Zenith is one of the very few brands that has a real in-house tradition of early aviation watches. Louis Blériot crossed the Channel in 1909 with a Zenith watch on his wrist, and that piece has inspired a long series of classic pilot’s watches by the brand, all based on that original. Next year will be an anniversary – 110 years – but there are new Type 20 watches regularly, and the Extra Special 40 mm introduced this year gives it a bronze case, a comfortable size at 40 mm, black or blue dials, and nubuck strap in khaki green or blue with contrasting stitching.
Wearable size, sports watch water resistance
Pilot’s watches were originally very large, for good visibility and because they were worn over a flying suit, but today’s everyday versions are generally much smaller even though some brands such as IWC celebrate their grand pilot’s watch traditions with 55mm pieces. The Pilot Type 20 Extra Special 40 mm is fairly thick at 12.95 mm. It has the advantage of a 10 bar, 100-metre water resistance, and so it has no fear of water. The crown is in the traditional fluted conical format. The strap colours chosen for the two variants are perfect, the khaki green being a good match for the bronze case, and the blue strap matching the blue dial. Both have a protective rubber lining for optimum comfort, and a titanium pin buckle. The characteristic Art Deco numerals are completely coated in SuperLuminova, and likewise the cathedral-type hour and minute hands.
The watch is powered by the self-winding Zenith Elite 679 calibre, an in-house movement running at 28,800 vibrations per hour, 4 Hertz, with a 50-hour power reserve. It can’t be viewed: the watch has a solid caseback in titanium with a depiction of Blériot’s monoplane used to cross the Channel in 1909. It may look something like the caseback below.
Price and reference
The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special 40 mm with black dial is reference 29.1940.679/21.C800. The version with blue dial is reference 29.1940.679/57.C808. Price approximately $5,700. Further information from the Zenith website.
Below, one of the early Zenith pilot’s watches.