Permit me the irony if I say that the solitary pilot’s watch Zenith produced last year all but slipped under the radar. The Pilot Chronograph was handsome, understated and well made, but it felt a bit out of place in the collection.
Turns out it was all part of a cunning plan. Twelve months on and Zenith has announced a trio of pilot’s watches that have propelled the brand into the thick of the battle for the horological skies.
As well as the borderline gimmicky but brilliant 57.5mm Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 and the fiendishly overqualified Pilot Doublematic world-timer alarm watch, there’s this, the Pilot Big Date Special. It’s blessed with such nostalgic good looks and assured old-world charm, that if it wasn’t a watch it would be Biggles’s goggle marks and a cheeky wink at the barmaid during a slightly sauced rendition of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary with the chaps from the squadron.
Inside is Zenith’s own El Primero chronograph movement, which you can see through a sapphire crystal-case back when you fancy a gawp into its workings.
Its black dial is punctuated by numerals shaped in Superluminova that were inspired by a watch Zenith originally produced for the Italian military in the 1960s, and a large date window, designed – like all the best pilot’s watches – for legibility. It’s 42mm in diameter and comes on either a mesh bracelet or on one of the best calfskin leather straps I’ve ever seen.
And, in case you were wondering why Zenith should be seriously considered as a pilot’s watch brand, two things. First, thanks to a licence it holds, Zenith is the only brand allowed to use the word ‘pilot’ on a watch dial. And second, it has pedigree in the field of aviation, having served as timekeeper for Louis Blériot when he became the first man to fly across the English Channel in 1909.
Another watch to slip under the radar? Not a chance.
Zenith Pilot Big Date Special, £4,700; for more information go to zenith-watches.com