The latest Zenith pilot’s watch features a 60 mm-diameter case carved out of sapphire, a legendary historical movement entirely chased and engraved by hand and a grand feu enamel dial. It will be issued in a strictly limited 10-piece edition.
The Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu is equipped with the historic original movement Calibre 5011K, produced in 1960 at the Manufacture. Beating every existing precision record in its category – Neuchâtel Observatory awarded it the title of the most precise chronometer ever presented – this mechanical movement that became a legend was to equip marine chronometers and pocket-watches. A small number of original 5011K calibres, found in the archives of the Manufacture, have been updated and decorated to now find their place in several Pilot Type 20 models consistently issued in extremely limited editions.
Oscillating at a rate of 18,000 vibrations per hour, Calibre 5011K features shock-absorbers on the balance-staff and on the escapement, fine adjustment as well as a self-compensating anti-magnetic Breguet overcoil balance-spring.
The case middle and the transparent case-back afford ample views of this mechanical hand-wound 5011K movement. Entirely hand-engraved and chased, the sides and back of the movement – as well as the gold lugs and bezel – are adorned over their whole surface with intricate scrolled and garland-like motifs.
The Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu also highlights another rare skill: its grand feu enamel dial offers a perfect example of traditional fine watchmaking. The technique of grand feu enamel is one of the most complex of all, while guaranteeing extreme durability. Notably composed of silica, feldspath, kaolin and metallic oxides, enamel is applied to the dial. Several firings in the kiln at temperatures between 800 and 900° C are required to give this material its true radiance. Four to ten such operations may prove necessary to reveal the colours gradually and express their full intensity.
The now famous 60 mm-diameter case has already made a huge impact on several models in the collection. It now finds a new expression here, entirely carved out of a block of sapphire. Only the lugs, bezel and crown are made of white gold. It is the first sapphire case in the history of the Manufacture Zenith and also the largest sapphire case in watchmaking history.
Since its renewal in 2011, and true to its origins, the Pilot Type 20 collection has adopted a decidedly outsized attitude. The Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu model is no exception to the rule. With its imposing case, its characteristic oversized numerals, along with a generous crown ensuring smooth and easy handling even with gloves, this latest addition to the collection is entirely in tune with the genetics of the collection. This model features all the characteristic identity codes of an aviator watch, while displaying the hours, minutes, small seconds at 9 o’clock and a power reserve at 3 o’clock.