One of Zenith’s most boldly inspired timepieces in the El Primero semicentennial year of 2019 was a new version of its Pilot Type 20, boasting a rare silver case and a riveted, fuselage-motif dial, (I liked the watch so much, I wore it for the author photo of my upcoming book from Rizzoli, AIR TIME: Watches Inspired by Aviation, Aeronautics, and Pilots.) This year, as part of LVMH Watch Week, Zenith finally follows up that popular limited edition with a chronograph version.
Like its three-handed predecessor, the Pilot Type 20 Chronograph has a hefty 45-mm case made of 925 silver, a precious metal not commonly found in watchmaking these days. The case is 14.25 mm thick, making for a strong wrist presence, and its big, ratcheted onion-style crown is of the type found on vintage military pilots’ watches from the early 20th century. The case has a wide dial opening (37.8 mm), framing the domed sapphire crystal with double-sided nonreflective coating that covers the dial.
The silver-brushed dial on the chronograph version bears the same shiny, riveted motif as the first Type 20 Silver, evoking the look of a World War II-era warplane, and marks the hours with large, vintage-style Arabic hour numerals applied entirely in Super-LumiNova — the practical idea behind them being maximum brightness and legibility in a dark cockpit. The rhodiumed, central hour and minute hands have also been treated with the luminous material. This watch’s dial, of course, is more loaded than that of its predecessor, with a 30-minute chronograph counter and a running seconds display in subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock, respectively.
The solid silver caseback is engraved with the historical Zenith Flying Instruments logo; shielded behind it is Zenith’s in-house-made El Primero Caliber 4069, which beats at a super-swift frequency of 36,600 vph and provides a power reserve, when fully wound, of 50 hours. It’s composed of no less than 254 components, including 35 jewels, a column wheel, and an oscillating weight enhanced with côtes de Genève. The Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver is mounted on a brown calfskin leather strap with a rivet and a solid silver pin buckle. A limited edition of 250 pieces, it’s priced at $9,700.