September 3, 2014
by Ariel Adams
I get the appeal of aged watches, as do many people interested in vintage or antique items. There is something empowering about owning or wearing something that existed for as long or longer than yourself. In a sense, you are borrowing some of its ability to remain intact and potentially useful. So in that regard I think I understand the “cool factor” behind many of the vintage timepieces (especially sport watches) that draw people. Having said that, I am not sure how I feel about “artificially aged” watches. What do you think?
Case in point is this fashionably aged version of the Zenith Pilot watch known as the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903, that we first debuted here. When Zenith debuted the watch in late 2013, it was around the anniversary of the first flight by the Wright Brothers 110 years earlier in 1903. There is a cool engraving on the back of the Type 20 GMT 1903 watch case which is a replica of a famous photograph of I believe Orville Wright on the ground with Wilbur flying the Wright Flyer. Having said that, Zenith didn’t work with the Wright family itself, so aside from the “1903” name of the watch and the engraving on the back, it isn’t an official “Wright watch.”
As many of you know, there have been a few Wright Brothers-themed watches over the last year. In addition to the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903 there is also the Shinola The Wright Brothers Limited Edition Watch as well as the Bremont Wright Flyer watch that was recently announced. I wonder if there will be more watches to help celebrate the beginning of manned flight?
So while the Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903 watch is sort of themed for the Wright Brothers, that isn’t technically what the watch is all about. Zenith mostly wanted to explore the production of an actually vintage looking version of its vintage-themed Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 watch. Specifically, the 1903 is based on the Zenith PIlot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT watch (hands-on here). So how does the standard GMT differ from this ref. 96.2431.693/ 21.C740 1903 limited edition model?
All of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT watches come in 48mm wide cases, and two of them currently come in titanium cases, while the non-limited edition model comes in a polished steel case. First, there was the Black Baron model in DLC coated titanium, and this 1903 version also has a black DLC coated titanium case. Unlike the Black Baron model (that was limited to 500 pieces), the 1903 model has hour markers and hands with luminant that has been artificially aged. The 1903 also comes on a custom bund-style leather strap.
Of course, the Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT 1903 also has a unique style of caseback engraving and is limited to almost four times as many pieces. Further, it also carries a price premium of $300 retail. On the wrist, the 48mm wide case is of course even larger with the bund-style strap that has a wide piece of leather that goes completely under the case. I do however believe that this extra piece of leather can be removed and the watch can look “normal” on just two strap pieces and not the underside.