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Watches and Wonders 2023: Zenith

The Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date in ceramic case.

Zenith goes all in on the Pilot and Defy Skyline. 

The recent slew of new products from Zenith reflect a brand that’s strongly conscious of what its customers desire and want. From the colourful Defy Skyline 36 to the new stamped dial designs with the four-point star, and the Revival models, the brand is attracting attention from new and old customers. At Watches and Wonders, they continue to build on their strengths, while refreshing the Pilot collection with a revised case design.

The Zenith Pilot Automatic Date in ceramic case.
The Zenith Pilot Automatic Date in ceramic case.

Zenith Pilot

Zenith’s Pilot collection is its pride and joy. It’s the only brand with that trademarked name, and has celebrated milestones with pilots using their watches. Now it’s redesigned the case of the Pilot, drawing inspiration from dashboard instruments and finetuning its legibility.

The new Pilot case has a flat-top bezel that’s chamfered, slightly smaller than the round case middle. The case tapers into the lugs, which are curved for comfortable wear. Angled corners give it a modern, refined style and make the watch seem slightly smaller than it actually is. The brand has retained the oversized crown for easy operation.

The stainless steel and ceramic models of the Zenith Pilot Automatic Date.
The stainless steel and ceramic models of the Zenith Pilot Automatic Date.

The dials of the watch now bear horizontal grooves which are inspired by the fuselage of older aircraft. The oversized Arabic numerals that define the Pilot have been given a modern font and are now applied as metal markers that are filled with SuperLumiNova. The hour marker at 6 o’clock is a horizontal line, that recalls the horizon marker in airplanes. A date window sits just below this.

The base model of the new Pilot is the Automatic, which comes in a 40mm stainless steel case or ceramic model. The steel version has brushed surfaces and polished angles, while the ceramic model is a wholly microblasted version in black. They are powered by the Calibre 3620, a high-frequency movement from the brand with a 60-hour power reserve. Through the caseback, you can see the operation of the blackened oscillating weight.

The two watches both come with black cordura-style rubber straps with a new folding clasp developed just for this collection. A second strap in khaki is included for the ceramic model, while the steel version has a brown calfskin leather strap that’s inspired by classic leather aviator jackets.

The Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date in ceramic case.
The Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date in ceramic case.

A second model is the Pilot Big Date Flyback, that’s housed in a 42.5mm case. Once again, it comes in a steel or black ceramic case. Large round counters that maximise the dial use sit in the middle of the display, and a large date counter at 6 o’clock in a rounded rectangular window that’s again a classic aviation design.

While the black ceramic model comes in a monochromatic look, the steel model references the Rainbow Flyback from Zenith’s past. The totalisers of the chronograph are done in alternating colours for easy legibility. The chronograph hands are in a bright orange in a nod to the Rainbow Flyback.

The Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date carries many details from the Rainbow Flyback.
The Zenith Pilot Flyback Chronograph Big Date carries many details from the Rainbow Flyback.

The Big Date function on the watch has been developed with a new mechanism that stabilises the wheels of the date change in 0.3 seconds, ensuring precise jumping and reading. The movement is of course Zenith’s El Primero, the Calibre 3652 which has a flyback function (for aviation use). It also has a power reserve of 60 hours.

The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton Ceramic.
The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton Ceramic.

The Defy Skyline

After its releases from the LVMH Watch Week, Zenith is adding two more Defy Skyline models to its collection. The Defy Skyline Ceramic is a full black ceramic watch with brushed and polished surfaces, which add to its elegance but still stands out clad in all-black. A skeleton model as well as regular dial has been introduced, and the skeleton dial has galvanic treated bridges in black to match the case.

The Zenith Defy Revival Shadow.
The Zenith Defy Revival Shadow.

What’s new is the Defy Revival Shadow, a watch that’s based on Zenith’s original Defy but with a distinctly modern presence. Housed in microblasted titanium, with a matching ladder bracelet, it’s one of the best-looking vintage-inspired new watches we’ve seen in a while. The monochromatic look of the watch is interrupted only by the vintage lume on the hands, which create a strong contrast against the monolithic presence of this watch.

The Zenith Defy Skyline Ceramic.
The Zenith Defy Skyline Ceramic.

The development of the Revival Shadow is certainly a new step forward for Zenith. It’s clearly no longer content with keeping up with the vintage trend, but instead wants to forge ahead with new innovations and ideas. Kudos. 

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.


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