News

Plane speaking at Zenith

With so many pilot's watches vying for our attention, it's easy to forget that Zenith holds the trademark for the "Pilot" name. Understandably so, given the company's presence alongside the first heroes of flight. Now Zenith revisits this glorious past.
  •  
    Early 20th century aviator wristwatch that belonged to Louis Blériot © Zenith
    Early 20th century aviator wristwatch that belonged to Louis Blériot © Zenith
  •  
    Manually-wound Zenith world time chronograph 1955 © Zenith
    Manually-wound Zenith world time chronograph 1955 © Zenith
  •  
    Pilot Big Date Special © Zenith
    Pilot Big Date Special © Zenith
  •  
    Hand-wound Zenith chronograph watch, 146 DP calibre, 1960. A. Cairelli © Zenith
    Hand-wound Zenith chronograph watch, 146 DP calibre, 1960. A. Cairelli © Zenith
  •  
    Pilot Big Date Special version with a steel Milanese mesh bracelet © Zenith
    Pilot Big Date Special version with a steel Milanese mesh bracelet © Zenith
  •  
    Pilot Doublematic © Zenith
    Pilot Doublematic © Zenith
  •  
    Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 © Zenith
    Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 © Zenith
  •  
    Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 © Zenith
    Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 © Zenith
By : Christophe Roulet/ HH Magazine
Published in : WtheJournal.com
03.27.2012

Sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Chief Executive of Zenith since June 2009, Jean-Frédéric Dufour is an inquisitive soul who often wanders around the maze that is the Manufacture in Le Locle, if nothing else to soak up the atmosphere of the place where the brand saw daylight, back in 1865.  Who knows what unsuspected treasures lie in the nooks and crannies of such a venerable site.  Indeed, for the past three years a historian has been poring over the company's archives.  Her work, which will draw out the essence of Zenith, should be completed in two years' time, for the brand's 150th anniversary.

Heaven-sent

It was on one such constitutional that Jean-Frédéric Dufour spotted an apparently ordinary but locked door.  He asked the watchmaker, a man with thirty years' seniority in the company who happened to have joined him that day, what was behind it.
– We call that heaven's inventory.
– Heaven's inventory?
– The stock of all the movements we don't use any more.
– We don't use any more?
– Yes, like the 350 Calibre 5011 movements from 1956 that are in there.

Granted, this may be a fictional exchange but still sufficiently true-to-life to give insight into the depths of a brand intent on reclaiming its origins.  Without further ado, the 350 movements were expelled from heaven and sent for inspection, revealing that their much hoped-for restoration was possible.  After all, a later version of this pocket-watch movement set a record in chronometry trials at the Neuchâtel Observatory.

The story ends with the unveiling this year of the Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20, a limited edition of 250 in titanium and 75 in rose gold, equipped with these historic movements inside a 57mm case, with hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o'clock and power-reserve indicator at 3 o'clock.  A timepiece aviation's pioneers wouldn't have disowned, and that will give today's aficionados the thrilling sensation of conquering the skies with a flight instrument on their wrist.  The Pilot Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 is cut out to satisfy the likes of Louis Blériot, incidentally an admirer of the brand.  "These instruments met the technical requirements imposed by aviation.  They had to stand up to temperature variations, magnetic flux, and the vibrations of the aircraft while remaining reliable, accurate, sturdy and readable," Zenith reminds us, adding that the Montre d'Aéronef Type 20 featured on many airplanes' instrument panels in the 1930s and 1940s, including the legendary Caudron.

"Pilot" is a Zenith trademark

Zenith's incursion into the world of aviation owes nothing to chance.  Indeed, the firm equipped the first "flying machines" with altimeters and other instruments, notably for the English and Italian air forces.  Not forgetting the wristwatches worn by the men who blazed a trail in the sky.  The "Pilot" name was trademarked by Zenith in the 1950s, but it's been fifty years since the brand pulled out of this niche, leaving it wide open to others.  Andrea Csiki, Zenith's international communication manager, updates the story:  "Zenith hadn't made pilot's watches since the 1960s, until last year in fact when Jean-Frédéric Dufour decided to revive this type of timepiece with the launch of a 500-piece series in January 2011.  The success was so amazing he decided to add three new lines, shown this year at Baselworld, always with the firm intention of providing the best price/quality ratio in the €3,000 to €8,000 range."

Alongside the Montre d'Aéronef Type 20, Zenith thus presents the Pilot Big Date Special, directly inspired by a 1960s model equipped with the 146 DP calibre.  The military version, in use until around 1980, was standard issue for the Italian air force.  The revamped version is driven by the El Primero 4010 chronograph movement, with small seconds at 9 o'clock, 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o'clock, and large date at 6 o'clock.  The third and final line is the Pilot Doublematic, which harks back to a 1955 Zenith universal time chronograph.  It houses the El Primero 4046.  Says Zenith:  "One disk transferred onto the flange reveals the time in each iconic city, while a second disk indicates day or night.  Paired with a chronograph, the Pilot Doublematic watch has two barrels, one devoted to measuring time and the other to an alarm function with a central alarm hand.  Large date at 2 o'clock and 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o'clock."  We'll leave the last word to Louis Blériot, the "father of aviation" who, in response to a challenge thrown down by the British Daily Mail newspaper, became the first person to fly across the Channel, in 1909:  "I am most satisfied with the Zenith watch of which I make regular use, and cannot recommend it too highly to anyone in need of precision."

Published in : Brands, WtheJournal.com, Zenith
Advertising
Comments
Add a comment
Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Our partner brands
STAY CONNECTED WITH WTHEJOURNAL
ANDROID, IPHONE AND IPAD APP
GET 24 HOUR WATCHMAKING NEWS!
Categories
Advertising
Archives
Collaborations