Zenith is best known these days for chronograph watches powered by the high-frequency El Primero chronograph movement, which it introduced in the milestone horological year of 1969. However, one would have to go further back to discover that the brand also boasts a history of developing precision timekeeping instruments for aviation. In fact, French pilot Louis Blériot was wearing a Zenith when he crossed the English Channel in his aircraft, the Blériot XI, in July 1909. By 1939, the company’s Montre Aeronef Zenith Type 20 watch had become standard equipment on the dashboards of many French planes. It is timepieces such as these that inspired Zenith’s Pilot collection, which has become a major pillar for the brand since its launch back in 2012. Here’s a look back at one of the first, and still most distinctive, Zenith Pilot models, the Pilot Doublematic, which includes a world-time indicator and a mechanical alarm function.
The first disk, on the flange of the dial, bears the names of 24 world cities, while the other is numbered 1 to 24 and divided into black and white zones to indicate whether it is day or night in the selected city. The watch has a chronograph (powered, of course, by a Zenith El Primero movement) and derives its name from its most significant feature, its two separate barrels, one of which is devoted to the timekeeping functions and the other to the alarm function. This means that the alarm has a separate reserve of power. The alarm is activated and set by a push-piece button and crown at 8 o’clock. On the dial, a pierced ruthenium black-and-red hand shows the time set for the alarm, while an opening at 8:30 confirms that it is turned on. The power-reserve indicator for the alarm is located at 7 o’clock. (Click on the photos for larger images.)
The 30-minute chronograph counter is at 3 o’clock, with a big date window directly above it. The sweep seconds hand is accentuated by a Super-LumiNova arrow; the modern-looking hours and minutes hands are also coated with Super-LumiNova. The dial options are silver or sandblasted matte black; luminous numerals on the chapter ring add to the dial’s legibility. The big, 45-mm case, in brushed and polished steel or rose-gold, features a sapphire exhibition caseback that shows off the El Primero and its skeletonized rotor. The U.S. retail price is $13,200 for the steel version and $31,500 for rose gold.
Movement: El Primero 4046, automatic; frequency = 36,000 vph; diameter = 30 mm; thickness = 9.05 mm; 439 parts; 41 jewels; 50-hour power reserve
Functions: World-timer; central hours and minutes; 30-minute chronograph with counter at 3 o’clock; sweep seconds hand; large date at 2 o’clock; alarm with central setting hand; alarm on/off indicator at 8.30; alarm power-reserve display at 7 o’clock
Case: Polished and satin-brushed steel or rose gold; diameter = 45 mm; water-resistant to 50 meters; sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback; on alligator leather strap with hand-sewn top-stitching and gold pin buckle or folding clasp
Dial and hands: Matte black dial with Super-LumiNova-enhanced hands and numerals or silver-toned dial with Super-LumiNova-enhanced rose gold numerals and hands
This article was originally published on April 24, 2012, and has been updated.