Flying high: Zenith redesigns their Pilot Automatic and Pilot Big Date Flyback Flying high: Zenith redesigns their Pilot Automatic and Pilot Big Date Flyback

Flying high: Zenith redesigns their Pilot Automatic and Pilot Big Date Flyback

D.C. Hannay
  • Zenith’s new Pilot collection sees a complete redesign of the case aesthetic.
  • Lineup includes a 40mm time and date version, and a big date flyback chrono.
  • The new series is available in both steel and microblasted matte black ceramic, a first for the Pilot line.

Zenith is flying into Watches & Wonders with a complete redesign of the Pilot series, marking a dramatic aesthetic shift from vintage to modern as its biggest story. The Pilot’s revamp is a stylistic jump akin to the evolution of a WWI biplane to a modern stealth fighter. The new Pilot is available in four flavours, with an automatic three-hander and a big date flyback chrono, both available in steel or black ceramic cases.

Zenith Pilot Automatic

As you can see, Zenith’s new Pilot series couldn’t be more different than the previous version. Firstly, as opposed to the big round 45mm case with narrow straight lugs, they’ve gone with a sleeker (but still substantial in terms of wrist presence) 40mm case with broad, tapered lugs. The massive, vintage-look onion crown has been swapped out for a modernist interpretation that, while still plenty grippy, is quite a bit sleeker. The bezel is far more pronounced compared to the vintage-leaning models, with a wide, flat top. Case materials are either vertically brushed stainless or microblasted black ceramic, again bringing a futuristic look diametrically opposed to the previous version’s bronze variants. Water resistance is 100 metres.

Zenith Pilot Automatic

The dial represents a big departure as well, moving away from the antique font of the previous models to a more contemporary, flight instrument aesthetic, with its applied markers filled with bright white Super-LumiNova. The hands also evoke the flight instrument look, a big pivot from the more ornate cathedral-style of the former models. You’ll also find a horizontally corrugated black dial that recalls classic aircraft fuselage panels, and a lumed marker above the 6 o’clock date window meant to recall the artificial horizon gauge of a cockpit’s instrument panel.

Zenith Pilot Automatic steel

Around the other side, you’ll get a good view through the sapphire display back of Zenith’s El Primero 3620 high-frequency in-house movement, which runs at 36,000 VpH and offers a 60-hour power reserve. Each version comes with two straps: the steel model has both a black Cordura-effect rubber and a brown calf included, and the ceramic is equipped with both a black and a khaki green Cordura-effect rubber. Closure is via a steel triple-fold clasp on all models (PVD coated on the black ceramic model), and straps can be swapped on a whim, thanks to Zenith’s tool-less quick-release system.

Zenith Pilot Automatic ceramic

Zenith Pilot Automatic pricing and availability:

The Zenith Pilot Automatic’s availability is TBA, priced at CHF7,500 for the steel version and CHF9,500 for the black ceramic.

Brand Zenith
Model Pilot Automatic
Case Dimensions 40mm (D)
Case Material Stainless steel, black microblasted ceramic
Water Resistance 100m
Dial Horizontally corrugated black
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Bracelet/Strap Black rubber & brown calf leather (steel), Black rubber & khaki rubber (ceramic)
Movement El Primero 3620
Power Reserve 60 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Availability TBA
Price CHF7,500/Steel, CHF9,500/Ceramic

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Zenith is rightly known for their peerless chronographs, and this new Pilot Big Date Flyback line gets two versions: a stainless steel model and another in black microblasted ceramic. The 42.5mm diameter cases hew closely to the aesthetics of the Pilot Automatic, but in a larger size. The steel version features a similar finish to the Pilot Auto, with predominantly brushed surfaces and polished chamfers for some nice definition.

Interestingly, Zenith has included a little Easter egg on the steel version, a rainbow-coloured surround on the 30-minute counter in tribute to the El Primero Rainbow Flyback released in 1997.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback steel

Again, the ceramic model gets an all-over microblasted treatment for that tactical vibe, and the matte finishing really allows the dial elements to pop with a commanding authority. Like the Auto, the Pilot Big Date Flyback is watertight to 100 metres.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback ceramic

The crown is styled like the Auto’s, and the Pilot Big Date Flyback’s rectangular pushers are long and easy to actuate. The black dial also features the horizontally lined texture of its smaller sibling, with a few differences. The most obvious is the addition of two subdials, a small running seconds at 9 and a 30-minute counter at 3.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

The ceramic version sticks to its military-look roots with a stark white-on-black countenance. As per its namesake, the Pilot Big Date Flyback sports a large date display above 6′, which features a patented jumping advance that’s virtually instantaneous (less than 3 hundredths of a second).

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Powering the Pilot Big Date Flyback is the high-frequency in-house El Primero 3652, running at 36,000 VpH with a 60-hour power reserve. Strap options are the same as their respective Pilot Automatic counterparts, and also utilise Zenith’s tool-less quick-release system.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback ceramic

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback pricing and availability:

The Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback’s availability is TBA, priced at CHF11,400 for the steel version and CHF13,400 for the black ceramic.

Brand Zenith
Model Pilot Big Date Flyback
Case Dimensions 42.5mm (D)
Case Material Stainless steel, black microblasted ceramic
Water Resistance 100m
Dial Horizontally corrugated black
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Bracelet/Strap Black rubber & brown calf leather (steel), Black rubber & khaki rubber (ceramic)
Movement El Primero 3652
Power Reserve 60 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, jumping big date display
Availability TBA
Price CHF11,400/Steel, CHF13,400/Ceramic