Zenith is a 150-year old manufacture and while its iconic El Primero watches and movements are what brings the brand the most attention, we’ve always had a soft spot for the company’s Type 20 pilot watches. We were therefore delighted to hear that Zenith had three new and exciting Type 20 references at BaselWorld 2015 – one with a bronze case and two extremely exclusive pieces featuring a 5011K pocket-watch calibre.
The bronze watch (pictured above), known as the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special (reference 29.2430.679/21.C753), is not a limited edition, and features the Elite 679 automatic movement that you’ll find in some of the brand’s other watches but is the watch we’re most interested in (even beyond our regular interest in Type 20s). This has everything to do with the fact that it is presented with a 45mm bronze case that will oxidise/age over time and, we’re betting, will give this watch a superb vintage look.
Beyond the bronze case, the large onion crown, super-legible military style Arabic numerals and ‘Extra Special’ text on the dial all work to ensure that this watch does one heck of an impression of vintage Zenith pilot watches. The text in particular is something that you’d find on those original pilot watches, one of which was worn by French aviator, inventor and engineer Louis Blériot, when he crossed the English Channel back in 1909.
Speaking of Louis Blériot, Zenith is actually honoring the man with two limited edition watches – the Pilot Type 20 Louis Blériot Homage (above) and the Pilot Type 20 Skeleton. Both watches feature massive 60mm sapphire cases (yes, sapphire), and the cases are so large because both watches are powered by restored calibre 5011K pocket-watch movements that measure 50mm in diameter. Zenith intends to produce only five pieces of each reference, and each reference will carry a price tag north of US $200,000.
Both watches are interesting in their own ways but we found ourselves gravitating towards the Pilot Type 20 Louis Blériot Homage (reference 04.2421.5011/17.C714) because of its stunning meteorite dial, and the incredible hand-engraving work on the movement (click the above picture and then click again to zoom). The engravings depict Blériot himself, his plane and what were probably scenes that he saw as he crossed the English Channel.
Being a skeleton watch, the Pilot Type 20 Skeleton’s (above) key draw is that you have full view of that gorgeous pocket-watch movement. Zenith says that more than 200-hours of hand-skeletonisation went into each of the five watches (reference 04.2422.5011/78.C714), and that the gold bezel and lugs are ‘hand-engraved, forming a geometrical motif inspired by the fuselage of Louis Blériot’s planes’. Adding color to what would otherwise be a rather stark looking watch are a blue enameled white gold bezel, blue skeleton numerals, blue text and a blue seconds register.
The 5011K pocket-watch calibre itself is immaculately finished on both watches and, as you’d expect (or hope), it is a manual winding movement. The movement features 134 parts and Zenith says the calibre is good for a minimum power reserve of 48-hours when fully wound.
We’ll update this article once we have word on availability of the bronze Pilot Type 20 Extra Special. The two limited edition watches are, we’re quite sure, on order only, so we don’t expect to see them on display at the local boutiques.
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We can now confirm that the bronze Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special is on sale in the region. We spied one at the Dubai Mall boutique earlier today and grabbed a couple of pictures with our iPhone. The watch commands a retail price of US $7,100 (AED 26,100).