One of the slept-on releases of 2023 was Zenith’s update to its pilot’s watch collection. Zenith introduced the lineup with the three-hander Automatic and the Zenith Big Date Flyback Chronograph in stainless steel and ceramic. It was a modern take on the Pilot collection, Zenith’s oldest line. Now, Zenith is adding to the lineup with a pair of blue dials, exclusive to Zenith Big Date Flyback physical and online boutiques.
The specs of the new boutique-exclusive Pilot lineup are the same as those of the collection introduced last year. The Automatic features a 40mm stainless steel case with a wide, flat bezel that’s vertically brushed, contrasting with its polished chamfers. It also features an oversized crown with the Zenith star. The blue dial is new to the boutique edition but has the same horizontal grooves introduced in last year’s pilot, meant to recall corrugated metal sheets that made up the fuselage of older aircraft. A date window sits at 6 o’clock above a horizontal line that’s meant to mimic the artificial horizon instrument in planes.
The Zenith Big Date Flyback measures 42.5mm and has the same horizontal-grooved blue dial. It’s equipped with the automatic El Primero 3652 caliber, that advances and stabilizes the big date wheels in less than 0.03 seconds. Its chronograph function is also a flyback and can be reset to zero and restarted with the push of a single button. When developed, this was designed to record consecutive times without needing to stop and restart.
The Pilot Automatic and Zenith Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition both come on Cordura-style rubber straps with an additional brown strap. Over the years, blue has been a common choice for Zenith’s boutique editions.
Both dials are signed above six o’clock with Zenith’s old-school Pilot font. The Pilot Automatic and Big Date Flyback Boutique Editions are available only in physical and online Zenith boutiques with MSRPs of $7,500 and $11,500, respectively.
When Zenith announced its updated Pilot collection in 2023, I thought they were solid commercial watches that should be immediately competitive in the already-crowded pilot’s watch space. This new pair featuring a blue dial and stainless steel case is perhaps the best yet, a contemporary look befitting of Zenith’s updated take on its pilot’s watch collection.
The design and details just make sense for a pilot’s watch: an oversized crown that looks like a take on those old onion crowns, large cases (but not oversized) with a combination of brushed surfaces and chamfered edges, a sans-serif font for the applied Arabic numerals. Even the Big Date at six o’clock on the Flyback feels right at home, so you can easily clock the date while in the cockpit (theoretically speaking). I’m glad to see Zenith seems committed to building on its new Pilot collection – these new boutique editions feel like a solid and assured next step.