Pilot Type 20 Extra Special by Zenith
Zenith takes us back to the heroic origins of aviation with the introduction of a watch made of materials full of life – bronze for the case and nubuck for the strap.
There was no technical sheet, no press release or any explanation accompanying the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special when I received it to test it for a week. I thus relied on the watch to reveal itself to me, like an opera without subtitles.
This watch is alive
One look at the watch’s materials was enough to ascertain that it is not only going to last long but that each day that goes by will make it more personal and more unique. The thick and somewhat rough Nubuck on the strap will soften and the case’s bronze will burnish, get scratched and discolor slightly. The Nubuck will get darker and, if it gets wet with water or sweat, it will have faint stains. The bronze will naturally be covered with a greenish patina owing to the characteristic oxidation of bronze. We can tell by just looking at it that this watch is alive and that it will be a true witness to its own history.
Before putting it on my wrist, I examined the back of its engraved case. I recognized the plane, but couldn’t remember to whom it belonged. Its outline brought back some distant memories of a big illustrated book on aviation history that I used to devour as a kid. Clément Ader or Louis Blériot? I put it out of my mind as I knew the technical sheet the brand would provide would answer all my questions in due course. When I finally fastened the watch to my wrist, I was seduced by its overall aesthetics. Everything is oversized: from the crown to the numerals, including the strap and the 45-mm case. And yet, it is well proportioned and sits well on the wrist without looking cumbersome. What is more, it is comfortable thanks to the fine double layer of rubber, which is slightly thinner than the strap for aesthetic reasons. I had not noticed this detail at first.
The star shines at Zenith
I started to seek every eye-catching detail. I was fascinated by the star logo. Even if it is very small, each one of its gold facets reflects the sunlight depending on the position of the wrist. Its shine is even more pronounced when it contrasts with the matt bronze of the case.
The thick leather strap with topstitched seams and the polished metal of the buckle, which has sharp and well-designed angles, also contrast nicely. In the meantime, I then received the technical sheet and I learned that the whole piece, including the case back, is in titanium. The sheet also explained that the watch is driven by the self-winding Elite 679 movement and has a 50-hour power reserve. And of course, I confirmed the plane belonged to Louis Blériot, just like I thought!
The extent to which the numerals are large struck me for the first time when driving through a motorway tunnel. The SuperLuminova on the numerals and hands lights up the watch with a bright green. It reminds me of the green rectangle that used to flash on the black screen of DOS computers waiting for coded instructions – I am aware, only people born before the1980s will have known such computers. As we were saying, the numerals are massive, which gives the watch unparalleled readability and their typography is similar to the one used in the mid twentieth century.
Another contrast: the railway track scale on the dial is small and the figures that indicate the minutes are even smaller. I also liked the small white dot that precedes the word “pilot” on the dial, though I must confess I didn’t understand its purpose. Or is it there just to add some elegance?