December 17th 1903: Orville Wright achieved the first powered, heavier-than-air controlled flight in history. The young man covered a distance of 40 metres at a height of 60 centimetres off the ground. That year 1903 gives now its name to the Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT 1903.
Zenith was one of the first watch manufacturers to create flight instruments to equip various aircraft and spaceships manned by the aviation pioneers. In just over a century, Louis Blériot, Morane and more recently Felix Baumgartner, have fulfilled their destiny and put their name in the history books with a Zenith instrument on their wrist or on their cockpit controls.
The Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 played a key role in the burgeoning airmail business, and was fitted as of 1939 on the instrument panels of a number of aircraft. That watch is the inspiration of the new timepiece paying homage to the Wright brothers.
The Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT 1903 features a case made of black DLC-coated titanium that is therefore ultra-light despite its 48 mm diameter. The ratcheted crown typical of historical aviator watches ensures a perfect grip even with pilot’s gloves. The five-times sandblasted black dial reproduces the generous original Arabic numerals, readable by day or night. The luminous glow of these delightfully vintage figures stems from a first “old radium” treatment covered with a more classic Superluminova treatment. The resulting appearance is unique, since this ingenious combination creates a creamy shade enlivened by tiny retro accents that cannot be identically reproduced from one watch to the next. Each dial thus becomes unique and further heightens the exclusive character of the 1,903-piece limited edition, with the individual number appearing on a special plate screwed to the side of the case middle, like an aircraft rivet.
The Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 GMT 1903 includes a second time-zone indicator powered by the automatic calibre Elite 693. Adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif even though it remains hidden from sight, it ticks off time at the rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and has a 50-hour power reserve. The case-back is adorned with a stamped insignia depicting Orville Wright aboard the “Flyer”, with his brother Wilbur running along Kitty Hawk beach to follow the feat being accomplished on December 17th 1903.
A sturdy wristband crafted in beige suede leather sets the finishing touch to this model. Its lining features the heat-embossed inscription “Zenith Flying Instruments” as well as the brand’s historical logo.