Pilot it may say on the dial, but this latest timepiece from Swiss watchmaker Zenith is apparently dedicated to the café racer biker community, otherwise known as “Ton-up” boys. The only outward indication of this is an etched caseback showing a café racer on his motorcycle, a confusing clash of themes on what is otherwise an aviator’s watch. The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Ton Up Black Chronograph isn’t a new release, with the first version appearing in 2016 under the initial name Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit (which we went hands-on with here). This 2018 version offers new dial and strap color options, with the previous slate-grey dial and green strap being replaced with a black dial and strap, designed to evoke a “stealth biker” look (their words, not mine).
Model: Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Ton Up Black, Ref 11.2432.4069/21.C900
Dimensions: 45mm wide x 14.25mm thick
Case Material: Aged stainless steel
Crystal/Lens: Domed sapphire with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Movement: In-house El Primero 4069 automatic winding chronograph
Frequency: 36,000vph (5Hz)
Power Reserve: 50 hours.
Strap/Bracelet: Black oily nubuck leather strap with protective rubber lining and titanium pin buckle.
Price & Availability: TBD
There’s not much new on offer here; the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Ton Up Black Chronograph is identical to its predecessor from 2016 in most ways. The hour, minute, and central second hands have changed from steel to gold-plated, and the Arabic numerals have been changed from a faux-vintage beige to white. The matte black dial on this release also provides greater contrast with the large cathedral hands and white Arabic numerals. In that sense, this is perhaps a more successful design than the brand’s 2016 version, in that it achieves the core goal of any aviator watch (legibility) better than the original.
Personally I think that the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Ton Up Black Chronograph should do away with the flimsy biker shoe-ins and just be what it is; a well-designed, attractive aviator’s watch. It’s almost criminal to hide an El Primero 4069 calibre behind a solid caseback, and I couldn’t care less for the engraved biker motif the brand has chosen to show in its place. That being said, this release is arguably an improvement over the 2016 version, so fans of that watch will find a lot to like here. We’ll share price as soon as we confirm with Zenith. zenith-watches.com