Zenith Type 20 Rescue

Between the Defy and the El Primero, Zenith’s pilot’s watch seems to be sidelined all too often. It shouldn’t; the Type 20 is for my money one of the coolest aviation pieces out there, from the oversized case to the even more ridiculously oversized crown. Fortunately, Zenith has not forgotten and their latest pilots pairing, the Type 20 Rescue and its chronograph-equipped sibling are, at first glance, fantastic.

The last additions to the Type 20 were in bronze, back when it was still a cool material rather than the overdone lump of patina it is now. These new versions however go back to basics, with a massive 45mm stainless steel case.

Zenith Type 20 Rescue

In fact, simplicity is key here. Alongside the signature case in steel the pair of pieces is equipped with a svelte slate grey dial with a few flashes of golden yellow for contrast. The yellow comes across in the second markers and in the ‘Extra Special’ moniker at 6 o’clock. Otherwise it’s all chunky, lume-covered numerals which really pop against the new dial.

The chronograph opts for a bi-compax layout, meaning two subdials rather than the usual three. It keeps things a bit more refined and stops it getting as busy as a Navitimer; it needs to be read at a glance, not puzzled over until a crash-landing is inevitable.

Zenith Type 20 Rescue

Both are presented on a vintage calfskin strap which is quite possibly the highlight of the Rescues. If you have a shearling aviator’s jacket it’ll look familiar, with the cracks of age and poppers. It harks nicely back to the Type 20’s heritage and the jackets the original models would have been worn with. It’s a good pairing.

Zenith Type 20 Rescue

Otherwise, there’s not much different between the Rescues and the standard collection of Zenith pilots. The time-only is equipped with the Elite 679 calibre movement, which seems to be a big part of the watchmaker’s 2020 outings. The chronograph on the other hand has the legendary El Primero 4069 calibre movement, high frequency and with a column-wheel chronograph. All in all a solid new take on the Type 20.

Price & Specs:

Model Name: Zenith Type 20 Rescue
Ref: 03.2434.679/20.I010
Case/Dial: 45mm, stainless steel, grey sunray dial
Water resistance: 100m
Movement: Elite 679, automatic
Power Reserve: 50h
Frequency: 28,000 vph (4 Hz)
Functions: Central hours, minutes and seconds
Strap: Black vintage calfskin strap with titanium pin buckle
Price: CHF 7,400

Model Name: Zenith Type 20 Rescue Chronograph
Ref: 03.2434.4069/20.I010
Case/Dial: 45mm, stainless steel
Water resistance: 100m
Movement: El Primero 4069, automatic high-frequency column-wheel chronograph movement
Power Reserve: 50h
Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)
Functions: Central hours and minutes, small seconds, 30-min counter and central chronograph hand
Strap: Black vintage calfskin strap with titanium pin buckle
Price: CHF 7,900

More details at Zenith’s website.