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Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT
Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT

Drawing design inspiration from vintage pilot wristwatches and vintage aircraft dashboards, the oversized Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT makes one big statement on the wrist. If you are a fan of large retro-style pilot watches, then this is one watch not to miss. Let’s find out more.

Brief History of Zenith Pilot Watches

Unbeknownst to some, Zenith holds the trademark for the Pilot name in relation to watches (it’s the only brand that can use “Pilot” on the dial). This illustrates that the Swiss watch brand has a rich history of making aviation timepieces.

History of Zenith Pilot Watches
Louis Blériot’s Zenith Watch from 1909 (Image: Zenith)

In 1909, Louis Blériot became the first man to fly across the English Channel on his Blériot XI wooden plane. On the Frenchman’s wrist during the historic flight was a Zenith wristwatch featuring a steel case, a large onion-shaped crown that could be manipulated with gloves, and a black dial with large hands and numerals for optimal legibility.

The following year, Zenith began producing cockpit instruments like altimeters and stopwatches for the nascent aviation industry and continued to do so for five decades. In 1939, the French air force began fitting many of their aircraft instrument panels with Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 hand-wound clocks (“montre d’déronef” is French for “aircraft clock”). These clocks included a knurled bezel for winding and setting the clock, along with oversized luminous Arabic numerals and hands.

A Zenith Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 Onboard Clock from 1939 (Image: Zenith)

To design its collection of modern Pilot watches, Zenith clearly took elements from both Blériot’s wristwatch and the French military’s dashboard clocks.

Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT

In 2012, Zenith launched a limited-edition Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 watch with only 250 pieces in honor of its history of making mil-spec aviation instruments. With its massive 57.5mm case and vintage vibe, the watch sold out before it officially hit the market. The watch’s unprecedented success paved the way for the now regular production collection of Pilot Montre d’Aéronef Type 20 watches with slightly smaller cases and offering a range of different complications. What’s more, 2010 also marked the revival of the Zenith Pilot watch collection, which is now a robust lineup of aviation-style watches in a range of materials, sizes, and functionalities.

Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT.
Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT in Stainless Steel

One of the first models to kickstart the new Zenith Montre D’Aéronef collection was this Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT. The watch features a 48mm stainless steel case fitted with the characteristic knurled onion-style winding crown. The black dial is home to large Arabic numerals and oversized cathedral-style center hands in the same style as the original Zenith onboard clocks from the 1930s but the running seconds subdial is placed at 9 o’clock rather than six.

As a dual time watch, Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT includes a large red-tipped skeleton hand pointing to a 24-hour scale on the dial periphery to indicate a second time zone.

Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT
The Red-Tipped Hand Indicates a Second Time Zone

A pusher on the case positioned at 10 o’clock serves to advance the 24-hour hand in one-hour jumps, making it perfectly practical for frequent travelers.

The watch runs on the in-house Zenith Elite Caliber 693 automatic movement with a 55-hour power reserve. And protecting that movement is a solid steel caseback engraved with a depiction of the Louis Blériot monoplane that crossed the English Channel.

Zenith Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT
The Steel Caseback Decorated With Louis Blériot’s Plane

This Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT is fitted with a light brown calf-skin leather strap (with a rubber inlay) with contrasting stitching and a steel deployant buckle.

Vintage-inspired in design yet practical for today’s travelers, the Pilot Montre D’Aéronef Type 20 GMT is a solid and stylish luxury watch geared for aviation watch fans.

Written by

Celine Simon

Celine is a freelance luxury watch writer who has enjoyed working in the horology industry for over ten years. Like many of the high-end timepieces she writes about, she comes from Switzerland—the heart of fine watchmaking. From Singapore to Montreal to Geneva to Dubai, Celine has lived all over the world but now calls Southern California home.