By John Galt
Recently I had the pleasure to review/wear the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT, I know the name is long winded, but it was a pleasure to review nonetheless.
Zenith have a long history of pilot watches and the Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 collection is based on their own historic designs made popular back then by themselves and others at that time. As you can see the new type 20 keeps the very essence of the original but brings it very much up to date, this GMT model is a purist’s pilot watch in my personal opinion as for one thing there is no date display giving it a very clean look, the only complication that this piece has and that is a GMT function which is arguably the most traditional of aviator complications as most pilots pass through different time zones.
This GMT model comes in a stainless steel case that’s 48mm so most definitely not for the shy or reserved wearer, but then again this is a hefty piece but not too hefty that is un-wearable. It just gives off a real sense of presence which given pilot watches are supposed to be large and visible it is perfect. Given the size and thickness (16mm), this piece does sit very nicely on the wrist thanks to short lugs that have been curved to the maximum. Zenith have mixed perfectly brushed and polished surfaces giving a very retro but modern feel all rolled into one.
The left side of the case features a large pusher for the GMT function offering a simple yet cool way to move the GMT hand in one hour increments; further down from the pusher is a plate with the piece number held on by two dark blue rivets. For true iconic pilot’s watches you have to have a large crown and this is no exception with a large onion type crown looking gorgeous nestled on the side making it very easy to wind or set the time.
Personally I think the dial and hands of the Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT are best features, the matte black dial is free from any reflective elements giving it excellent legibility and is very easy to read even in direct sunlight. The large easy-read numerals hug the outer rim of the dial but not too far to interrupt the minute track, discreetly hidden in the minute track is the GMT scale so as not to clutter up the otherwise clean dial.
Zenith have integrated the GMT hand very cleverly on the dial. Zenith opted for red as many have done before, but here instead of a solid red arrow (which really wouldn’t work as would distract the eyes away from the other details of the dial), the indicator tip is only red and has been skeletonised. Hour and minute hands are polished and filled with lume as are the numerals for a proper old look and feel very reminiscent of older times.
The dial also has a subsidiary second dial so that there would not be another central hand, subdial is prominent enough to read but subtle enough as not to spoil the aesthetics of the piece.
Turning the piece over there is no exhibition case but instead it is inscribed with Zenith Flying Instruments and Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 round the outside with a picture in the middle depicting an old airplane.
Inside the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT watch is an in-house made Zenith caliber 693, although it is not the famous El Primero movement. It operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) and has a power reserve of about 50 hours.
Finishing off the piece is a lovely vintage looking thick leather strap with white stitching with pin & large buckle with the Zenith star.
If you are one for big bold timepieces then this is most definitely a piece for you because a timepiece like this makes a case for itself combining style and utility and doesn’t not shy away by hiding under a cuff. With its vintage inspired looks large case and crown, is it possible to wear as a daily piece (I did including with shirt) we handle lots of watches and get hands-on with many but this was one watch I REALLY didn’t want to hand it back and I will most definitely be adding this piece very soon to my own personal collection. For more info, please visit zenith-watches.com
JOHN GALT – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
John Galt caught the horology bug back in 2010 on his first visit to a London watch show and has snowballed since; John has become an avid writer and blogger of timepieces of all kinds, from everyday timepieces to modern Luxury HauteHorology, his favorite brands being HYT and GreubelForsey that push the boundaries of modern watch-making. John keeps a keen interest in the UK watch scene with their many emerging brands and timepieces. John Galt currently contributes watch related articles for online publications in the UK and USA. You can follow John on Twitter @johng73 Read his articles here.