Zenith’s new 2023 Pilot collection

by Sameera Gamage

Zenith’s history with aviation goes all the way back to the late 19th century when the luxury watch manufacturer’s founder Georges-Favre Jacot believed that the brand should be alongside the brave pioneers who were on the verge of finally conquering the skies. Because of this vision, Zenith eventually became one of the more prominent makers of specialized watches and dashboard instruments for pilots. One of the most notable adopters of Zenith’s dashboard instruments was Louis Blériot, who created history by being the first person to fly across the English Channel in 1909.

Now, released during Watches and Wonders 2023 is Zenith’s newest update to the Pilot collection of watches. Timepieces that are made for pilots but can also easily be worn by the everyday person. Zenith’s Pilot collection is the brand’s most longstanding line.

This new Pilot collection has been completely redesigned from the ground up. While previous Pilot collection timepieces may have looked to vintage designs for inspiration, this Pilot collection looks at the entire span of aviation, from both the present and the past. The collection brings forth modernity with its durability, latest movements, case materials, and easy-to-read dials while nodding to the design codes of some of the earliest aviator clocks and dashboard instruments created by Zenith almost a century ago.

The 2023 Pilot collection is split into two main timepiece designs, with each design having two different variants. The first design is the Pilot Automatic, a simple three-hander timepiece with a date feature. The second design is the Pilot Big Date Flyback.

Pilot Collection

Zenith’s new Pilot Automatic is the template for the latest collection and generation of Pilot watches. For this collection, it comes in two variants. A black micro-blasted ceramic 40mm case or stainless steel 40mm case. Both watches feature the same dial design. The case design has been entirely recreated by Zenith and now features a distinct flat-top round bezel which is fixed on top of the rounded case. The steel version comes with a vertically satin-brushed surface with polished chamfers. Both watches also come with an oversized crown, an iconic design on pilot timepieces. The oversized crown has now been given a modern retake, as it now has a more angular form, whilst still being very easy to operate.

At first glance, the Pilot Automatic dial is incredibly easy to read, with its stark contrast from the black dial to the white hour indices. This is exactly what you would expect from a Pilot’s watch. The black opaline dial has horizontal grooves, which were created to mimic the look of corrugated metal sheets, the same design that you would find on the fuselage of much older aircraft. Zenith has taken inspiration from dashboard instruments of early 1900s aircraft for the oversized Arabic hour numerals. Zenith has used a more modern font and filled it with Super LumiNova for easy nighttime readability.

Above the date window at 6 o’clock is a horizontal flat white line, which recalls the design of the artificial horizon instrument on a plane. On the timepiece, it shows the instant orientation of the dial, so that the wearer can instantly read the time without second guessing.

The movement in both variants of the Pilot Automatic is the El Primero 3620 automatic movement. Operating at a frequency of 36, 000 VpH (5Hz), it gives out a power reserve of approximately 60 hours. The open case back shows the archetypal and essential “artificial horizon” blackened oscillating weight.

Zenith offers different straps for each of the two variants of the Pilot Automatic. The black ceramic version comes with a stealthy black cordura-effect rubber strap and a utilitarian khaki cordura-effect rubber strap. The stainless steel model is offered with the same black cordura-effect rubber strap, with the second strap being made with brown calfskin leather.

Pilot Big Date Flyback

To complete Zenith’s new Pilot collection is a chronograph reference. The Pilot Big Date Flyback has a new version of Zenith’s El Primero 3600 caliber, with the movement now bringing new functions to cater to the pilot. Like the Pilot Automatic, the Pilot Big Date Flyback comes in two variants. Both in 42.5mm case size, the first is a stainless steel version that takes design cues from one of the most iconic Zenith Flyback chronographs; Rainbow Flyback. The minute’s totaliser at 3 o’clock is created in alternating colours so that the wearer can easily establish between the five-minute marks.

The central chronograph’s second hand and the chronograph’s minute hand are done in orange, which makes it have a stark yet beautiful contrasting effect against the black dial. The second variant for the Pilot Big Date Flyback takes on a monochrome look. The timepiece has a black micro-blasted ceramic case, and unlike the stainless steel version, the chronograph hands are all done in white. Both black opaline dials have a horizontal groove design, exactly like the Pilot Automatic model.

For the movement, Zenith has given their El Primero 3652 automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre two functions that are a great fit for a pilot watch; the big date and the flyback function. In regards to these functions, Zenith states that the “oversized date display that’s shown at 6 o’clock is a next-gen patented compliant mechanism that advances and stabilizes both of the big date’s wheels in less than 0.03 seconds. Originally conceived for aviators who wore thick sheepskin gloves, the flyback function allows the chronograph function to be reset to zero and restarted with a single push of a button, simplifying the pilot’s operations and offering the possibility to record consecutive times without stopping”. Operating at a frequency of 36,000 VpH (5Hz), the El Primero 3652 automatic movement gives out a power reserve of approximately 60 hours.

Like the Pilot Automatic variants, the Pilot Big Date Flyback comes with the same strap variations. Black cordura effect and khaki cordura effect strap for the black micro blasted flyback model, while the stainless steel flyback model gets black cordura effect and brown calfskin leather straps.

This all-new Pilot Collection by Zenith captures the aviation spirit and delivers it with two timepieces suited for watch aficionados and aviation enthusiasts alike.

Reference: 49.4000.3620/21.I001, 03.4000.3620/21.I001


  • Case: 40mm
  • Case Material: Black micro-blasted ceramic or Stainless steel case
  • Dial: Black with horizontal grooves
  • Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
  • Water resistance: 10 Bar (100m)
  • Movement: El Primero 3620, automatic
  • Power reserve: Approx. 60 hours
  • Bracelet/Strap: Black cordura effect rubber strap, khaki cordura effect strap, or brown calfskin leather strap.

International Recommended Retail Price: 9500 CHF for Black micro-blaster ceramic, 7500 CHF for stainless steel.

Availability: TBA

Reference: 49.4000.3652/21.I001, 03.4000.3652/21.I001


  • Case: 42.5mm
  • Case Material: Black micro-blasted ceramic or Stainless steel case
  • Dial:  Black with horizontal grooves
  • Crystal:  Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
  • Water resistance: 10 Bar (100m)
  • Movement: El Primero 3652, automatic
  • Power reserve: Approx 60 hours
  • Bracelet/Strap: Black cordura effect rubber strap, khaki cordura effect strap, or brown calfskin leather strap.

International Recommended Retail Price:  13,400 CHF for Black micro-blaster ceramic, 11,400 CHF for stainless steel.

Availability: TBA

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