Zenith was one of the first watch manufacturers to create flight instruments to equip various aircraft and spaceships manned by the aviation pioneers. Known for their precision and exceptional ability to withstand vibrations, magnetic fields and variations, Zenith’s altimeters, onboard watches and chronographs, as well as its wristwatches, became extremely popular with pilots, who were thus accompanied in their feats by the brand with the guiding star. In just over a century, Louis Blériot, Morane and more recently Felix Baumgartner, have fulfilled their destiny and put their name in the history books with a Zenith instrument on their wrist or on their cockpit controls.
A cult watch among collectors, the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 played a key role in the burgeoning airmail business, and was fitted as of 1939 on the instrument panels of a number of aircraft, such as the Caudron trainer planes used by the French airforce. What could be better than this aeronautical legend to inspire a timepiece paying homage to the Wright brothers? Drawing upon these historical roots, the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT 1903 features a case made of black DLC-coated titanium that is therefore ultra-light despite its 48 mm diameter.
The ratcheted crown typical of historical aviator watches ensures a perfect grip even with pilot’s gloves.The five-times sandblasted black dial reproduces the generous original Arabic numerals ensuring perfect readability by day or night. The luminous glow of these delightfully vintage figures stems from a first “old radium” treatment covered with a more classic Superluminova treatment. The effect is fascinating and the resulting appearance truly unique, since this ingenious combination creates a creamy shade enlivened by tiny retro accents that cannot be identically reproduced from one watch to the next. Each dial thus becomes unique and further heightens the exclusive character of the 1,903-piece limited edition, with the individual number appearing on a special plate screwed to the side of the case middle, like an aircraft rivet.
Actively partaking in all manner of dreams and adventures, the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT 1903 is also an invitation to travel thanks to a second time-zone indicator powered by an accurate and reliable automatic movement: Elite Calibre 693. Finely adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif even though it remains hidden from sight, it ticks off time at the rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a 50-hour power reserve. Beneath this elegant mechanical heart, the case-back is adorned with a stamped insignia depicting Orville Wright aboard the “Flyer”, with his brother Wilbur running along Kitty Hawk beach to follow the feat being accomplished on December 17th 1903.
A sturdy wristband crafted in beige suede leather sets the finishing touch to this model. Its lining features a heat-embossed motif in which connoisseurs will note the inscription “Zenith Flying Instruments” as well as the brand’s historical logo, thus underlining the spirit of an era in which the skies were still waiting to be conquered.