Horological grandeur: Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Robin Nooy | ic_query_builder_black_24px 3 minute read |
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

When Monochrome talks about “grandeur” in watchmaking, we could be implying a lot of things. Complications, materials, pricetags, you name it. At this year’s Baselworld however, we ran into grandeur of a different kind: size! In all honesty, the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu reduces even the most gargantuan watches we’ve encountered so far to the status of “petite.”

Sizewise, the Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu dwarfs about every watch known to us, and could just as easily double as a wall clock. The 60mm case (yes, six-zero!) is absolutely huge and it begs the question, Why? The answers to this questions are pretty interesting, and might explain a thing or two.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

Zenith has embarked on a historical route for their Pilot Type 20 collection, launched in 2011. The collection quickly gained a large group of followers for obvious reasons, and after the very first limited edition, many other versions have been introduced over the past couple of years (one of which we reviewed here). The culmination of the large pilot watch, and the capabilities of Zenith as a manufacture, was introduced at Baselworld in the shape of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

The first and most obvious giveaway for the size is the movement. Zenith unearthed a small number of the manual wound Caliber 5011K movements, and offers them in a number of limited series, one of which is the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu. The movement was first used in the sixties, and at the time it broke just about every record when it came to precision (further explained here). The movement is fully decorated and engraved by hand, even on the sides.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

Decorating a movement to this extent is obviously a useless thing to do without allowing some form of “peephole” to see the splendour inside. Zenith crafted a full sapphire case, allowing you to see the full engraving and decoration of the movement. This is no easy thing to do, since sapphire is notoriously hard to machine and could easily crack despite being incredibly scratch-resistant. The case is finished off with an engraved white gold bezel and lugs. The lugs are inserted into the sapphire case-band, which further enhances visibility of the movement by taking up minimal space on the sapphire casing.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

To top off the historical movement Zenith chose a white Grand Feu enamel dial, seemingly part of a small trend at this year’s Baselworld. Grand Feu enamelling is a process where a surface is coated with enamelling powder, and the decoration is achieved by the baking process alone. The dial features a train-track chapter ring, generously proportioned Arabic numerals with a touch of shading to give them a 3D look. Furthermore there is a small seconds indicator located at 9 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock. The hands are blued and skeletonized to thematically blend into the whole “see-through” design. Finally, the dial is decorated with the words “Chronometric Grand Feu” in a classical font.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu

The total package of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu is impressive, to say the least. Putting it on the wrist shows just how massive a 60mm wristwatch is. And believe us, Robin’s wrists are already on the large size but still struggle with the diameter. Visually, Zenith managed to proportion everything pretty well through: the enormous engraved crown, large lugs, wide strap and big buckle are significantly beneficial to this end.

Specifications:

  • 60 mm in diameter, 18.5 mm thick, sapphire case
  • Manual wound Caliber 5011K movement
  • 134 parts, 19 jewels
  • Frequency of 18,000 vph
  • 48 hours of power reserve
  • hours, minutes, small seconds and power reserve indication
  • Black shadowed Arabic numerals
  • Skeletonized blued steel hands
  • Hand engraved white gold bezel, lugs and pin buckle
  • Black alligator-leather strap with rubber lining

The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Grand Feu will be available in a very limited run of 10 pieces, at a price of CHF 150.000,-. More info on www.zenith-watches.com.

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