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Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu Watch: Engraved White Gold + Sapphire Crystal Case

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu Watch: Engraved White Gold + Sapphire Crystal Case Watch Releases

For 2014, Zenith will release a most unusual timepiece under their “new” pilot watch range known as the Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu. In a nutshell, this is a highly ornate version of the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 watch that was released in 2012. Using a historic Zenith movement known as the caliber 5011, Zenith produced a massive pilot-style watch with a cool movement, and as experimental as it was– the watch proved to be a big hit.

Over the last two years, Zenith has been pouring a lot of effort into their Pilot Type 20 watches and that continues into 2014. Easily the most unique model is this Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu. Often times, line extension models are more or less predictable. That means when we see a new or updated model, the changes or additions make sense, or were something we saw coming. In the case of the Grand Feu, with its enamel dial or engraved white gold bezel and lugs, I can easily say that I had no idea this was on its way to our inbox.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu Watch: Engraved White Gold + Sapphire Crystal Case Watch Releases

First, some semantic changes over the original 2012 watch that this new model is based on: Zenith seems to have finally ditched the difficult-for-Americans-to-pronounce “Montre d’Aeronef” element of the title. That applied not only to this first Pilot Type 20 watch, but also to other versions that we saw in 2013. For 2014, this new model does away from the extra verbiage in the title – much to our satisfaction. Second, the movement goes from being the caliber 5011 to the caliber 5011K. Not sure of the change exactly, but knowing Zenith, it means something. I am not enough of a Zenith follower to know what that “K” implies.

The movement is said to have been located as part of a stockpile of vintage movements at the Zenith manufacture (how many nooks and crannies does this place have?). The movement is about 50mm wide (yes) and was designed for competition use, not really to be in wrist watches. When it was developed in the 1960s no one was making 50mm plus watches, anyways. To learn more about the movement, I suggest you reference the article linked to above where I discuss it more. In a nutshell, it is manually wound, operates at 18,000 bph, is designed to be very stable, and comes with a subsidiary seconds dial and a power reserve indicator (about 48 hours of power reserve total).

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu Watch: Engraved White Gold + Sapphire Crystal Case Watch Releases

You have to remember that when Zenith introduced the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 watch in 2012, it was received with mixed opinion because it was almost 60mm wide. The case was 57.5mm wide, and with the crown it was about 60mm in diameter. For the Type 20 Grand Feu, Zenith sticks with a round number at 60mm wide for the size of the watch. So in a sense their own materials are making it out to be as big as possible. In this instance the size was a plus factor for many buyers. 60mm wide is rather massive, and while it is wearable, it makes the smaller 45mm wide Zenith Pilot Type 20 watches look downright sensible.


That 60mm wide case is very interesting. The middle section of the case is a sapphire crystal ring – which allows for a view into the watch allowing the user to see the movement operating. The bezel and lugs are in 18k white gold, and richly engraved with a series of swirly patterns. That goes for the large crown as well. Honestly, I think the overall composition is stunning, but I am surprised and really unsure as to how this combination of elements was dreamed up.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu Watch: Engraved White Gold + Sapphire Crystal Case Watch Releases

Literally topping off the Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu is the enamel dial. What type of enamel? Grand Feu of course. The lovely dial is enamel painted and then baked. If my suspicions are true then this dial is going to look very lovely with high-contrast hour markers and crisp details. The blued hands are nice, though they are skeletonized versus lume filled which reduces some of the timepiece’s utility. Then again, you didn’t go ahead and get a 60mm wide watch in sapphire crystal and white gold to be practical and utilitarian did you?

I am curious as to how impressive the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu watch is in person. Zenith hasn’t communicated much about it and surprisingly it is not said to be part of a limited edition. Then again, I can’t see how a timepiece like this would make for a good permanent collection piece. I have a feeling it will be produced for a few years by Zenith on order only, and it does its best by showing how avant garde the brand can be. As strange as it is, I can’t help but like it. Look out for some hands-on time with the Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu watch soon.



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  • Fraser Petrick

    Would go well with my late mother-in-law’s sterling silver tea set.

  • I’m not sure if my impression of Zenith watches is subliminally affected by its logo, but they come across to me as fine examples of Soviet design.  This instance, however, come across as an example of Russian oligarch design.

  • Ulysses31

    I like the swirly engravings, but hate the crystal insert.  It doesn’t look good and I worry about how durable it is.  Also, this watch is huge – unless you’re Elton John, you might look a real twit wearing this thing.

  • Zeitblom

    Oh no, don’t tell me Zenith is going down the drain again! After producing some beautiful watches with sensational quality/price ratios recently, they have to start making this sort of hideous junk again. Sad.
    Grand Feu…. or Grand Fou?

  • marbstiu

    Zeitblom  Looks like something made by the Montana Watch Company. Ew.

  • Is that a balance wheel or a drive wheel off a steam locomotive?
    In a sense, it makes no sense. On the other hand, it is a great example of “Why Not?” They are making it because they can. And presumably someone will buy it. It is cool in a completely irrational way. Sure makes a statement. Not sure what that statement is. But I do want to see it in person to see if my impression will be “awesome” or “lame”. Polarizing watch, which I guess is good as a ‘buzz’ piece for Zenith.

  • Zeitblom

    marbstiu Zeitblom  Exactly! Thanks, I just knew I had seen it somewhere before. 
    The sad thing is that the idea of putting this excellent movement in a watch is not intrinsically stupid.
    Putting it in something that looks like it should have a buffalo skull engraved on it, on the other hand,

  • Fraser Petrick So you can whip it out and announce, “Tea time everyone”, looking totally the part.

  • hautejalapeno

    I really appreciate zenith dress watches andwould consider them a good choice. I can’t think for the life of me who this piece would appeal to. Garish!

  • antjay

    hautejalapeno Howard Hughes ?

  • hautejalapenoAs suggested – perhaps a Russian oligarchic.

  • DeanAsh

    An absolutely gorgeous piece. The dial is perfect. The case and crown are rich in detail. Would love to have this in my Type 20 collection if I am lucky enough to catch one of the 10 pieces and can afford it. I am sure the price is insane, and justifiably so.
    Lots of negative comments, but this is a masterpiece.

  • He looks like a twit wearing it as well. We’re just used to his twittery.

  • trj66

    DeanAsh No. Simply NO!

  • trj66

    Fail. This is simply garish/horrible/awful/horrendous – take your pick. Truly too bad as the original version of this watch is a true beauty (albeit a wee bit big).


  • shirer

    Well, I think it looks fabulous.  But a bit too big.

  • mcv1973a

    This is a watch suitable for even the Tsar Of All The Russias to wear…
    So keep an eye on Putin’s wrist.

  • DG Cayse

    My guess is that all of these are pre-sold.
    Something like this precludes having a salesperson being involved.

  • timekeeper703

    Obviously everyone has a right to their opinion……
    but I have seen this piece already (currently in basel) and its
    stunning.  What always surpirses me is that when A Lange and
    Patek did this same type of engraving, everyone drooled on it.
    the moment someone else does it there is a problem.
    From what I have been told all of these pieces have sold.
    So its not really “A FAIL”:.  As the point in the industry is production
    and SALES/Revenue.  So to Zenith….its a SUCCESS

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