17 December 1903 the intrepid Wright brothers Wilbur and Orville made the first self-powered aircraft flight. In honour of this flight, Zenith have released a special LE of their Type 20 from the ‘Pilot’ Collection dedicated to the brothers.
The Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903 is based on the Pilot Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 GMT model. At 48mm with a thickness of 15.80mm this is a bulky watch in DLC-coated titanium with a large ratcheted crown, as is typical of pilot’s watches.
Inside the watch is the in-house made Zenith Elite calibre 693 automatic movement with a power reserve of about 50 hours. Functionally, there is the time, a seconds sub-dial, and a big clear red-tipped second time zone indicator hand that is adjusted via a large pusher on the left of the case.
To reference its 1903 inspiration, Zenith have created an ‘aged’ look to the numerals which are on e black dial, that has been sand-blasted five times to give it a great matte look. The hour markers are Super-LumiNova Old Radium and the hands, black ruthenium, satin-finished with Super-LumiNova SLN Old Radium. If you look at photographs of vintage Zenith flight instruments from the late 1930s, you can immediately see that the design is faithful to it, and that the attempt to ‘age’ it also looks remarkably like how original numerals look now, through the natural ageing process.
As you can see, there are two strap options in one, including a Bund-style one that is vintage-effect nubuck heat-embossed with the “Zenith Flying Instruments” logo. The effort put into decorating this strap makes it special, something beyond just a token ‘vintage’ nod by putting this style of strap on a watch. Interestingly, it is actually also the more comfortable of the two straps.
It may be 48mm but feels closer to some 45mm watches, and being titanium black DLC reduces the weight significantly. The watch’s large size also seems smaller on the supple soft Bund when it’s wrapped around your wrist.
At first glance I wasn’t that taken with the 1903 but as I played a bit with it, spent some time with it, and then tried it on my wrist, it really grew on me.
The caseback is engraved with the Wright brother’s plane, but is discreet in its references (and limited nature).
It comes in a limited edition of 1,903 pieces, with the number appearing on a plate screwed to the side of the case.