Watches & Wonders 2023: ZENITH’s New Pilot Collection...

Watches & Wonders 2023: ZENITH’s New Pilot Collection

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback 49.4000.3652 At Cortina Watch Feature Image

The dream of taking on the open skies. The pursuit of liberty to rise above and gain a new perspective. The sky is yours, and it’s calling to reach your star. ZENITH’s fascination with the world of aviation goes as far back as the late 19th century, when the Manufacture’s founder Georges-Favre Jacot believed that mankind was on the verge of finally conquering the skies – and that ZENITH should be there alongside the brave pioneers who saw a world of freedom and infinite possibilities far above the horizon.

In 1888, ZENITH filed a trademark for the French term “Pilote”, followed by the English version “Pilot” in 1904. In the years that followed, ZENITH would become one of the preeminent makers of specialized watches and dashboard instruments for pilots. Among the most notable of its countless adopters was Louis Blériot, who made history by making the first flight across the English Channel in 1909. Today, ZENITH continues to uphold and build upon this unparalleled heritage with the latest generation of the Pilot collection.

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Taking on many forms over the years in a balancing act between heritage and modernism, the ZENITH Pilot collection is the Manufacture’s most long-standing line, and one that never ceases to beguile seasoned watch aficionados as well as avid aviation enthusiasts. The latest chapter caters to the pilot spirit in each of us, seeking the freedom to dream and the space to constantly rise above our limits and the world around us.

Entirely redesigned from scratch, the all-new Pilot collection foregoes the vintage aesthetic for something that draws inspiration from the entire span of aviation – past and present. It is imbued with all the essential features of durability, legibility and intuitiveness, respecting the codes of Pilot watches that ZENITH largely defined over a century ago with some of the earliest recorded aviator clocks and dashboard instruments, now revisited in a more contemporary context with some added ZENITH flair and understated nods to the world of aviation.

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Pilot Automatic

The template for the new generation of ZENITH Pilot watches, the Pilot Automatic revisits the collection’s aesthetic codes in an outstanding silhouette full of subtle details. Crafted in a 40mm case in either stainless steel or black ceramic, the Pilot Automatic features an entirely new case design with a distinct flat-top round bezel fixed on top of the rounded case. In the steel version, the surfaces are vertically satin-brushed with polished chamfers, while the black ceramic version is entirely microblasted for a stealthy matte finish. The oversized crown, a defining feature of Pilot watches, takes on a more modern, angular form, while remaining easy to operate – even with gloves on.

The black opaline dial, with its horizontal grooves, mimics the look of corrugated metal sheets that make up the fuselage of many older aircrafts. The oversized luminescent Arabic numerals, a signature feature of ZENITH Pilot watches and dashboard instruments since the early 1900s, take on a more modern font and are applied as metal markers filled with white Super-LumiNova. At 6 o’clock above the date window, the luminescent hour marker takes the form of a flat white line, recalling the artificial horizon instrument in plane.

Here, it allows the wearer to instantly understand the orientation of the watch and read the time without second-guessing. The dial is signed “Pilot”, as ZENITH remains the first and only brand to hold the rights to mark its dials with the term.

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Visible through the sapphire display back, the Pilot Automatic is powered by the El Primero 3620 high-frequency manufacture movement, which delivers a power reserve of 60 hours when fully wound. The winding mechanism’s open and blackened oscillating weight recalling the archetypal and essential “artificial horizon” dashboard instrument, which informs the pilot of the aircraft’s orientation relative to the Earth’s horizon.

The supplied straps are also perfectly matched to the different characters of the two versions of the Pilot Automatic: The black ceramic version is delivered on a stealthy black cordura-effect rubber strap with a newly designed folding clasp developed specifically for the Pilot, as well as a more utilitarian khaki cordura-effect rubber strap. The steel model is also fitted on the same black cordura-effect rubber strap, but its second strap is crafted in brown calfskin leather, recalling typical vintage aviator’s paraphernalia like the flight jacket, gloves and hat. The straps can be easily swapped with the quick-release mechanism integrated directly into the back of the straps, requiring no tools to detach from the spring bars holding them in place.

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Pilot Big Date Flyback

The ZENITH Pilot collection simply wouldn’t be complete without a chronograph reference. And for this latest iteration, ZENITH has gone a step further by developing a new version of its El Primero 3600 calibre, with a host of new functions that have been specifically conceived for the Pilot.

The Pilot Big Date Flyback comes in two distinct versions, both in a 42.5mm case. The stainless steel version takes a page from one of the most distinguished El Primero Flyback chronographs, the aptly named “Rainbow Flyback”. The chronograph’s minutes totalizer is done in alternating colours to more easily distinguish between the five-minute marks. The central chronograph seconds as well as the chronograph minutes hands are done in a bright orange tone, another nod to the iconic El Primero Rainbow from 1997. The black ceramic version takes on an achromatic, utilitarian look with luminescent white markers and hands contrasting boldly against the opaline black corrugated dial.

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In terms of performance, the new El Primero 3652 automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre integrates two functions to the 5Hz chronograph that are a perfect fit for the Pilot: the big date and the flyback function. Beyond its easy readability, the oversized date display in the Pilot Big Date Flyback features a next-gen patented compliant mechanism that advances and stabilizes both of the big date’s wheels in less than 0.03 seconds.

Originally conceived for aviators who wore thick sheepskin gloves, the flyback function allows the chronograph function to be reset to zero and restarted by a single push of a button, simplifying the pilot’s operations and offering the possibility to record consecutive times without stopping. The El Primero chronograph calibre with its “artificial horizon” rotor is visible through the display back. The Pilot Big Date Flyback in ceramic is delivered with black and khaki cordura-effect rubber, while the steel version comes with a black cordura-effect rubber strap and a brown leather strap. All the straps come with an integrated quick-release mechanism for easy swapping without tools.

Capturing the spirit of the aviation pioneers who set their sights far beyond the horizon, the new Pilot collection is a call to chase your dreams – no matter how far or how high. The sky is yours. The time to reach your star is now.

Discover more from ZENITH’s Pilot Collection at our boutiques, or online