Sponsored content from Modern Luxury

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Flying High: Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph Photo: Modern Luxury

In a peerless tribute to the pioneers of yesteryear—the first people, really, to understand the functionality of strapping a watch to one’s wrist—Zenith releases the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph. A natural progression from Zenith’s onboard instruments developed in the then-nascent field of aviation, this timepiece lives up to the precision, robustness and clarity of its ancestors.

The Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph is housed in a case of bronze, a material that is gaining new traction in the watch world thanks to its natural anti-magnetism and retro allure. Brand new, the metal evokes scientists and intellectual adventurers in a world before ephemeral, digital technologies, when scientific developments had tactility and heft. As it ages, the bronze case takes on a patina that speaks to the immensely rich history of Zenith as a brand, and the instant timelessness of this model. The generous 45mm case features a large screw-down crown and ratcheted chronograph pushpieces, all easy to adjust with gloved hands.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Earn your wings: The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Photo: Modern Luxury

In the cockpits of the early aviators, legibility was the prime consideration—what good are precise measurements if the pilot can’t read them at a glance? That priority carries over to this timepiece, with oversized, luminescent numerals on a sandblasted black dial. The Arabic numerals are made from blocks of white SuperLumiNova® SLN C1, and glow green in the darkness. Luminescent, faceted hands add to the model’s impressive legibility, sweeping around a clearly demarcated railway-style minute track. A small seconds display at 9 o’clock and 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock complete the indications, along with a central chronograph seconds hand. As a finishing touch on the dial, the words “Montre d ’Aéronef” and “Pilot ” remind us that Zenith was also an aviation pioneer, producing altimeters and cockpit watches when the field was just… getting off the ground.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Peerless: The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Photo: Modern Luxury

The solid titanium caseback bears an engraving of the triumphant flight of Louis Blé riot, who crossed the English Channel by air wearing a Zenith watch on his wrist, as well as the Zenith logo and an exuberant motif inspired by the fuselage of Blé riot’s plane.

Zenith also reaches back to its more (relatively) recent past with the movement inside, El Primero Calibre 4069. Capable of measuring time to one tenth of a second, the movement oscillates at a frequency of 36,000 vph, or 5 Hz, and provides a power reserve of 50 hours. Zenith’s original El Primero column-wheel chronograph, released in 1969, was the world’s most accurate mass-produced chronograph. Undergoing many tweaks and developments over the last few decades, El Primero models are Zenith’s standard bearer for chronographs.

Adding a grace note of vintage flair, the Pilot Extra Special resembles its early-20th-century military predecessors in one last important respect: the khaki green leather strap (and titanium pin buckle) that attaches it to the wrist

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Oh Pioneer: Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Photo: Modern Luxury