The Zenith Pilot Montre d'Aèronef Type 20 GMT 1903
It just was two years ago that Zenith reminded collectors and young fans just beginning to approach the world of haute horlogerie that it had always played a highly important role in the history of aviation watches. Everyone is now rushing to reclaim period aviation origins of varied nature and in some cases of dubious credibility; Zenith was in fact on the wrist of Louis Blèriot when he crossed the English Channel in 1903:
If we want to close the circle by jumping forward 109 years, a Zenith was also worn by Felix Baumgartner in 2012 when he jumped from a height of 39,000 meters, consecrating the Stratos as the “fastest” watch in history. If this latter record becomes the legacy of Zenith chronographs of the future, then Bleriot’s adventure is the inspiration behind the Zenith Pilot aviation watches:
During the era of experimental aviation, a watch had to be sturdy, reliable and easy to use, precise as all Zenith watches are, and in many cases also had to be used as an instrument of measurement. And considering the lack of modern technology at the time, we’re talking of watches that had a lot more content than marketing practice. The Zenith Pilot Montre d'Aèronef Type 20 GMT 1903 is the summation of this heritage:
Dedicated to the Wright Brothers and to that historic December 17, confirmed by the case-back, numbered no more than 1903 times, this watch has lines reminiscent of the trailblazer of the Zenith Pilot Montre d'Aèronef Type 20 GMT series launched some years ago in limited edition and activated by that superb manual winding movement, the famous 5011K, that also animated the Zenith pocket watches of the era. A watch of rather sizeable diameter (57.5 mm) that sold out almost before it was put in the stores.
Two years ago this watch led to an entire series, consisting of a GMT, a chrono, a calendar watch and other versions. This version of men’s GMT was made in limited edition and preserves the original oversize diameter of 48mm as well as the high readability and simplicity of the dial, but the steel case has been replaced by one made of DLC treated titanium, to reduce weight and improve resistance to impact and abrasions:
Two details make it truly unique: the dial with its Arabic numbers has been completely treated with a luminescent material that is a blend of Super-Luminova™ and a substance called “Old Radium” (no technical information available at this time), which confers a vintage color to the dial of the Zenith Pilot Montre d'Aèronef Type 20 GMT 1903, typical of antique dials treated with Radium or Tritium. The other special touch is the strap: suppliers of aftermarket straps might as well give up now, this strap/bracelet (made of calfskin), sheathing the wrist with a watch of such generous proportions is damn cool!Almost seems to have come straight out of an African safari:
What remains tells the story of a watch that could easily be used by Blèriot even today: an outsized, onion shaped winding crown, with rapid beat GMT functions at 10 o’clock, activated by a large pushpiece. The Zenith Pilot Montre d'Aèronef Type 20 GMT 1903 is powered by the Elite caliber, which is excellent, but this timepiece would really attain even greater appeal with a manual winding “low beat” caliber visible on the back and a diameter almost as generous as the case.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Zenith; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®