For a review of pilots’ watches published in our March-April 2012 issue, we selected two three-hand pilots’ watches and seven pilots’ chronographs to accompany a trio of pilots – aerobatics champion Klaus Lenhart and his protégés Axel Schütte and Andreas Langer − while they performed an aerobatic program, specially designed for our review, in the skies above the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany. One of the watches chosen was the Zenith Captain Pilot Chronograph.
Lenhart, who is the owner and CEO of the German Leki ski-pole company, flew a sporty, single-seat Leki Extra 330 SC; Schütte, an Extra 300 L; and Langer, a Giles 202. The program consisted of 14 aerobatic figures, lasting a total of about five minutes. Including takeoff and landing, the watches were subjected to stress for about 20 minutes. They encountered g-forces ranging from +7 to –4. By comparison, a passenger aircraft banking for a turn exerts about 2 gs; a rollercoaster ride 4 to 6 Gs.
We measured each watch’s rate behavior on a timing machine before and after the aerobatic flight. The pilot’s appraisal of each timepiece was also included in the overall verdict. In particular, the pilot judged each watch’s legibility under various lighting conditions during the flight, as well as passing judgment on its wearing comfort, user friendliness and reliability.
Until the launch of its Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 collection last year, this chronograph from the Captain line was Zenith’s only pilots’ watch. Delving into Zenith’s history, we discovered the story of its pilots’ watches. In response to a special request from the Italian air force, Zenith built the Cairelli chronograph in the 1960s. Although the modern Captain Pilot Chronograph is intended to hark back to this watch, its exterior has little in common with it, except for one important detail: the bicompax arrangement of a classic pilots’ watch. The elapsed minutes are shown at 3 o’clock and the running seconds appear on a subdial at 9 o’clock.
The Captain Chronograph, 42 mm in diameter, has a highly legible dial, earning praise from Lenhart, who also liked the watch’s wearing comfort. The simple but well-shaped stainless steel case fits well around the wrist, and the comfort is further enhanced by the high quality of the rubber-lined alligator strap.