Zenith, the company with one of the longest standing collections for pilot watches, introduced additions to this line at the Watches and Wonders 2023. We saw the newbies that drift away from the vintage look for a more modern design language.
A brand with decades of contemporary coolness behind their back can easily stir up emotions with moves from point zero in any direction of the compass. A change around the El Primero movement that has defined the brand since 1969 or the Pilot collection, which they trademarked in French in 1888 (‘Pilote’) and English in 1904 (‘Pilot’), is a bit of a beehive – you either reach the honey or get stung from all directions.
The four new references presented at the Watches and Wonders 2023 touched both. The vintage look that defined the past 10 years of the Pilot is gone and they continued slightly like where they had left off in 2012 with the Pilot Big Date Special. In regards to the movement, the time & date Pilot Automatic has received the El Primero 3620 calibre. Time & date and El Primero – since its debut in the 2012 Espada the 5 Hz ‘de-chronographed’ integrated chronograph movement has been an incomprehensible combination for many.
Let’s see the novelties in a little more detail.
Pilot Automatic 40mm
Having no novelties in the Pilot line in the past 3-4 years makes more sense now seeing the completely redesigned collection. They are different, one would say more modern Pilot watches than their direct predecessors. Bronze is gone, steel and black ceramic are used for the case, depending on the version. There are no warm and patinated colours, but many horizontal grooves on the opaline black dial. The gothic fonts and cathedral hands are replaced with cleaner applied numerals and sword hands, all filled with Super-LumiNova that pops out from the black dial even during the strongest daylight. The case is new, not only in material, but also in shape. The wire lugs have been replaced with wider chamfered lugs and the bezel became flat and wide. The large onion crown has lost a petal or two – it is still distinctive, but divided into eight wedges. Although the former Pilot was more unique on the market, I quite like the new look with the 40mm diameter, especially in the matte sandblasted ceramic.
The El Primero 3620 is basically the calibre family 3600 (that operates in the Pilot Big Date Flyback below) without the parts for the chronograph. It has the 5 Hz balance wheel and a 60 hours power reserve. Aligning with the new looks of the timepiece, the finishing is more technical with brushed and grained surfaces and a black open-worked oscillator that contrasts with the vivid purplish colour of the silicon escapement parts.
Both versions come with two straps. The black rubber Cordura-like texture is shared, while a khaki green rubber accompanies the black ceramic model, and a dark brown calf leather the steel version.
Pilot Big Date Flyback
The same style has been implemented on the 42.5mm Big Date Flyback chronograph with more generous trials on colours on the steel version. Interestingly, the waves on the dial do not visually interfere with the normal business of the chronograph displays even though an additional big date aperture was added. The ceramic version remains black and white, while the steel version received a long red chronograph second hand and coloured chapters in the minute totaler for every 5 minutes. The flat and brushed bezel helps in framing the information.
Calibre 3652 is new and it adds a snappy big date complication to the 3600 movement family. Date disks jump and get stabilised in less than 1/30th of a second and setting them back and forth is not only easy, but fun. The strap options are the same as for the Pilot Automatic versions.
Although the 42.5mm is already a substantial reduction in diameter compared to the previous 45mm Pilots, I love the 40mm version for its wearability on my smaller wrist.
Photo credits: Loupiosity.com
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