ZENITH’s unrivalled aviation heritage comes full circle: Alongside the first-ever Boutique Editions of the Pilot Automatic and Pilot Big Date Flyback with blue dials, ZENITH presents the first-ever thematic “ICONS: PILOT” capsule collection of three vintage Pilot watches that have been restored and certified by the Manufacture’s Heritage Department.
Relaunched in 2023 as a totally revamped line, the ZENITH Pilot collection draws inspiration from the entire span of aviation – past and present. A specialized and professional category of watches and instruments of which ZENITH has been a pioneer since the earliest days of aviation dating back to 1904, the essential codes of durability, legibility and intuitiveness are respected in the modern reincarnation of the Pilot collection. Instead of simply recreating the past, ZENITH has taken a much more contemporary design direction with subtle nods to the world of flying. And for the line’s first Boutique Edition, ZENITH is looking steadfast towards the sky to incorporate a deep shade of blue recalling the night sky.
Blue has long been ZENITH’s signature colour, recalling the night sky and the brightest shining star that inspired Georges-Favre Jacot to the point of deciding to name his manufacture and brand after it. Many of the brand’s boutique-exclusive editions have prominently featured different shades of blue. In the Pilot collection, the night sky holds a different meaning, reminding us of the bravery and sense of adventure the earliest pilots exuded when following their dreams to fly above the horizon.
The purest expression of ZENITH’s Pilot watch, the Pilot Automatic Boutique Edition is crafted in a 40mm stainless teel case with a distinct flat-top round bezel fixed on top of the rounded case, with vertically satin-brushed with polished chamfers. The oversized crown takes on an edgy angular form, while remaining easy to operate – even with gloves on.
The textured, grooved dial recalls the corrugated metal sheets that made up the fuselage of many older aircrafts. The oversized luminescent Arabic numerals are fashioned in a sleek font and are applied as metal markers filled with white Super-LumiNova. At 6 o’clock above the date window with a white on blue date wheel, the luminescent hour marker takes the form of a flat white line, recalling the artificial horizon instrument in plane. A source of pride for the Manufacture, the dial is signed “Pilot”, as ZENITH remains the first and only brand to hold the rights to mark its dials with the term.
The Pilot Automatic is powered by the El Primero 3620 high-frequency manufacture movement, visible through the display back. Its power reserve of 60 hours is reached by minds of a blackened oscillating weight that resembles an “artificial horizon” dashboard instrument, which informs the pilot of the aircraft’s orientation relative to the Earth’s horizon. The supplied blue cordura-effect rubber strap and brown calfskin strap can be easily interchanged using the strap’s quick-release system, requiring no tools.
The larger and more feature-packed of the two Pilot references, the Pilot Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition completes the line with an exceptional, aviation-oriented iteration of the latest generation El Primero automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre. Housed in a 42.5mm stainless steel case, it features two functions that are highly prized by aviators: the big date and the flyback function.
Beyond its easy readability, the oversized date display in the Pilot Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition features a next-gen patented compliant mechanism that advances and stabilizes both of the big date’s wheels in less than 0.03 seconds. The big date’s wheels are coloured in the same blue tone as the dial. Originally conceived for aviators who wore thick sheepskin gloves, the flyback function allows the chronograph function to be reset to zero and restarted by a single push of a button, simplifying the pilot’s operations and offering the possibility to record consecutive times without having to stop and restart.
The El Primero 3652 chronograph calibre with its “artificial horizon” rotor is visible through the display back. The Pilot Big Date Flyback comes on a blue cordura-effect rubber strap, with a brown calfskin strap provided. All the straps come with an integrated quick-release mechanism for easy swapping without tools.
The Pilot Automatic Boutique Edition and Pilot Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition are available exclusively from ZENITH physical and online boutiques around the globe.
To give the larger context of these latest Pilot creations and bring ZENITH’s vast tradition of aviator watches and instruments full circle, ZENITH presents its first-ever “ICONS: PILOT” collection of highly collectible vintage ZENITH Pilot chronographs from the second half of the 20th century.
ZENITH ICONS: PILOT – ACT I
For the past few years, ZENITH has been offering rare vintage pieces that have been curated, restored and certified by the Manufacture through its ICONS programme. As part of ZENITH’s HORIZ-ON CSR initiative for a more sustainable future, the ZENITH ICONS programme contributing towards building a circular economy for its most emblematic historical references and allowing them to live on perpetually. For watch collectors, it offers unparalleled peace of mind by offering only 100% original examples that have been examined and certified by the ZENITH Manufacture’s Heritage Department and restored respectfully of the watches’ original materials and components.
While most ZENITH ICONS capsule collections so far have focused on the earlier El Primero models that have gone on to shape the contemporary Chronomaster line, ZENITH is now shining a light on another facet of heritage and one of its longest standing collections: the Pilot.
Uniting three references from the late 1960s and 1970s, the first ZENITH ICONS: PILOT capsule collection explores the professional and consumer side of ZENITH Pilot watches from that era. From purely utilitarian to imaginative and forward-thinking, these three Pilot chronograph references.
TIPO CP-2 CAIRELLI
Produced for the Italian army corps between 1968 and 1972 and delivered through Roman retailer A. Cairelli, the Tipo CP-2 chronograph was designed according to military specs, with enhanced legibility. Besides its rotating bezel, it stands out for its luminescent Arabic hour numerals and hands, which inspire modern ZENITH Pilot creations.
The example in this set was engraved with an A.M.I military serial number, indicating that it was first delivered to the Italian Flying Corps. Equipped with Zenith’s 146 DP manual-winding chronograph calibre, originally developed by the Martel Workshops that had provided Cairelli with other chronographs for the Italian Army before being acquired by Zenith in 1959-1960.
Launched in 1972, the ref. A3821 (also referred to as 01.0180.415) stands out for its space-age design, featuring a dark deep sunken dial with luminescent markers and hands, and tachymeter on the flange ring. Housed in a voluminous case with rotating bezel, fitted on an integrated “lobster” bracelet made by Gay Frères, and a movement mounted on elastic suspension.
The A3821 was part of the first ZENITH Pilot models equipped with an El Primero calibre. A sort of hybrid watch, it combines both the legibility and luminescence of a pilot’s watch with the 300 metres water-resistance and double-gaskets of a diver’s watch – something quite possibly unique in the history of watchmaking. The example in this set is part of the very first production lot from 1972.
The ref. 01.0230.415 stands out as the first ZENITH El Primero chronograph with a display back in mineral glass revealing the revolutionary calibre. Along with its fellow Pilot-Diver models, it features a space-age design, with movement mounted on a suspension system as well as an integrated “lobster” bracelet made by Gay Frères.
Exceedingly rare, the example in this set features a matte black dial, made in only 50 examples in 1975 and stands out for its see-through caseback, combined here with modernized bezel indication that displays the minutes instead of the hours.