You could argue that all wristwatches are pilot’s watches, for the notion of a timepiece strapped to the arm was born when pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained in 1904 of not being able to reach into his pocket to check the time while airborne. Rather smartly, he expressed this irritation to Louis Cartier, who promptly went back to his atelier and created the first men’s wristwatch, which he handed to Santos-Dumont, the rest being history (including the fact that Cartier still manufactures the Santos to this day).
As to what we now generally understand as a pilot’s watch, it dates back more-or-less to the flieger timepieces of the second world war – watches with large dials, highly legible numerals and hands, and large crowns that gloved fingers could easily wind and adjust, but otherwise devoid of unnecessary clutter. And their modern-day descendants? Check the likes of IWC’s Big Pilot, Rolex’s Air-King, and several pieces from Bremont, Bell & Ross and Oris, as well as relatively inexpensive but functional and reliable workhorses from Laco, Sinn and Hamilton, and you’ll appreciate how little has changed in the interim.
One pilot’s watch we love at Prestige is the Zenith Pilot, which, as the company trademarked the name years ago, is the only watch that can officially be referred to as such. The Pilot conforms to all of the above prerequisites, by being big on the wrist (with its 45mm case, it would be) and – thanks to bold, in-your-face numerals – hugely readable, but there are also some seriously classy flourishes, such as the large, fluted onion-shape crown and the engraved caseback.
With the new Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph, revealed at the recent Baselworld, Zenith has made this charismatic timepiece even more desirable, most notably because its bronze case gives it a palpably vintage air that melds perfectly with its retro styling and graphics. It’s powered, of course, by Zenith’s El Primero self-winding, column-wheel chronograph engine that beats at a mighty 36,000 VpH, offers a 50-hour reserve, and drives a small seconds at 9 o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a central chrono hand. Add to that a new matt blue dial and matching oily nubuck strap, as well as white Arab numerals whose SuperLumiNova coating glows a mint-cool green in the dark, and this is one terrific-looking men’s watch that contrives to be both classy and casual.
Which, of course, is why we covet this five-hand aviator. Desperately.