This year is a significant one for watchmaking in general. After all, it’s the 50th anniversary of the automatic chronograph, which we are celebrating here at Revolution. For Zenith, it marks a significant date for the El Primero, and in January, they previewed a special commemorative set for the watch and movement.

But ahead of Basel, the brand isn’t just focusing on the El Primero and its big 50. After all, Zenith is renowned for another line, the Pilot. The brand was one of the first to make watches for aviation, and pilot Louis Blériot donned a Zenith watch when he crossed the English Channel in 1909.

Louis Bleriot's watch on his maiden voyage across the English Channel in 1909.

This year, in line with the 110th anniversary of Blériot’s historic flight, Zenith is releasing the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver in a 250-piece limited edition. The large 45mm timepiece harks back to classic aviation watchmaking styles with its racheted crown, an oversized case and a handstitched calf leather strap.

Zenith's Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Silver has a dial design that reminds one of classic plane construction.

The watch is made in a 925 silver case, which in layman’s terms, means it’s 92.5% silver material. Silver was once a precious material used in watchmaking, but it’s rare to find today due to its qualities of being relatively soft and over time, ageing to develop a patina. However, given today’s preferences and interests for aged/vintaged watch looks, the brand has returned to silver for this one-off special edition. (It’s also necessary to note that this is the first Zenith watch in a silver case ever produced.)

The dial itself is also a throwback to vintage aviation, with a brushed dial in silver that has riveted stamping pattern. It reminds one of the vintage planes with their industrial, exposed rivet construction in aluminium sheets. Other Pilot watch elements are consistent with Zenith’s design, such as oversized Arabic numerals filled with Super-Luminova and large hands to indicate the time.

The closed case back bears an engraving of the Zenith Flying Instruments logo, with the Montre D’Aeronef Type 20 and traditional logo in recognition of the brand’s significant presence in the industry. After all, Zenith remains the only watch brand that can use the word ‘Pilot’ on its dials.

The watch bears a classic Elite 679 movement, running at 4Hz with a 50-hour power reserve. It’s water resistant to 100 metres and as we mentioned earlier, is limited to just 250 pieces. Its recommended pricing is at US$7,700 at time of publishing. We’ll have more at Baselworld on this watch for you.