Zenith is a symbol of continuity in watchmaking. Ever since its foundation in 1865 in Le Locle, it has been working at a factory at the same address. Its watches all have an in-house movement. This piece is based on their original pilot’s watch made for Louis Blériot in 1909. However, in addition to the vintage spirit, it has a lot of contemporary technology, with a titanium caseback and a rubber-lined Nubuck leather strap.
The watch is in a new bronze case, 47 mm in diameter, 14.25 mm thick. The material is becoming more popular amongst watchmakers because it develops a natural patina over the years, creating an appearance that depends on the user’s lifestyle, so that eventually each piece becomes unique. The dial has the classic large Arabic numerals in Art Deco style, with white SuperLuminova coating (SLN C3), also used on the faceted hands. The seconds hand is central sweep, another difference with respect to the 1909 original that had a subdial at 6 o’clock. The crown is screw-in, contributing to the 100-metre water resistance. The solid titanium caseback is engraved with a depiction of Blériot’s monoplane.
A plate with the serial number is attached to the caseband. Each plate is different, with an individual number, in the form “HB – XXX”, in which the number of the watch starts from 001 and goes up to 999, and the HB stands for “Hotel Bravo” which is the two-letter call sign for Swiss aircraft in international radio language. And so the plate is analogous to the registration plate that can be found in all civil aeroplanes.
The strap is in Nubuck with rubber lining and titanium pin buckle. The 1909 watch seems to have had a leather strap running under the case and over the lug bars, as shown in the comparison below:
Inside, the Zenith Elite Calibre 679 movement runs at 28,800 vph (4 Hertz), with a 50-hour power reserve.
The watch is reference 29.2430.679/21.C753, price €6,900 (HK$ 60,100). A similar model made in stainless steel is the Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT, price €8,400 in the anniversary edition, €7,500 in the standard version.