The biggest news for Zenith in 2019 is, obviously, the 50th anniversary of its legendary high-frequency El Primero chronograph caliber (as witness the special Tribute Set unveiled in Geneva back in Geneva), but it is the brand’s popular, historically inspired Pilot series that provides its pre-Baselworld headliner, and the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver offers an “El Primero” of its own: namely “the first” use of silver for a Zenith watch case.
Like its historical forebears from the early days of military aviation, and its modern predecessors in the Pilot Type 20 collection, the watch boasts a voluminous round case — here in 925 silver, a precious metal rarely found in the watchmaking world — measuring 45 mm in diameter and 14.25 mm thick. The big, ratcheted winding crown is another element borrowed from vintage aviation watches made for early 20th Century military pilots by Zenith and others. 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 has a riveted motif, with shiny reflections, that calls to mind the fuselage of one of the WWII-era warplanes in which this timepiece’s ancestors would have been worn. The large, period-appropriate Arabic hour numerals are applied entirely in Super-LumiNova for maximum brightness and legibility in a dark cockpit; the luminous material has also been applied to the faceted, rhodium-plated hands.
Inside the 100-meter water-resistant case, protected by a solid silver caseback engraved with the historical Zenith Flying Instruments logo, beats an in-house-made Zenith movement, the Elite 679, with automatic winding, a 28,800-vph frequency and a minimum power reserve of 50 hours. Mounted on a brown calfskin leather strap with a rivet and a solid silver pin buckle, the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver is a limited edition of 250 pieces, priced at $7,700.