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Between April 25th and May 2nd 2013, thousands of watch collectors, journalists and industry people flocked to Basel to attend the industry's largest trade show, Baselworld. Once again, we were not amongst those journalists. Nonetheless, we have kept a watchful eye on the new releases and we will share our honest impressions of some notable pieces with you. Today we look at Zenith’s newest line of pilot watches.

 

It has been one year since Zenith unveiled the outlandish Montre d'Aeronef Type 20. With a diameter of 57.5 mm, the Montre d'Aeronef was suited for wear over a bomber jacket.  Although an impractical watch by most measures, the combination of a vintage aviation dashboard clock design and a deck clock mechanical movement (the 1960s-era Caliber 5011) was hugely successful: The limited edition of 250 watches sold through the day it was unveiled and the awkward wrist shots have been popping up at a healthy click on Zenith enthusiast forums.

 

Outside of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a confirmed Montre d'Aeronef owner, there are few individuals with the sheer wrist girth necessary to pull off the original without a dash of irony. For Baselworld 2013, Zenith has taken the well-received Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 and designed an entire model line around it.

 

 

 

Some of the new designs are more successful than others, so let's take a look at each new model individually.

 

Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 GMT

 

 

First Impressions: After shedding a few millimeters, this Type 20 has traded in the quirky Caliber 5011 for a more conventional Zenith movement - the Elite Caliber 693. The use of a smaller mechanical movement dictates the position of the running seconds subdial, which has now been moved towards the center of the dial. Unlike the original, the running seconds subdial no longer cuts through the Superluminova numerals. As a result, the Type 20 GMT's dial could arguably be considered an aesthetic improvement on the original version.

 

Still, there are some missteps. The gigantic onion-shaped crown has lost its functional purpose now that the watch is equipped with an automatic movement. While the original Montre d'Aeronef had the aura of a no-compromise, lovingly impractical historical reproduction, the GMT version is more "fashion watch". While the Type 20 GMT does not achieve the original's magic, the end product is still a solid alternative to the IWC Big Pilot.

 

Functions: Automatic, GMT

Specifications: 48 mm diameter, 15.8 mm thick, 100m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 7600 USD (Titanium)

 

Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 GMT Red Baron

 

 

First Impressions: A DLC-coated version of the Type 20 GMT. As a matter of opinion, we prefer the non-limited Type 20 GMT. Still, the Red Baron is a solid design that is likely to have quite a few fans.

 

Functions: Automatic, GMT

Specifications: 48 mm diameter, 15.8 mm thick, 100m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 8300 USD (Titanium DLC; Limited Edition of 500 Pieces)

 

Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 Annual Calendar

 

 

First Impressions: Zenith's newly developed annual calendar movement, the El Primero 4054B, has found its way into the smartly-designed Type 20 case. As a matter of opinion, the result is less than the sum of its parts. The addition of the date windows adds a bit too much clutter to the dial, detracting from the Type 20's clean aesthetic. On a more positive note, we like the ridged chronograph pushers.

 

For those who aren't turned off by the aesthetics, the watch is an excellent value. The combination of an idiot-proof annual calendar and a high beat chronograph movement is a tempting proposition, but we're much more tempted by Zenith's Captain Winsor Annual Calendar.

 

Functions: Automatic, Chronograph, Annual Calendar

Specifications: 48 mm diameter, 15.8 mm thick, 100m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 10500 USD (Titanium) 22300 USD (Titanium Case with Rose Gold Bezel, Push-pieces, Horns and Crown)

 

 Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 Tourbillon

 

 

First Impressions: Here, the 48 mm Type 20 case is fitted with the El Primero 4035 D, an automatic chronograph tourbillon movement. As with the annual calendar, we feel that the Type 20 design theme works best when the dial is kept simple. We like some of Zenith's tourbillon designs, in particular the bubble-back Christophe Colomb Equation du Temps. This model reminds us of Blancpain's Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon, a design that was conceived with little regard to practical considerations (even by luxury watch standards).

 

This is a cynical attempt to capture a few sales in the most lucrative segment of the luxury watch market. Have we learned nothing from the recent economic crisis?

 

Functions: Automatic, Chronograph, Annual Calendar

Specifications: 48 mm diameter, 15.8 mm thick, 100m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 69000 USD (Titanium Case with Rose Gold Bezel, Push-pieces, Horns and Crown)

 

Montre d‚'Aeronef Type 20 40 mm

 

 

First Impressions: Equipped with the Elite 681, this is the “mainstream” Type 20. All of the original model's aesthetic strengths are retained, except for the outlandish size. Had the well-proportioned case of the Type 20 40 mm been paired with a high quality manual-wind movement, the result would have been masterful. As it is, we're willing to overlook the superfluous nature of the gigantic crown because the design achieves a harmony that is absent from the more complicated pieces in the model line.

 

If the 58 mm Type 20 was the halo model, the 40 mm Type 20 will be the volume seller. Well done, Zenith.

 

Functions: Automatic, Time-Only

Specifications: 40 mm diameter, 11.8 mm thick, 100m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 6300 USD (Titanium)

 

 

Montre d'Aeronef Type 20 Lady

 

 

First Impressions: Featuring the same case dimensions as the Men's 40 mm model, the Type 20 Lady is set with diamonds. There are multiple versions to consider. The relatively-modest version features 0.95 carats worth, set around the bezel, while the iced-out version features 3.00 carats of sparkling goodness. 

 

Clearly, the ladies models are a large departure from the source material. Is the Type 20 Lady a whimsical, silly or cynical w?  We'll leave it to our female readers to render the verdict.

 

Functions: Automatic, Time-Only

Specifications: 40 mm diameter, 11.8 mm thick, 30m water resistance

MRSP: Approximately 8000 USD (Steel, Diamond Bezel), 20000 USD (Rose Gold, Diamond Bezel), 39800 (Rose Gold, Iced-Out), 40300 (White Gold, Iced-Out)

 

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