Before it became known as a pioneer in wristwatch chronographs with the development of the El Primero caliber in 1969, Zenith had secured a place in history as one of the first manufacturers of onboard instruments for aviators in the early 20th century. The Swiss brand has embraced this heritage in recent years with the release of its Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 collection.
At Baselworld 2013, Zenith added six new models to the collection, which is inspired by the original Zenith Type 20 onboard watch (montre d’aeronef in French), which appeared on instrument panels of numerous planes, including those of the French Air Force, circa 1938. Among these is the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT Red Baron, a limited edition of 500 pieces paying tribute to one of the legendary figures of aviation history, ace fighter pilot Albrecht von Richthofen, known as the Red Baron.
Like the unlimited Type 20 GMT model, introduced the same year, the watch has a number of design features directly influenced by Zenith’s 1930s-era pilot watches: a large 48-mm-diameter case in stainless steel; a wide-grooved, screw-locked crown that is easy for a pilot to grasp, even while wearing gloves; a matte-black dial with oversized Arabic numerals made entirely of white Super-LumiNova for maximum legibility in all conditions; and vintage-style hands that are also coated with Super-LumiNova.
The steel case of the Red Baron model is coated with black DLC (diamond-like carbon), and the GMT indicators — numerals around the dial’s flange and the pointer of the central GMT hand — are in bright red, the same color as von Richthofen’s legendary Fokker Triplane Dr.1, in which he achieved his 80 air combat victories. The strap is in overstitched black calfskin leather and has a DLC-coated pin buckle. The solid steel caseback of the limited edition is a medallion depicting the Red Baron’s airplane and bearing the inscription “Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 – Zenith Flying Instruments.” (On the unlimited GMT model, as on the rest of the Zenith Pilot watches, the caseback medallion depicts instead the plane of pioneering aviator Louis Blériot, the first man to complete a heavier-than-air flight across the English Channel.)
The price of the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT Red Baron edition is $8,900. Click on photos for larger images.
This article was originally published on August 2, 2013 and has been updated.