Because we are pilots: the all-new Zenith Pilot


The type of aviation, or pilot’s, watches is quite popular with manufacturers. Outwardly, such watches are distinguished by well-read dials with contrasting luminescent hour markers and hands and enlarged crowns. Both are a tribute to historical traditions, when a pilot sitting in an open cockpit was often forced to read the time in pitch darkness and manipulate the clock with a hand in a thick warm glove.

The Zenith manufactory is one of the most respected manufacturers of pilot’s watches. Suffice it to say that Louis Blériot, who first flew the English Channel in 1909, was among the users of its timekeeping instruments, and Zenith is the only brand that retains the right to mark the dials with the inscription “PILOT”. Actually, the Zenith Pilot models of the previous generation were designed in a pronounced vintage aesthetics of the first third of the 20th century and appealed to Blériot watches. With the introduction of the completely new Pilots at Watches & Wonders 2023, the collection has been modernized and broadcasts not the codes of the past, but rather the present of aviation, although with the preservation of some generic features.

In total, four references were shown: two three-handers with a conventional date display and two reversible chronographs with a large date window. The variety within each pair is achieved by using two types of body materials – stainless steel or microblasted black ceramic. The three-hand cases are 40 mm in diameter, while the chronographs are 42.5 mm in diameter. All-new black dials with horizontal grooves are reminiscent of the corrugated aircraft fuselages. The appearance of a luminous 6 o’clock marker in the form of a flat white line, reminiscent of the on-board instrument that determines the position of the aircraft relative to the horizon, should be attributed to the undoubted success of the designers working on the appearance of the new generation models. The attitude of the artificial horizon is also used in the finishing of the blackened self-winding rotor, visible through the transparent window of the case back.

In chronographs, the careful execution of the “big date” function attracts. The absence of a vertical bridge between the disks of tens and units indicates a very tight fit of the disks to each other, without a step, which similar indicators often sin. In addition, the discs switch and stabilize (stop spinning) in less than 0.03 seconds, which led to a patent.

The chronograph in a steel case will immediately remind connoisseurs of the 1997 El Primero Rainbow Flyback. Like the original, the 30-minute counter circle at 3 o’clock has alternating colors to make it easier to distinguish the five-minute markers, while the chronograph second and minute hands are bright orange.

Both the three-hand watch and the chronograph are equipped with automatic in-house high-frequency movements of the El Primero family – of course, in various modifications – with a power reserve of 60 hours.

The main for all four models equipped with a system of quick change strap are black rubber straps with imitation of Cordura fabric. The steel versions also come with a brown calfskin strap, while the ceramic ones come with a second rubber strap with khaki Cordura look.

It remains to be added that the three-hand watch in a steel case is priced at 7.5 thousand Swiss francs, the steel chronograph – at 11.4 thousand francs, the ceramic versions are exactly 2 thousand francs more expensive.

Yuri Khnychkin

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