Haute Watch of the Week: Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903

Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903

As one of the original makers of pilot’s watches, Zenith dedicates some of its modern aviation timepieces to famous pilots. The new Type 20 GMT 1903 is a tribute to the Wright Brothers. It will be introduced in a limited edition of 1,903 pieces, in honor of the date that Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first powered flight in history. The individual number of each piece appears on a special plate screwed to the side of the case middle, resembling an aircraft rivet, and a depiction of the Wright Brothers’ plane appears on the caseback.

The brothers were pioneers in aviation. They built a wind tunnel to study various technical aspects such as the profile of the wings, installed a stabilizer at the front of one glider and a steering rudder at the back of another – a world first in the field of aeronautics. After hundreds of trials, the brothers decided to equip their glider with an engine. Lying face down on the lower wing of the twin-propeller aircraft named Flyer, Orville Wright piloted the first powered, heavier-than-air controlled flight in history, on Kitty Hawk beach in South Carolina in 1903 – he took the plane 40 meters at a height of 60 centimeters.

The Type 20 GMT 1903 has all the hallmarks of an aviator watch, including the ratcheted crown that ensures a perfect grip even with pilot’s gloves. Its large size – 48mm – means there is plenty of room on the dial for larger than average numerals, covered in Super-LumiNova for optimum readability. The dial is sandblasted black, with typically constrasting indications. The GMT hand, for reading the second time zone, is tipped with a large red arrow. The heavily stitched suede leather strap, with reinforcement around the horns, is another typical attribute of aviator watches. A modern improvement is the case, which is made of black DLC-coated titanium that is ultra-light, a desirable trait for a tool watch. It contains the automatic Elite caliber 693.