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Review of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze

by Chester Lau on April 15, 2015

Welcome to the Bronze age. Made famous by Panerai, this case material is closely associated to the vintage look, the ‘patina’ effect, aging, ruggedness, etc. etc… Ironically, bronze on watch cases is anything but vintage. In fact, it was only introduced and popularized less than a decade ago, by Anonimo. However, bronze used on this Zenith Extra Special does indeed raise some brows. Well most would say, ‘Oh, bronze again?’ but this time it’s bronze on a Pilot’s watch, which up till now were mainly used on diver’s watches.

The Extra Special was first launched in 2014, in a stainless steel case. Its appearance on the market was almost silent, although it quickly became a fan favourite and flew off the shelves. There were several controversies behind that piece. Firstly, it used a Sellita sw300 base movement. It was the ‘el primero’ in Zenith history that one of its staples used a stock movement. Prior to its launch, Zenith used only its own movements, be it the Elite calibre or the El Primero. From a marketing point of view, however, the choice to use a cheaper movement was simply to capture a new market audience with a lower price point. The Sellita Extra Special came in at approximately 5000CHF, nearly 30% lower than the next tier in the Pilot range. Moreover, the Type 20 Pilot range had a focus on the young crowd. So a price friendly entry pilot which looked good and functioned well served its purpose.

zenith-bronze-pilot

Cased at 45 mm, the Extra Special is comfortable on the wrist. Its large onion crown and numbering on the case side creates an almost militaristic feel, as if the watch was a military standard issue instrument.

Some other critics of the Extra Special had found severe discomfort with its nomenclature. Although this ‘Extra Special’ description or name was used in a vintage Zenith pilot watch, thus serving as a homage, many thought that it was almost crass to name it that way.

But controversies aside, the Type 20 Extra Special is back again, and this time in Bronze. The external visuals apart from the case material is identical to its stainless steel sibling. However, this time, the Sellita movement has been thrown out for a Elite 679 automatic movement with 55 hours power reserve.

zenith-bronze-pilot-back

Elaborately engraved, the caseback of the Extra Special features a Zenith crest and its signature flying instrument insignia. For all the seriousness of its aviation history, this looks almost comic.

Visually, the watch looks stunning, wears well and is well priced at $7,600 USD. What we appreciate about its design elements, is its close association to the original Zenith military pilot watch dated 1931. The vintage Zenith reads “Special” on its dial, uses the same font on the markers and similar hands. Notably, the large onion crown and fixed wire lugs are also stylistically similar. If you can’t beat tradition, use it. This is exactly what Zenith has achieved with the Type 20 collection, adapting and innovating from classic designs to produce a modern watch which is well-received and respected at the same time.

What’s more, the very fact that the watch is cased in Bronze means that there is greater opportunity for watch and wearer interaction. Bronze ages with time. Or if you are in a hurry, there is a wide variety of literature which you can access to find out how to speed up the aging process. The aging of the material, is commonly known as developing patina. When Bronze develops patina, the colour of the material changes. Usually turning darker, the colour changes are not uniform along the case. This means that the case may age like leather tans and have different hues at different spots on the case. Eventually, no two bronze cases will look the same.

zenith-bronze-pilot-champagne

Paired with a vintage calf leather strap, the bronze case exudes a certain rustic element that elevates the watch beyond its age. What is captivating however, is the brilliant anti-reflective coated raised dome crystal, which unravels the clear and crisp dial with its ultra legible font. Not to mention the superluminova lume material that turns this watch alive in the dark.

Seen here on Charle's wrist, the Bronze Extra Special adds a finishing touch to the Prince of Wales fabric, and sits comfortably with french cuffs.

Seen here on Charles’ wrist, the Bronze Extra Special adds a finishing touch to the Prince of Wales fabric, and sits comfortably with french cuffs. Read here to see what he thinks of the Extra Special.

After some thought, we have agreed that the watch is definitely a great buy for fans of Pilot watches, bronze watches or Zenith watches. Yes we acknowledge that bronze as a material has been marketed the world over, from micro brands to IWC, Panerai, and the lot. However, what we see here is not just a material play, but we enjoy the overall concept of the watch. It embodies tradition, through Zenith’s rich aviation history, and it is styled to tell this story. Versatile as both a classic and a sports watch, this piece is a good looker, rugged beater and a whole lot of fun.

 

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