110 years ago today Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first self-powered flight of an aircraft with their plane named “Flyer.” That was on December 17th, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In honor of this occasion, Swiss watchmaker Zenith has released a new limited edition aviator watch as part of their Pilot collection know as the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903, and I never thought I’d be writing about the Wright Brothers twice in less than a week. Just a few days ago US-based Shinola released The Wright Brothers limited edition watches.

While Shinola watches made in Detroit are technically more closely related to the Wright Brothers being made in relatively nearby Ohio where the Wright Brothers were from and also being made in the USA, I’d personally prefer this Zenith. Well, neither brand have an actual connection to what the Wright Brothers did, but Zenith does have an actual history of making pilot watches and I just happen to think that the Pilot Montre d’Aeronef collection is just pretty kick-ass. This particular model is done in a faux-vintage look on a bund-style strap. It is based on the Pilot Montre D’Aeroneft Type 20 GMT watch released by Zenith earlier in 2013.

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you are in the market for a super easy to read and operate GMT watch, then this is perhaps the timepiece for you. Assuming you can handle its 48mm wide size – made even larger thanks to this style of strap. Inside the watch is the in-house made Zenith Elite calibre 693 automatic. Operating at 28,800, this 4Hz movement offers a power reserve of about 50 hours. In addition to the time with subsidiary seconds, it has a GMT hand for a second time zone. The GMT hand is easily adjusted in one hour increments via a large pusher on the left side of the case. If that isn’t easy to operate (in complexity and given the cartoonishly large size of the crown and pusher), I don’t know what is. It also happens to be marvelously easy to read.

Zenith went pretty all out with the “aging process” when it comes to giving the dial lume a vintage look. I’ve never quite seen an effort such as this from a brand like Zenith. Sure there are some boutique outfits out there trying to replicate the look of very old luminant, but this is something quite different. You have to respect Zenith for really dedicating itself to the “1903” theme of this Pilot Type 20 GMT watch. There is love in those artificially yellowed numerals and hands. Of course they are produced entirely from modern SuperLumiNova so they won’t act like old lume.

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Even though the watch is a whopping 48mm wide it wears well. Though like I said it will wear larger thanks to the bund-style strap (that I happen to like). Having said that, the watch won’t be too heavy as it is produced in titanium. The titanium is also black DLC (diamond-like carbon) coated. In this regard it is similar to the also limited edition Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT Red Baron watch that was released earlier in 2013.

On the rear of the case is an engraving similar to that on the other Pilot Montre d’Aeronef watches but a little bit different given the theme. The plane on the back is actually the Wright Flyer, taken from a famous photograph. This element makes it pretty cool in my opinion. In a sense the theme of this 1903 edition version of the Pilot GMT is quite subdued. Zenith makes reference to the Wright brothers in their marketing material, but the watch is more silent on the topic. There is the engraving of the Wright Flyer, and enthusiasts will no doubt recognize the picture, but there is no text at all on the watch signifying the importance of the 1903 date or mentioning the Wright brothers. The Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903 ref. 96.2431.693/ 21.C740 watch is however limited to 1,903 pieces.


Tech specs from Zenith

Reference: 96.2431.693/ 21.C740

– Elite 693, automatic
– Calibre: 11 ½ ‘‘‘ (Diameter: 25.6 mm)
– Thickness: 3.94 mm
– Components: 186
– Jewels: 26
– Frequency: 28,800 VpH – (4 Hz)
– Power-reserve: min. 50 hours
– Finishes: Oscillating weight with “Côtes de Genève” pattern

– Hours and minutes in the centre
– Small seconds at 9 o’clock
– 24-hour second time-zone indicator

– Material: Titanium case with DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) coating
– Diameter: 48 mm
– Diameter opening: 40 mm
– Thickness: 15.80 mm
– Crystal: Box-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
– Case-back: Zenith Flying Instruments logo
– Water-resistance: 10 ATM
– Dial: Matt black
– Hour-markers: SuperLuminova SLN Old Radium
– Hands: Black ruthenium, satin-finished wit SuperLuminova SLN Old Radium

– 96.2431.693/ 21.C740
– Vintage-effect nubuck heat-embossed with “Zenith Flying Instruments” logo
– Steel pin buckle with black DLC coating

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