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Hands-On: A Journey Through Time With Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Adventure line

Zenith is a brand that has one foot firmly (and I do mean firmly) planted in the past, with another foot that has seemingly discovered all the secrets of quantum mechanics and taken a time machine into the future. 

Their Baselworld releases this year straddle a line between straight up vintage fan service and truly mind melting technology advances. So, something for everyone. Or at least something for people who like vintage homages and breaking new watchmaking ground. I feel like there’s probably considerable overlap among those two groups in Zenith’s customer base.

Let’s take a look into the past, with Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Adventure line. Introduced at this year’s Basel, we have a standard 3 hand time only piece (dubbed the “Extra Special”, pictured above) and a new two register chronographChronograph A chronograph complication is a feature in a watch that allows the wearer to measure elapsed time in addition to telling the time. It works by having a separate set of gears and levers, called the chronograph mechanism, which is activated by pressing a button or a pusher. The chronograph mechanism starts and stops the chronograph's second hand, which is usually located on the watch's dial, separate from the regular watch hands. The elapsed time is usually displayed on a sub-dial or a register on the watch's dial. [Learn More], the “Chronograph Adventure” (pictured below). 

Both watches are cased in big (45mm) bronze cases and crank the vintage pilot’s watch feel all the way up to 11. You’ve got big cathedral style hands, green dials that look like the color of old military issue field jackets, Arabic numerals in a pseudo art-deco font, a gigantic onion crownCrown The knob on the outside of the watch that you typically use to either wind the mainspring or set the time [Learn More] that can easily be handled with gloves (or by folks like me who just have big ol’ sausage fingers that will never master a piano) and, again, that big bronze case. Did I mention the case was huge, and bronze?

While these are very much throwback watches aesthetically, they are of course fitted with modern Zenith movements. It will come as no surprise that the chronograph version is powered by an El Primero movement, and the Extra Special uses Zenith’s Elite 679 movement with a 50 hour power reserveRéserve de marche Also known as Power Reserve. A watch's power reserve refers to the amount of time a mechanical watch can run without being wound. The power reserve of a mechanical watch can vary depending on the size of the mainspring, the efficiency of the gear train, and the rate at which the mainspring releases energy. If a watch has a Power Reserve 'complication' it simply means that the status of the power reserve can be seen on the watch itself (either on the dial or movement side of the watch). [Learn More]

I think what Zenith is going for here is a watch with the charm of something that would be worn by a pilot shot down over enemy lines, but with the reliability of, well, the shooter.

I’m a fairly big fan of the old school pilot’s watch look, but have often found that the extremely large cases just don’t sit well on my wrist (note: Jan has tried it on and confirmed it wears as big and large as you’d expect from a 45mm watch). 

I’ll be looking forward to having a chance to see this one in the metal again when it makes its way into the American retail space. I might bring a bomber jacket to strap the watch around when I try it on, because that seems like maybe the most authentic way to wear it.

Release price approx 5.500,00 GBP

Article by Zach Kazan, Photography by Jan de Griff & WatchWalker

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