For 2015, Zenith is producing a total of 10 very limited edition versions of their surprisingly successful Pilot Type 20 watch – and yes, I am talking about the very large 60mm-wide version of the Pilot Type 20 and not those “puny” 48mm wide (reviewed here) or even smaller versions. Actually, all of the Pilot Type 20 watches that Zenith has produced over the last few years have been limited edition models, to my knowledge. The two limited edition Zenith Pilot Type 20 watches for this year are the Pilot Type 20 Squelette – that we covered here – and this Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot. This unique timepiece series of five numbered pieces of each strikes a chord with various collectors with its impressive size, fun dial, retro aviation style case, and 1960s chronometry award winning base movement.
What you need to know in a nutshell about this watch (aside from its impressive size and interesting movement) is that the case is produced from sapphire crystal and 18k white gold, that the movement has some very interesting hand-carved engraving decoration, and that the large dial is meteorite. Together, this makes for one cool timepiece, in my opinion, even though it is extremely limited, and also very expensive.
The 60mm-wide case of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot is 18.50mm thick and has some serious weight to it. Good thing the attached black alligator strap has a rubber lining so that it wears a bit more snugly on your wrist. Although some people might scoff at the idea of wearing a 60mm wide watch – it is doable. With that said, this might be one of those circumstances where carrying around the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot like an actual pocket watch might not be a terrible idea.
What helped me fall in love with this watch is really the meteorite dial. I really love meteorite dials and think that Zenith incorporated one really well here into the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot. The textures and colors of the meteorite do not hinder dial legibility, and a hint of red on the face adds a welcome bit of color. The dial has indicators for the time with a subsidiary seconds dial, as well as a power reserve indicator for the movement.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot is how Zenith decided to decorate the movement. Look at the Zenith in-house made caliber 5011K movement through the sapphire crystal on the rear of the watch case and you’ll see a series of scenes inspired by aviation history engraved right into the movement bridges.
If you noticed, the name of this watch is the Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot, and Louis Blériot was an early aviator who, according to Zenith, wore a Zenith timepiece on his wrist when flying across the English Channel in 1909. That must have been a very early wrist watch – but it was common during that era for watchmakers to help equip early aviators with timing instruments.
It isn’t entirely clear whether the caliber 5011K movements are newly made or vintage and restored. Zenith has claimed that it found a number of 5011K movements in its archives and had dutifully restored them. I don’t know if they have enough of these movements for a series of limited editions or if Zenith is now producing new iterations of the 5011K movement using its historical plans. I think the story is, of course, more “romantic” if Zenith is using all old movements, but the reality of old movements is that many parts will likely need to be remade. More so, in some areas, producing new movements using caliber 5011K plans is perhaps a better idea than using only old ones.
While the connection with Louis Blériot is tangential at best, the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot is a very interesting limited edition watch. Sometimes I think that Swiss watchmakers like Zenith feel that creating some “reason” for making a new watch, collectors will be more inclined to fall in love with a story as well as a product. With that in mind, I feel that when the products and the stories they are meant to connect with don’t necessarily glue together, then the product/story associations feel contrived and at best are merely confusing to consumers. Well, that’s the Swiss watch industry for you.
The caliber 5011K is said to have (in 1967) won a competition for the most accurate chronometer movement ever presented. That’s pretty cool, and I hope that such stories of exceptional performance still hold true today. See, at least the story of the movement’s award-winning nature is true and can be verified – so connecting it more to the product might have been a good idea.
Cool to look at and “just over the top enough,” the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Hommage à Louis Blériot watch will be limited to only five pieces total, with a price of 200,000 Swiss Francs each. zenith-watches.com