Following the release of Zenith’s Watches and Wonders 2023 novelties, Zenith has kindly lent us the Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph for a week. Here are our review after a week on the wrist.
Review: the new Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph
The Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph is available in a stainless steel case as reviewed, and also in a ceramic case in all black. The Ref 03.4000.3620/21.I001 in stainless steel (review sample) has a retail of SGD 11,100 and the ceramic cased Ref 49.4000.3620/21.I001 has a retail price of SGD 14,000. Both prices with GST.
First Impression/The Case
The watch on my wrist has a slight heft in a way that it was reassuring knowing that there is a gorgeous timepiece sitting there but not imposing. It’s 42.5MM sits perfectly on my 6.25 Inch wrist.
The size of the case gives it some presence, and the rather small lug overhang makes it fit my small wrist well. It does not sit fully under my double cuff shirt (without tailoring the cuffs specifically) but doesn’t scream vulgarly like other sports watches either. The case is nicely done in a brushed finishing with the exception of the sides of the bezel.
When it was first presented to me, I noticed the central second hand was a highlight and immediately caught my attention, followed by the chronograph minute counter hand which were both of which are in red. Zenith calls this a bright orange tone, but it looks red to me. The minutes counter ins in alternating colours for greater clarity to distinguish between five minute marks. These accents are odes to the Zenith Rainbow Flyback from 1997.
The dial is a black opaline with horizontal grooves, which mimics the look of corrugated metal sheets that make up the fuselage of many older aircrafts. It reminds me of the corrugated sheet on Rimowa luggage, which itself inspired by the same vintage aircraft.
At 6 o’clock, the dial shows a double framed aperture to display the huge date is inspired by the analog departure boards that we see in the airport. Now that we are in the endemic phase and borders are now opened, every glance at the dial just reminds me of the good times that I am going for a holiday. The Zenith Pilot series of watches are the watches in the market could wear the “Pilot” name proudly on their dial as it is a patent that they have since the 1800s.
The movement of the watch is the El Primero 3652 Caliber which is a high beat movement that features a Bi Complex Chronograph Dial. It also features a flyback complication on this movement, the chronograph is activated by a column wheel. Zenith boasts that one only needs 900 grams of pressure and 500 grams of pressure for the reset making it one of the lightest pressure required for chronograph activation and reset in the market. (Chief Editor’s note: though this is interesting, my personal preference is for the start, stop and reset to require the same pressure)
It features a “weekend proof” 60 Hours of power reserve that enables the wearer to leave the watch over the weekend and still be able to wear it the following Monday.
The big date function on the Zenith Pilot is one of the most interesting features on this watch where Zenith claims that is a next-gen mechanism which advances and stabilises both date discs in 0.03s. While instant date jumps are not uncommon, this is the first we have seen actual manufacturer specifications on how instantaneous it is. The unique character of this date jump certainly is a welcomed move as it is inspired by the airport departure board it is inspired by. It certainly gives us that feel of watching the display changes when cycling through the dates.
Just as we mentioned on the setting of watch, when I winded the watch, the winding of the crown is so smooth that it reminded me of a certain brand with the crown. It was certainly a pleasant setting the time.
The finishing of the movement which we could see through the see through case-back is expected of the watch as this price point where we do not expect elaborate polishings but it is certainly intriguing to the eyes with an industrial finish.
Upon review, the watch is supplied with the black “cordura effect” strap with a butterfly buckle that secures the watch to your wrist. Noted that the strap feels comfortable on the writers wrist since day one of getting it, it hugs the wrist gently and feels comfortable even in the hot and humid weather in sunny Singapore.
There is an interesting quirk in the strap where they have a “quick exchange” system that strangely looks familiar to a competitor that produces Pilot watches as well. Comparing it side by side, one might not find much difference in the system.
Pilot watches are certainly not new and it is a design is loved by watch aficionados. The notable ones are the IWC Pilot’s Chronograph 41MM (SGD 11.4k) and the Breitling Navitimer B01 (SGD 12.9k) which are in the similar price point as the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph. All of the watches are said to be featuring “in-house” movement by their manufacturer with the Zenith’s El Primero and Breitling’s B01 being the more famous of the 3. Zenith is the only one that stands out from the other two brands as it is the only one with the 36,600 bph high beat movement while the latter 2 are beating on the regular 28,800 bph movement.
Design wise, the IWC Pilot’s Chronograph 41MM and the Breitling Navitimer B01 features 3 counter sub dials while the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph features a bi-complex dial. The likely reason for the following is likely due to it having to accommodate the “Big Date” function.
It is noted that the IWC Pilot’s Chronograph 41MM has a more military inspired utilitarian design that is also functional where it has a triangle on the 12 O’clock position so that in the even you decided to pull a “Top Gun” move style roll over in your imaginary fighter jet, it enables you to know the right side up on where to tell the time. The Breitling Navitimer B01 features a slide-rule complication in the inner rotation bezel is useful for pilots when used together with the chronograph function as it enables one to calculate the climbing duration, fuel consumption, gratuities are amongst the other things the watch could do. While the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph makes it look very much more like a fashion statement with Pilot inspired design as compared to the two competitors.
With the above comparisons and review being said, the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph would certainly sit well in one’s collection being the second watch that one will get in their collection with the proud El Primero movement along with the heritage of the Pilot name etched on the dial.
One will not go wrong choosing either the steel or the ceramic version even though I personally like the steel version more as the colours pop and make an office worker’s day better when having a glance at the watch during a mundane day. It is a watch that will catch the eye of a non watch person due to it’s wonderfully designed dial in the steel version while earning the respect from your fellow watch lover colleagues who is intrigued by the El Primero’s history and the amazing high beat movement.