Zenith Goes Back To Its Roots With New Pilot Watch Collection

Finally, an update to the Pilot.

Zenith Goes Back To Its Roots With New Pilot Watch Collection

Zenith is a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, it’s a brand best known for avant-garde, high-tech timepieces that push the boundaries of modern watchmaking. On the other hand, they’re also known for their long history of making old-school pilot’s watches. In 2023, those two worlds collide as Zenith relaunches its Pilot collection.

Zenith has been making pilot’s watches since the very first days of aviation. In 1888, the Swiss brand filed a trademark for the French term “Pilote”, followed by the English version “Pilot” in 1904 – demonstrative of how early they got into the pilot’s watch game. In fact, Zenith is the only brand that can put ‘Pilot’ on the dials of its watches.

Zenith quickly became one of the preeminent makers of pilot’s watches and instruments. A notable early Zenith adopter was the pioneering French aviator Louis Blériot, who made history by making the first flight across the English Channel in 1909.

In recent years, the Zenith Pilot has taken a backseat to the Defy and more recently, the Chronomaster. The contrast between Zenith’s high-beat, exotic-materialled chronographs and their very old-school pilot’s watches is stark. Or, at least, it used to be.

At Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, Zenith has unveiled a revamped new Pilot collection: at once both traditional and modern, it’s an exciting new development for the storied brand as well as a truly compelling contender in the hotly-contested luxury pilot’s watch space.

The Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback in steel.

The collection encapsulates four new models: the Pilot Automatic and the Pilot Big Date Flyback, both of which are available in either stainless steel or black ceramic.

All four models feature a new case design with a distinct flat-top round bezel fixed on top of the rounded case, as well as a black opaline dial with a corrugated pattern – inspired by the famous Junkers Ju 52 and modern, sans-serif Arabic numerals, which contrast with the 1888-style ‘Pilot’ trademark model designation at 6 o’clock.

The Pilot Automatic is a simple time-and-date affair, but the Big Date Flyback (as the name implies) boasts an updated version of Zenith’s El Primero 3600 flyback chronograph calibre with a big date window. The steel model features a rainbow-coloured subdial; a reference to one of Zenith’s popular 90s models.

Whether in steel or ceramic, the new Zenith Pilots are an alluring combination of old-school pilot’s watch simplicity with modern Zenith high-tech goodness. Deceptively simple and very charming, these are some superb pilot’s watches.