Last Monday, a high-end Swiss watchmaker Zenith promoted its Pilot collection of timekeepers at the special event, organized in the famous Parisian exhibition space, the Museum of Arts and Crafts. The event rounded up top French actors and actresses, but the star of the evening was Felix Baumgartner, who is preparing for the fearless act of parachuting from the record altitude 22.7 miles. During this feat, scheduled for October, Zenith ambassador Baumgartner will be wearing the watchmaker’s famous El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th Watch. Besides, the event in Paris featured historic aeronautical timekeepers by Zenith, as well as three newcomers from the Pilot series: chunky Montre d’Aéronef Type 20, vintage-styled Big Date Special Chronograph, and a piece that is both useful for pilots and travelers – Doublematic.
A Swiss watch brand Zenith has been producing fine and quality timekeepers since the mid 19th century which were especially renowned for their accuracy. The unparalleled punctuality of Zenith timekeepers can be demonstrated with the fact that this watchmaker holds the record for the most precision awards, with over 1,500 accolades so far. It is well known that accuracy is a critical trait, when it comes to pilot’s watches, so it is quite clear why Zenith products were among the favorite watches of Aviator.
Some of the watches from the palette of the company from La Locle were even used during the historic missions, such as the historic timepiece worn by Louis Blériot, the first man ever to fly over the English Channel in 1909. The event was some sort of reunion of Bleriot’s equipment, since the airplane he used in the mission is a part of the permanent exhibition at the Musée des Arts et Métiers. The legendary pilot wore Historical Montre d’Aéronef Zenith Type 20 timepiece that sported small seconds counter at the bottom of the face, and a large grooved crown that can be easily handled, even while wearing gloves, which was of upmost importance in the early days of aviation.
Despite the presence of numerous French movie and TV stars, such as Virginie Ledoyen, Richard Berry, jean-Paule Rouve and others, as well as Zenith officials led by the CEO Jean-Frédéric Dufour, the star of the evening was Felix Baumgartner. The Austrian skydiver and the ambassador of the Swiss brand, is preparing for the amazing feat which is scheduled for the next month. Baumgartner will attempt to become the first man who broke the sound barrier with his body, as he will jump from a capsule set in stratosphere, at an altitude of 120,000 feet. During this historic attempt, Baumgartner will also be testing the limits and resilience of Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th timekeeper, as it will have to cope with extreme temperatures, pressures, speed, impacts and friction.
This high-end watch by Zenith runs on a self-winding mechanical El Primero 4057B caliber. This movement preserves the traits of the original Zenith El Primero, one of the first automatic chronographs. It runs on the high frequency of 5 Hz (or 36,500 vph) that allows the improved precision. With ten moves of a central hand during one second, it allows its flyback chrono feature to be accurate to 1/10th of a second. The caliber consists of 326 parts and incorporates 31 jewels. It is able to store enough energy in its power reserve to function for about 50 hours, and features “Cotes de Genève” motif decoration on the oscillating weight.
Zenith El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th watchis fitted into a circular stainless steelhousing with the diameter of 45.5 mm. The crystal is sapphire with double glare-proof treatment, and the construction of the housing with a transparent case back is able to withstand pressures up to 100 meters below the surface. The dial is gray and with a sunray pattern, as well as three subsidiary counters in different colors, which is recognizable Zenith characteristics and a little trick that additionally enhances visibility. The timepiece that will be worn by Baumgartner during his attempt to break the speed barrier with his body can be paired with two types of attachments: a 3-link steel bracelet, and black alligator leather strap. If the Austrian skydiver and daredevil succeeds in his attempt, he will join the highly impressive list of Zenith ambassadors who made a huge impact on the society or achieved remarkable feats. Among others, Zenith watches were worn by Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Prince Albert I of Monaco, Colonel John Blashford-Snell and Johan Ernst Nillson.
As it has been said, the gala event in The City of Light was also the place to flaunt three newcomers from the Pilot series by Zenith. The first on the list of novelties is the imposing looking Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 timepiece. It is a huge timepiece with a titanium grade 5 housing with polished and satin-brushed finishes. Even by today’s standards, the timekeeper from the Pilot collection can be considered extremely large, and its diameter of 57.5 mm is not such a common feature. The watch shares some of the characteristics with the historic watch worn by Blériot, for example the shape and size of the crown as well as improved visibility achieved with large hands and numerals which are covered with luminescent coating. Besides, it also has a small seconds counter. However, in this case, this subsidiary dial is set at the nine o’clock position.
There is a simple reason why the newcomer from the Pilot series has such a large diameter. The cause is its large beating heart, the 5011 pocket calibre. It is a renowned mechanical caliber that rose to glory during the 1960s when it received numerous awards for accuracy. In 1967, the Neuchatel Observatory honored the timekeeper by proclaiming it the most accurate chronometer it ever tested. Naturally, Zenith continued to produce this type of hand-wound movement which is present in the new timepiece in its variation with the designation 5011K. It oscillates at the frequency of 18,000 vph. The mechanical caliber is pretty massive, with the diameter of 50 mm and thickness of 10 mm. It is a movement with extraordinary resilience and it features shock absorbers, fine adjustment, as well as a self-compensating Breguet overcoil balance spring. The legendary 5011 caliber by Zenith utilizes the proprietary winding-crown stem attachment system for replenishing of its power reserve storage that lasts for two days. As it is clear even from the first glance on the timekeeper from the Pilot series, the remaining power reserve level is visible on the sub-dial at the right side of the matt black dial. As far as wristlets are concerned, Zenith opted for a brown calfskin strap with hand-sewn top stitching which fastens with a titanium pin buckle.
The next of the pieces from the Pilot series is a vintage styled watch, Pilot Big Date Special Chronograph. Designed with visual features reminiscent of those on the historic 1960 chronograph, the new Pilot series watch is equipped with Zenith El Primero 4010. Since it is El Primero movement, it has the frequency of 36,600 vph, and includes a self-winding mechanism. It is comprised of 306 parts and integrates 31 jewels. The available power reserve of the caliber is with a chronograph complication 50 hours. As its name suggest, this model has a large date window on the bottom part of its matt black dial and sub-dials with snail pattern decorations, supplemented with ruthenium hands and numerals treated with luminous coating.
Zenith Pilot Big Date Special chrono timekeeper is made with a round case with a medium diameter of 42 mm. It is made from stainless steel with polished and satin-brushed finished. The crystal and the transparent case-back of the watch are made from sapphire, while the construction of the timekeeper guarantees water resistance to 50 meters. The watch is available with two types of wristlets: a brown calfskin strap and a Milanese mesh steel bracelet.
The third of the models from the Pilot collection of Zenith watches is Pilot Doublematic chronograph. It is a watch with a world time complication, chronograph and alarm. There is even a power reserve indication for its alarm bell, and the featured in-house El Primero 4046 automatic mechanical movement includes a separate barrel just for the alarm function. It is a very complex caliber, consisting of 439 parts and integrating 41 jewels. Besides it provides a power reserve of 50 hours. This Pilot model by Zenith is available in polished and satin-brushed steel or pink gold housing that is 45 mm wide. Pilot Doublematic has a matte black dial that Zenith tends to use a lot, supplemented with luminous hands and markers, and a skeleton hand with red tip that is used for setting the alarm. The flange with major cities and day night display is rotatable and used for switching time zones. Besides, Doublematic has a large date display just over its 30-minute chrono counter. For this model, Zenith chose alligator strap with hand-sewn topstitiching.