Zenith Pilot ton up

It is several years ago that I owned a white gold Rolex Daytona with a Zenith El Primero movement. I bought it for two reasons. One the Daytona design and two the glorious 36.000bph movement. So today on Watchinsight.com we are taking a closer look at the Zenith brand and more specific the Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-up watch.


The history of Zenith begins in 1865 and was founded by Georges Favres-Jacot, revolutionised watch production by uniting all the watchmaking professions under one roof, thereby inventing the very concept of a manufacture. In 1899 the first pocket chronograph was launched and one year later Georges Favre-Jacot wins the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition. By 1911 the company adopts the Zenith name  symbolising the heights of excellence to which the brand with the guiding star has been aspiring ever since. By 1925 The Manufacture Zenith employs 1,000 people In the watchmaking haven of Le Locle and its neighbouring town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, it was nicknamed “the Manufacture with 2,000 gold and silver hands”. In 1969 Zenith created El Primero, the first ever integrated automatic chronograph movement, which is still the world’s most precise series-made caliber. It is the only one capable of measuring short times to the nearest tenth of a second, thanks to its balance oscillating at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour. In the 70s also Zenith suffered from the quartz revolution and and watchmaker Charles Vermot hid all the plans, parts and tools to save it from destruction and in 1984, when mechanical movement were back in demand, that turned out to be a very good decision. In 2000 Zenith became part of the LVMH Group and has become a well known player in watch manufacture.

Zenith Pilot ton up 2

Zenith Heritage Pilot Ton-up

So today we are taking a closer look at the Pilot Ton-up. The question at hand is, is it a pilot or a racers watch? Looking at the design of this beauty I would say it is a pilots watch, but the history behind the ton-up tells us something else. It is a bit of a tribute to the 1920s cafe racer biker community, known as the Ton-up boys.


At First, looking at the case, I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic. It is a bit of a military case with a gun metal look and they made it look worn, made it look vintage referring to that time periode in the 50s. I have seen 100 dollar watches with this look and feel (usually pvd finished), so here is my point. But, that was at first. When unwrapping this 45mm new aged stainless steel watch I realised that I judged it to soon. After putting the olive green strap on it, it all came together. The  stainless steel case is set to be 46mm in diameter and has a 14,25 mm thickness. So again a rather big watch. The case-back is made out of titanium with café racer spirit engravings. Due to this titanium case-back it is also not to heavy to wear. Like all big pilot watches, this one also has a very impressive crown and big ribbed pushers, start/stop and reset, which are easy to use at 100 mph with your motor gloves on of course. The lugs are bend down so it really wears like a 45 mm watch. On top a double domed AR coated (both sides) sapphire is placed. 100 meter WR, enough to withstand the spray coming off of the motor cyclist before you on wet days.

zenith dial

Dial and hands

Looking at the slate-grey toned grained pattern dial is looking back at history. Very well done, very simple for a chronograph. No date window, two sub dials and a large central chrono hand.  The large Arabic hour markers are printed with a super luminova material in an off white colour. At the 6 o’clock position “pilot”is printed in orange which matches the second markers which are also printed in orange every 5 seconds.


Under the hood an  in-house El primero movement caliber 4069 is placed. The movement  is an automatic and, like all El Primero movements, it operates at 5Hz (36,000bph) with 50 hours of power reserve.


Green oily nubuck leather strap with protective rubber lining with titanium pin buckle. Very well matched, just the way as it should be.

Final thought

For around $ 7.000 you will buy a great looking watch. Vintage styl, clear dial, nice strap and easy to wear. But most of all, you will buy the phenomenal El Primero movement. So if you are a flieger uhr or motor race enthousiast, this is one you consider buying! If I had the money, I would!!


Zenith Watches