Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint
The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint is equipped with the automatic Elite 679 movement. It is housed in a 45mm stainless steel case and upholds the Swiss brand’s reputation for making pilots’ watches. However, this watch delivers a notable twist, namely, a fascinating sandwich dial endowed with a very distinctive motif.
Whenever Zenith comes up in a discussion about watches, talk inevitably turns to the self-winding 5Hz chronograph movement, the El Primero. This exceptional movement was unveiled in 1969, however, Zenith was founded in 1865 and its pre-El Primero history is littered with various achievements. For example, in 1900 the Swiss brand was awarded the Grand Prix for the Zenith calibre at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
The aviation pioneer, Louis Blériot, famed for crossing the English Channel in 1909, was a great admirer of Swiss watches and would often wear a Zenith whilst embarking on perilous flights. Blériot was not alone, other prominent aviators of that era chose to wear Zenith watches. Furthermore, during the late 1930s, the original Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 watches were used on board French aircraft.
In 2012, the brand from Le Locle released a modern-day Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20, limited to 250 pieces. The following year, the model became a regular member of the brand’s collection. Moreover, the range of Type 20 models grew, some endowed with the Elite calibre and others equipped with the venerated El Primero.
The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint shares many of the same design codes as its forebears, including the plump hour and minute hands and an oversized onion-shaped crown. However, there is a notable twist with this model. The dial features a sandwich-type construction where a ‘blue print’ type motif adorns a matte blue base layer on top of which sits an additional sapphire disk. This latter disc is adorned with the indexes, minute track and various forms of branding. By introducing depths to the dialscape, the numerals exhibit a wonderful three-dimensional charm.
The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint is limited to 250 pieces and is priced at CHF 8,400 (RRP as at 27.10.2020)
The brand’s press release
When the team at the Zenith Manufacture came across a blueprint of its historical building, it immediately reminded them of the blueprints they had seen of earliest Aeronefs, the earliest aircrafts conceived by the pioneers of flight, most notably Louis Blériot and his Type XI aircraft that he flew across the English Channel. As the preeminent watchmaker that accompanied the earliest aviators, Zenith sought to highlight their ingenuity in a surprising way with the Pilot Type 20 Blueprint.
There’s something about blueprints that sparks intrigue and curiosity. It’s what translates the wildest dreams into feasible, tangible objects. Typical of production and engineering plans in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, each element was carefully calculated and precisely drawn as the basis of a project. Now a relic from a bygone era, the blueprint continues to fascinate, and is synonymous with thorough planning and ingenious vision.
When looking at a watch’s dial, one tends to pay attention to the colours, the finish, the shape of the hands and markers, the typography of the numerals, without giving much thought the precise calculations and design considerations that go into making it. And yet, each Zenith dial is meticulously thought out and developed, where no detail is left to chance. The designers at the Manufacture sought to highlight this “unseen” aspect of the dial, by incorporating its production plans directly onto it. Unexpected and captivating, the dial is created in two parts: a matte blue base with all technical plans and notes used by the dial-maker, and above it a sapphire crystal and a sapphire crystal layer with the usual markers and logo. This creates a captivatingly deep visual effect, where the various markings cast a slight shadow on the blue base and give the impression that they’re hovering above the blueprint dial.
Limited to 250 pieces, the Pilot Type 20 Blueprint remains true to the legacy of Zenith’s ubiquitous Pilot watch. The oversized steel case, finished with a mix of polished and satin-brushed surfaces, features the signature oversized “onion” shaped crown that allows the time to be adjusted even while wearing flight gloves. The side of the case features a screwed plaque bearing the unique limited edition number of the watch. Powering this wearable flight instrument is the Elite manufacture automatic movement, providing a minimum autonomy of 50 hours. In a nod to the earliest years of aviation, the blue calfskin leather strap recalls the classic shearling leather flight jacket, with rivets and a titanium pin buckle as well as a distinctive tab one would find on a vintage pilot’s helmet.