Zenith has a history in aviation. When the first person crossed the Channel in 1909 he did so with a Zenith watch on his wrist. Another landmark in aviation history was the first man to cross the sound barrier in freefall with an El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th on the wrist.
Louis Blériot was the first person who flew over the Channel in 1909, Léon Morane became the first pilot to ever exceed the speed of 100 km/h. Both of them had a Zenith watch in their wrist. Zenith became the first Manufacture of aircraft altimeters and aircraft watches (Montres d’aéronef). They worked for both military and civilian airline companies.
The Pilot models design are related to the original gauches used in the plaines. These Zenith Type 20 were well known for their reliability, precision and robustness. It was placed on the instrument panels of aircrafts from 1939 onwards. A broad matt black nail enabled pilots to wind and set their watches without removing their gloves.
PILOT TYPE 20 HOMMAGE À LOUIS BLÉRIOT
Paying homage to the adventurous, conquering spirit of this airborne pioneer, the Manufacture presents an exclusive timepiece fitted with a meteorite dial and driven by the famous Calibre 5011K, entirely engraved with the memory of this fabulous saga. Crafted in a five-piece limited edition, the new Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot is thus by nature a rare and coveted object. With its distinctive 60 mm-diameter case carved from a block of sapphire and topped by a bezel, lugs and large ratcheted crown in white gold, this aviator’s watch dares to stand out from the crowd. Witness its fascinating deep grey meteorite dial, graced with a natural motif forming interlacing ribbons against a finely sandblasted background. This fragment of the Muonionalusta asteroid, which sped through the atmosphere and fell to earth between Sweden and Finland, comes from a region located 140 km from the Arctic Circle. Beneath the imposing domed sapphire crystal, the display provided by characterised oversized Arabic numerals and stylised hands enhanced with a phosphorescent material ensures optimal read-off for all its functions.
The powerful lines and singular design of the Pilot collection are set off to their best advantage by the spectacular sapphire case water-resistant to 30 metres, representing a magnificent feat of craftsmanship and housing an equally remarkable beating heart: the entirely hand-engraved Calibre 5011K. Having set impressive precision records in its category, including the 1967 Neuchatel Observatory award for the most accurate chronometer ever presented, this legendary mechanical movement equipped maritime chronometers and pocket watches before enjoying a second lease on life in the wristwatches of the Pilot collection. A number of original 5011K calibres found in the archives of the Manufacture, duly restored and decorated, now equip several Pilot Type 20 models – all issued in strictly limited editions – including this Hommage à Louis Blériot model. The transparent case-back thus reveals fascinating engraving work depicting Louis Blériot’s cross-Channel flight in 1909 aboard the Blériot XI plane, his trusty Zenith watch firmly on his wrist. Driving hours and minutes hands along with small seconds at 9 o’clock and a power-reserve indicator at 3 o’clock, Calibre 5011K operates at the rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour and enjoys 48 hours of autonomy.
PILOT TYPE 20 SQUELETTE
Embodying top-flight craftsmanship and watchmaking techniques, the new Pilot Type 20 Squelette raises the legendary Calibre 5011K to the rank of a true masterpiece of ethereal architecture. This famous pocket-watch movement has been entirely skeletonised in order to reveal the exceptional mechanism, while avoiding any compromise in terms of its resistance and reliability. This construction is ‘airy’ in two key respects. On the one hand, its skeleton-working stems from a particularly demanding and meticulous art performed using the historical bocfil (tiny hacksaw) technique that stems from a tradition of more than 200 years of workmanship. This extremely delicate task consists of engraving and hollowing out the movement by hand with a constant concern for perfect aesthetic and functionality. This is a dizzyingly complex operation, especially given the imposing size of the balance wheel and barrel which exert considerable tensile and traction forces. On the other hand, the nimble hands of skilled and experienced artisans create an aviation-inspired architectural motif featuring sleek lines evoking aircraft turbines or wings. Its finely curved lines are enhanced by fine sandblasting and hand-finished angles, all revealed through the transparency of the sapphire crystal dial and case-back. Topped by a blue enamel bezel, the 60 mm-diameter case carved in sapphire provides plenty of scope for an exceptional finish. Its gold bezel and lugs are hand-engraved, forming a geometrical motif inspired by the fuselage of Louis Blériot’s planes. The new Pilot Type 20 Squelette watch – displaying all the distinctive identity codes of Zenith aviator watches including a broad ratcheted crown enabling easy adjustment with pilot’s gloves, as well as stylised hours and minutes hands sweeping over large impeccably legible numerals – is entirely in tune with the DNA of the collection. At the heart of this breathtakingly ethereal composition, the gold hands as well as the hollowed and blued Arabic numerals echo the blue enamel on the bezel, displaying the essential functions of the entirely skeleton-worked manual-winding Calibre 5011K. It embodies the glorious origins of the 5011 pocket-watch calibre that distinguished itself by its remarkable precision from the 1960s onwards and equipped marine chronometers and pocket watches. The inherently exclusive Pilot Type 20 Squelette is issued in a strictly limited five-piece edition.
PILOT TYPE 20 EXTRA SPECIAL
The Pilot Type 20 Extra Special with its new bronze case is making a noteworthy entrance into the collection of Zenith aviator watches. Bronze, a particularly resistant non-magnetic copper and tin alloy, acquires a natural patina as it oxidises, thereby accentuating the vintage appeal of this legendary appeal. Testifying to the pioneering role played by Zenith in developing flight instruments in the early days of aviation, the new Pilot Type 20 Extra Special is endowed with all the original attributes of a pilot’s watch: oversized luminescent Arabic numerals ensuring impeccable readability, as well as a large ratcheted screwed-in crown enabling adjustment with gloved hands. Enhanced by a domed sapphire crystal, its functions are distinctively displayed on a broad matt black dial framed by a minute track, while the imposing Arabic numerals made from blocks of white Super-LumiNova® and the faceted luminescent hands reinforce its vintage elegance and its optimal legibility. At the heart of the generous 45 mm bronze case that is water-resistant to 100 metres beats the automatic Zenith Elite Calibre 679. Operating at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz), this accurate and reliable Manufacture-made movement driving central hours, minutes and seconds hands has a 50-hour power reserve. The solid titanium case-back, bearing an etching of Louis Blériot’s plane and adorned with the Zenith Flying Instruments logo, is a vivid reminder of its legendary origins. A rubber-lined Nubuck strap fitted with a titanium pin buckle sets the final touch to this vintage-spirit timepiece made for adventurers with a thirst for wide horizons.