One of the coolest new Zenith watches for 2013 is the Type 20 Annual Calendar that is part of the expanded Pilot Monte d'Aeronef collection. It combines a wonderful movement and a slick retro sport style that is hard to beat when combined with Zenith's quality attention to detail. No, these aren't inexpensive watches but they are very handsome and certainly make a good case for themselves. So today I go hands-on with one of my favorite chronograph annual calendar timepieces.
We first debuted the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 Annual Calendar watch back in April 2013 here. We learned that Zenith was borrowing the in-house made El Primero Caliber 4054 that debuted in the Zenith Captain Winsor watch for a pilot watch. The concept was a bit odd, but the movement certainly deserves a longer and prosperous life in a range of watches. And who is to say that annual calendar complications are for dress watches only? Having said that, is the Rolex Sky-Dweller (that has an annual calendar) a dress or sport watch? I can't tell.
We don't need to discuss the El Primero 4054 in detail for a third or fourth time. Recall that it contains an ingeniously simple annual calendar mechanism developed for Zenith by Ludwig Oeschlin that goes on top of the base El Primero. Three windows on the dial indicate the month, date, and day of the week. Annual calendars need only be adjusted once a year and are probably the best bang for your buck when it comes to complex calendar watches. Oftentimes perpetual calendars are much (much) more expensive for the convenience of adjusting them... well never. But the reality is that watches stop and we don't wear the same piece all the time. So the chances of someone wearing a perpetual calendar and never adjusting it is very slim.
The movement of course is an automatic and operates at a high frequency of 36,000 bph. In addition to the annual calendar there is a 60 minute chronograph - which is nice. Oh, and note that I think the markings are wrong on the pre-production titanium and gold version of the Pilot Annual Calendar seen in this article. It has some strange text in the lower sub dial such as "split" that doesn't seem to make sense. You get cool stuff like that when dealing with prototypes. The dials are further wonderfully proportioned. We've taken the opportunity on almost every occasion we've discussed Zenith to applaud their use of properly-sized hands on otherwise already legible dials. I think one of the main reasons that so many people are drawn to this retro-inspired Pilot collection is because the hands and numerals offer such a high level of readability.