This year, as Baselworld 2016, Zenith Watches introduced several novelties but mainly, the brand showed the new strategic direction chose for the design and the positioning of the collections – considering that Zenith is part of the LVMH Group, alongside TAG Heuer and Hublot, a clear differentiation was required. As of now, Zenith will have a focus (among others) on vintage inspired chronographs and racing cars and motorbikes. We already showed to you a limited edition of the El Primero made with HERO Cup. However, as a proper first in this new direction of vintage motorbikes, here is the Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit with El Primero Chronograph. Some found it weird, we found it quite cool.
The Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit is, as indicated in its name, inspired by the world of Café Racer motorbikes. As a reminder, it is a bikers movement born in England in the 1920s. A bit rebellious, its fans wanted a motorcycle that was both fast and customized, enabling them to ride from café to café on the British motorways. They therefore stripped their bikes of anything they deemed superfluous and prepared the engine to reach maximum power, with a minimalist and functional appearance. That’s the inspiration behind the Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit, with its vintage-inspired design, its dial empty of all complications, except the chronograph (which feels like a natural feature for a motorbike-inspired piece) and its rather utilitarian, both aged colour scheme.
If the Pilot line by Zenith was usually inspired by antique pilot-watches from the brand and aeronautic, it is rather surprising to see an edition now focusing on vintage motorbikes. This watch has all the elements of antique pilot watches, like the Type 20, with these specific luminous numerals and cathedral hands. However, and even if we already seen this collection using exotic material like bronze or sapphire, it is the first time that Zenith features a stainless steel case with an aged treatment, resembling a patina. The case here measures 45mm and features the typical Zenith Pilot lugs, as well as the onion crown, also in aged steel. The vintage look of the case is complemented by a greenish, oily nubuck aged leather strap, which, fits very well the overall design. The watch is large of course but remains quite easy on the wrist.
The caseback is plain and adorned with a nice engraving. Rather than displaying the movement, which would have been somehow lost in the middle of this large case, Zenith prefers to keep things hidden here, with this titanium caseback.
The treatment applied to the dial of the Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit is also different from what the brand used us to, with a grained slate grey plate – which looks almost military green in certain conditions – with large painted numerals. In order to go deeper into the vintage inspiration, these numbers, as well as the hands, are coated with faux-patina paint, which mimics aged antique watches. As the bikes that inspired the watch, the Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit has a very minimalist, clean dial, which only displays the time and a bi-compax chronograph. No ugly date window here. It is also the first time that Zenith integrates a classical chronograph in the Pilot collection (which only had an annual calendar chronograph before).
To keep it clean and functional, Zenith went for the simplest edition of the El Primero, meaning a chronograph with only 2 sub-dials; one for the small second and one for the 30-minute counter – just like the Elite El Primero Chronograph Classic. This clean display apart, it remains the exact same base calibre, meaning a high-beat (5Hz or 36,000vph), integrated automatic chronograph movement, with column-wheel – and overall, a proper horological legend, alive since 1969. This Calibre 4069, even if hidden, is finished as expected by the brand, with perlage, Geneva stripes and blued screws.
In a way, this Zenith Heritage Pilot Cafe Racer Spirit is a bit difficult to understand, as mixing the codes of antique pilot watches with a vintage motorbikes inspiration. It makes a watch that can be difficult to read, as a potential buyer. However, and that’s the most important, we do think that it looks simply cool. The combination of colours of the dial, the aged look of the case, the supple and nicely made strap, the presence of the clean version of the El Primero… This is just pleasant, rather inspired and, after all, it has a certain rebellious, utilitarian and industrial look that fits quite well the Racer spirit… A matter of tastes. Price: 7,400 Swiss Francs. More details on Zenith-Watches.com.