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Zenith Reveal New Pilot Collection for 2023

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Aviation has always been a huge part of the watch industry ever since the Wright Brothers took their first flight. In fact, it was in 1904 just a few months after that first flight that Zenith copyrighted the word “Pilot” in watchmaking, which is why to this day they are the only brand allowed to use the word Pilot on the dials of their watches and why they have the Pilot as a collection. For 2023 Zenith have returned to the Pilot Collection for a comprehensive update.

Zenith Pilot Automatic

Zenith Pilot Automatic

The first of the new Pilots is the Pilot Automatic, available in steel or microblasted black ceramic. The aesthetic is based on the fuselage of vintage aircraft with a totally redesigned case and dial. On the case side, it has a flat top bezel with rounded edges that sits on top of a round case with a large crown.

However, where the aircraft design really takes off (pardon the pun) is the dial, which has horizontal grooves that mimic the corrugated fuselages of vintage planes. There are large lumed numerals in white that, paired with the black dial, give the piece a quasi-Dirty Dozen look. Although I also see a lot of similarities with the 2021 Formex Essence in the piece too.

Zenith Pilot Automatic
Zenith Pilot Automatic

On a technical front, the Pilot Automatic is a time and date model with central hours, minutes and seconds with the date window at 6 o’clock. It’s powered by the El Primero 3620 high frequency movement with a 60-hour power reserve. The El Primero has a bit of a reputation for being a fairly large movement and so it’s notable that they’ve fit it within a relatively compact 40mm case that’s pretty slim too.

Zenith Pilot Automatic
Zenith Pilot Automatic

The Pilot Automatic is a great opening to the expanded Pilot Collection for 2023 and it’s priced well too, the steel version is £6,700 and the ceramic is £8,500. Both come with a black cordura effect rubber strap with the steel also coming with a calf leather strap while the ceramic has an additional khaki cordura effect strap.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: 49.4000.3620/21.I001 (black ceramic), 03.4000.3620/21.I001 (stainless steel)|
  • Case/dial: 40mm diameter, black microblasted ceramic or stainless steel case, black dial with horizontal grooves|
  • Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)|
  • Movement: Zenith calibre El Primero 3620, automatic|
  • Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 60h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date|
  • Strap: Black cordura effect rubber with additional brown calfskin leather strap (stainless steel) or khaki cordura effect strap (ceramic)|
  • Price/availability: £6,700 (stainless steel) and £8,500 (black ceramic)

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

The second model in the new Pilot Collection for 2023 is the Pilot Big Date Flyback. The cases are broadly the same as the time and date counterparts, albeit slightly larger at 42.5mm. There’s also the additional chronograph pushers on either side of the crown, which are large and ergonomic.

A large part of the focus on this watch is the chronograph and date display. The Big Date features an instantaneous change system that takes just 0.007 seconds to jump – faster than the human eye can register. As for the chronograph display itself, the steel model takes inspiration from a vintage Pilot in Zenith’s back catalogue known as the Rainbow Flyback, and as such it has super colourful lume throughout its design – most notably on its counters and chronograph hand.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback
Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

All four watches in this article, the two models in two material variants, have specially designed casebacks featuring the artificial horizon display that aircraft famously use. On the chronograph models, it hides the El Primero 3652 automatic flyback chronograph calibre. A flyback chronograph is one that can be stopped and reset with a single pusher, allowing you to restart the timer immediately, which is important for completing a sequence of rapid timing intervals, as required by a pilot.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback
Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

The chronographs are priced at £10,100 for the steel model and £11,900 for the ceramic edition. And between the auto and the chrono, I find myself preferring the chrono.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: 49.4000.3652/21.I001 (black ceramic), 03.4000.3652/21.I001 (stainless steel)|
  • Case/dial: 42.5mm diameter, black ceramic or stainless steel case, black dial with horizontal grooves|
  • Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)|
  • Movement: Zenith calibre El Primero 3652, automatic|
  • Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 60h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, flyback chronograph|
  • Strap: Black cordura effect rubber with additional brown calfskin leather strap (stainless steel) or khaki cordura effect strap (ceramic)|
  • Price/availability: £10,100 (stainless steel) and £11,900 (black ceramic)

More details at Zenith.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.