One of our favorite watches from 2015 actually looks like it was designed more than a century ago. The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze makes use of an unconventional material to strike an emotional chord with watch collectors.
Bronze isn’t exactly new to the watch industry. In fact, several brands, from Panerai to IWC, have already tinkered with bronze case with more or less success. But when a bronze watch is well executed, its risen to iconic status. And already it looks like Zenith’s first attempt is the right one. While it isn’t a precious material, and has no proven long-term value, bronze has become very popular with watch enthusiasts who enjoy the rugged charm of vintage watches. Not only do they seem to carry a little more history, bronze watches are inherently personal, since they ‘patina’ in a unique way as the years go by.
What’s perhaps most surprising about the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze is that it’s far from a vintage-inspired model. In fact, Zenith introduced the first Type 20 Extra Special only twelve months ago. Although, equipped with a new in-house movement, and presented in a new body made of bronze, some would say this year’s version is a completely new product, and it certainly deserves to be treaded as such.
While it is not revamp, it comes much closer to making a sincere homage than most models that borrow directly from an iconic model. Of course, Zenith benefits from a long and storied heritage when it comes to pilot watches. And while Louis Blériot wore a very different Zenith when he became the first man to flight across the English Channel in 1909, one could easily imagine finding this watch on his wrist while flipping through the event’s archives. The watch itself celebrates Blériot’s feat with the intricate engraving of his plane on its titanium caseback (instead of bronze to prevent from rare allergic reactions).
There are very few elements in this time-only watch, but they have been executed incredibly well. Oversized and super-lumed hour markers increase the legibility of the watch – a staple of any pilot watch – while the Onion crown and fixed wire lugs harkens back to early flight instruments. What’s more, the watch’s vintage look offers greater versatility than most pilot watches, and while it remains quite large at 45mm, it actually looks great with a suit – something rare for this category of watches.
While last year’s Type 20 Extra Special did not contain an in-house movement, Zenith have rectified what many thought was a mistake by making sure the Bronze models house caliber 679, an automatic movement with a power reserve of 50 hours. The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze is priced at $ 7,600, and comes with a vintage-inspired “oily nubuck” leather strap with a titanium buckle.