Through this collection, Zenith is reasserting its legitimacy and its expertise in the field of aviation. The brand has indeed been accompanying aviation history from its beginnings by producing time measurement instruments used to help pilots in flying aircraft, notably including onboard counters. Since 1865, Zenith is THE benchmark in terms of precision and reliability – twin qualities that are indispensable in the aeronautical field.
Witness the words penned by Louis Blériot, the first man to fly over the Channel in 1909, who boasted about the accuracy of his Zenith watch in 1912: “I am extremely satisfied with the Zenith watch that I generally use and cannot recommend it too highly to people who are looking for precision”. His spirit wafted over the evening event, powerfully reflected in his plane that belongs to the permanent collection of the Musée des Arts et Métiers and appeared to be levitating above guests’ heads. On this particular occasion, it was accompanied by the Zenith watch worn by its pilot and on show for the evening.
The numerous guests included brand ambassador Felix Baumgartner, who will be jumping this coming October out of a capsule from an altitude of 36.5 kilometres as part of the Red Bull Stratos mission. He will thus become the first man to cross the sound barrier in freefall mode from the edge of space and will be accompanied in his mission by his El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th.
Other French celebrities in attendance included actress Virginie Ledoyen, actors Richard Berry, Jean-Paul Rouve and Laurent Lafitte, as well as Elie Semoun, Estelle Lefébure, Pascal Elbé and Andrea Soldano.
The other stars of the evening were of course the three new models in the PILOT collection, which is a worthy and legitimate heir to the heyday of airborne conquest. Its mechanism features a concentrated blend of the historical expertise of the Manufacture and of the beauty that naturally follows in the wake of the freedom that is found in flight. Designed for devotees of aviation and of its history, as well as all those with a love of boundless vistas, the PILOT collection symbolises discovery and exploration, the taste for adventure and the fulfilment it brings.
The PILOT Montre d’Aéronef Type 20, a vibrant tribute to the free-spirited pioneers of the sky, echoes the finest airborne conquests of the early 20th century. Its 57.5 mm-diameter case made of titanium features a ratcheted easy-grip crown serving to wind and set the watch. Absolute readability is the keynote of the dial: beneath the imposing sapphire crystal that is glareproofed on both sides, the raised chapter ring is composed of entire blocks of Superluminova, swept over by hands also enhanced with a phosphorescent substance. Its COSC chronometer-certified mechanical 5011K movement meets the highest demands in terms of reliability and precision. It derives its noble pedigree from the famous 5011 pocket watch for which Zenith became famous in the 1960s. In 1967, Neuchâtel Observatory awarded it record-breaking status as the most accurate chronometer ever presented.
Echoing the vintage chronograph watch of the 1960s to 1980s, the PILOT Big Date Special is resolutely geared towards functionality. Its design is inspired by a classical spirit and its technique honours the legendary El Primero movement born in 1969. The Pilot Big Date Special features a 42 mm case with polished and satin-brushed finishes that make a delightful contrast with a matt black dial. The two chronograph counters are positioned in a perfectly symmetrical manner and beat to the rhythm of the automatic El Primero Calibre 4010.
Finally the PILOT Doublematic is a open invitation to travel. This chronograph exercises infallible control over time and features an alarm function controlled by the push-button and the crown at 8 o’clock. The Pilot Doublematic also defies time differences thanks to its two discs simultaneously displaying the time in different parts of the world. Beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour and endowed with a 50-hour power reserve, the mechanical automatic El Primero Calibre 4046 may be admired through an openworked oscillating weight that is itself visible through the sapphire case-back.
Founded in Le Locle in 1865 by a visionary watchmaker, Georges Favre-Jacot, the Manufacture Zenith earned swift recognition for the precision of its chronometers with which it has won 2,333 chronometry prizes in a century and a half of existence – an absolute record in terms of pocket watches, onboard timers and wristwatches. Having earned fame thanks to its legendary El Primero calibre – an integrated automatic column-wheel chronograph movement launched in 1969 and endowed with a high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour that ensures short-time measurements accurate to the nearest 1/10th of a second – the Manufacture Zenith has since developed over 600 movement variations. All Zenith watches are now fitted with an in-house Zenith movement and are developed and produced from start to finish by the Manufacture in Le Locle. The latter currently stands at the exact spot where its founder built the first company workshop – thus physically embodying a continuity that is a rarity in itself.