Pre-Baselworld 2019: Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver Watch


Okay so let’s all sit down for a sec and think about the coolest sporty casual timepieces money can buy right now. You’ve got a small choice of watches, and one of them should definitely be the Type 20 Extra Special from Zenith. In its standard guise of whatever metal is trending, it’s just gorgeous with its no-nonsense no-frills pilot’s inspired design. But, Zenith has a habit of one-upping itself with its watches, with often fantastic results (anyone call for a solid blue ceramic Defy? Well, here’s one anyway). This time the focus is on its Pilot watch, and boy does it look good.

In a fitting bid to mark the Silver Jubilee of the El Primero, one of the most advanced chronograph movements ever made, Zenith has decided to decorate all of its pieces accordingly, even the ones that aren’t in the El Primero collection. As such, the case of this watch is, in fact, silver, a metal not particularly common in watchmaking. That case is 45mm in diameter, accentuated by thick and long lugs as well as an appropriately shaped and sized onion crown. Onion crowns, so called because of their shape, were very popular on pilot watches due to their need to be able to operate it with thick gloves on.

Like the case, the dial of the watch is also silver, and it’s been given a unique brushed finish with pleasingly random brushing strokes that almost resemble a silvery camouflage that could reflect military aircraft. To further that, there’s also a rivet pattern with grooves to recreate the panels of an aeroplane. Of course, because this is a big watch with a big monotone dial it needs to be easily legible in case a pilot does wear it. So, it’s got prominent and legible numerals, and long fat hands smothered in lume. Thankfully, the seconds hand on this does reach to the outer minute track. Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves with watch design is with hands that aren’t quite there (I’m looking at you Parmigiani).

Zenith being Zenith, the inside of this watch is just as well furnished as the outside. The movement in the case is the automatic winding Elite 679 calibre. A robust machine, it has 27 jewels, runs at a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz), it is 25.6mm in diameter, 3.85mm thick and has a power reserve of 50 hours, which is pretty standard for watches of today. What isn’t so standard of this watch in comparison to the market is the fact that you have no way of seeing the movement without taking the back off. Like the rest of the Pilot range, the back of the case has a spectacular engraving of a vintage style plane flying over a wavy background. In a way, I prefer this, at least Zenith is saying “so what our caseback is closed at least we’re making something of it”. Besides, with a dial that attractive, why wouldn’t you want to look at it?

It is offered on a thick brown calfskin leather strap which will age and develop a patina alongside the silver case. The price of one of these is $7700, and they are limited to 200 pieces in total.

Visit Zenith here.