Despite its value, luster, and cultural significance dating back millennia, silver is a rarely seen material in modern luxury watchmaking. Zenith looks to change that with its newest entry in the distinctive Pilot Type 20 series, combining the shine and somewhat antique feel of the metal with its early 20th-century pilot watch design, and the brand’s signature El Primero chronograph movement. The resulting limited-edition Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver is one of the most striking and unique entries in the brand’s long-running pilot watch line.
The broad 45mm case of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver is shared with the rest of the Pilot Type 20 line, with a narrow smooth bezel, sharply downturned attached lugs, and a massive 3 o’clock onion crown that offer the impression of a converted pocket watch for the wrist. The largest departure from previous models, of course, is the choice of material: 925 sterling silver. In images, this metal looks to add a new, richer sheen to the polished surfaces of the case, particularly through the broad-ribbed rectangular pushers. The caseback is sterling silver, as well, finished with an engraving of the Zenith flying instruments logo. In keeping with the vintage sporting style, water resistance is a healthy 100 meters.
While brushed silver dials are commonplace in modern watchmaking, those words don’t entirely do justice to the dial of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver. Brushed surfaces are almost always a simple vertical or horizontal grained pattern, but the Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver shows an abstract pattern of actual brushstrokes, offering a wonderful handmade and abstract feel that shows a wide range of silver tones. The dial itself is engraved in a playful riveted panel pattern meant to evoke the fuselages of classic airplanes, which, together with the silver tones, calls to mind the look of a Ford Trimotor or Douglas DC-3. The ornate cathedral hands and angular oversized Arabic numerals are both Pilot Type 20 staples, filled here with a generous serving of Super-LumiNova.
Zenith powers the Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver with the in-house El Primero 4069 automatic chronograph movement. A two-register, no-date variant on the classic El Primero formula, the El Primero 4069 keeps the original’s crisp column-wheel chronograph actuation and signature 36,000 bph beat rate. Power reserve stands at a respectable 50 hours.
To complete the early-aviation feel of the Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver, Zenith pairs the watch with a calfskin leather strap in warm tobacco brown. While the strap adds a rivet in homage to classic pilot watch straps, the rivet is confined to a tab midway down the length of the strap and serves no real purpose, unlike original examples.
With a stunning, almost hand-painted dial appearance and unique material, the limited-edition Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver is one of the line’s most unique offerings to date. Only 250 examples of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Silver will be made, available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $9,700. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.