Among the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 watches (a title so long I am already dreading having to type it out many more times in this article) is the GMT. Lucky for you, you’ll never have to forget the name of the watch as Zenith has warmly placed it under their name on the dial – that was thoughtful of them. The GMT has already enjoyed at least two limited edition versions including the Red Baron and the 1903, but more on that later, and is perhaps among the most legible and simple to operate dual time zone watches around.
We first discussed the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT watch here when we debuted it in 2013. It was one of two “smaller” 48mm-wide Zenith Pilot watches new for that year. The other was the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 Annual Calendar (hands-on here), another great piece. When I said smaller, what I meant was that the “original” modern Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 watch from 2012 (hands-on here) was an awesomely sized 57.5mm wide. You can now see why at 48mm wide, the 2013 Pilot watches are “smaller.” Actually, Zenith also released a 40mm wide version as well (a simple three-hander).
While I really liked the Annual Calendar model, with the El Primero Chronograph movement and remarkably mechanically simple (a good thing), Ludwig Oeschlin -designed annual calendar system, this GMT model is a more purist pilot’s watch in my opinion. For one thing, the dial is much more clean – it doesn’t even have a date display. Second, a GMT complication is arguably much more so a traditional “aviator complication.” So for me the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT is a choice pick when it comes to this bold aviator collection of timepieces.
The basic GMT model comes in a 48mm wide steel case that is really hefty in a good way. It mixes brushed and polished surfaces and is water resistant to 100 meters. Even the large crown is a thing of beauty and feels comfortable between your fingers. Being so large makes operation and reading the watch just so simple. I’ve said this before and will comment again – things are so large on the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 collection it is almost cartoonish. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though a piece such as this may very well be the poster child of hate for collectors not particularly fond of “huge watches.” On the other hand, if you like big watches, this is likely to go on your wish list.
Honestly, as a big watch it wears well. 48mm of width and about 16mm of thickness can’t be disguised, but the watch wears it well, and the short lugs are curved for maximum comfort. Even with my smaller wrists I’d be more than happy to pull something like this off on a regular basis. Perhaps not as a daily wear, but a timepiece like this makes a case for itself combining style and utility. The dial is perhaps the strong-point of the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT. Excellent contrast and easy-to-spot numerals and hands make it a breeze to read. Zenith – always a quality producer of hands – uses a brushed polish for the properly-sized hands and fills them with lume. Thus, you not only have a dial with ideal proportions, but also one that is free from reflected light due to the lack of reflective surfaces. Allow me to once again plead with watch makers; please stop putting improper reflective surfaces on watch dials.
The integration of the GMT hand is clever and simple. Zenith opts for red as many have done before, but here rather than a bold red arrow the indicator at the tip of the hand is skeletonized. It is a simple design feature but is crucial in keeping what would normally be a giant red splotch on the dial be something visible but not distracting. The dial also makes use of a subsidiary second dial so that there would not be a fourth central hand. The final step in creating this highly useful dial is the use of a richly AR coated sapphire crystal. While the edges curve a bit, the majority of the surface area is flat – which greatly reduces the occurrence of it playing with light and thus obstructing the dial.
Inside the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT watch is an in-house made, although non-El Primero, movement. In fact, Zenith only makes El Primero chronograph movements. Though, it is possible to have a 5Hz movement without one. Instead, the watch contains an Elite class movement being the caliber 693. It operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) and has a power reserve of about 50 hours. The GMT hand offers a dedicated pusher (also large in size) on the left of the case. This allows you to easily cycle through the 24 hours that the GMT hand indicates. There is a discreet GMT scale around the periphery of the dial. While highly easy to operate, it is probably possible to accidentally push the GMT pushers at times.
In addition to the steel model (ref. 03.2430.693/21.C723) is the black DLC-coated titanium case of the Red Baron limited edition (ref. 96.2430.693/21.C703). This cool model is limited to 500 pieces and has the term “Special” on the dial. It is only about $1,000 more for the Red Baron version. There is also the 1903 limited edition (of 1.903 pieces) model (ref. 96.2431.693/ 21.C740) that has the same DLC titanium case but a special bund-style strap and aged-looking dial. Overall the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT is a great GMT watch and a great pilot with. With a friendly vintage style it has a fun demeanor while also being a serious high-end watch. That is perhaps the quality we most admire. Price for the steel model is $7,900. zenith-watches.com