The horological paradigm of the ideal architect meets pilot watch – Introducing the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint
Editor’s note: This is a Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) review of the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint LE watch. For our detailed reviews, please head to our dedicated review section here.
What is it: The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint
Why: Because blueprint dialled watches aren’t that common — correct me if I am wrong but I haven’t seen one to date barring the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint — and this one stands out for all the right reasons — distinctive, LE, highly legible, rather uncommon cathedral hands, quirky, full of retro-vintage charm — owing to its unique double layered dial. And because when it comes to mapping out a timepiece, what better than to include that framework onto the dial itself.
When released: 20 October 2020
Where: Limited edition of 250-pieces only, available globally
Who is it for: For any watch connoisseur or enthusiast with a background that has dealt with blueprints and mechanical drawings, or for anyone who wants a highly legible, limited edition, blue-dialled beauty for their collection. It’s for those who like big, bold, and beautiful, with a nod to the world of design.
How does it do: Now this is a watch after my own heart; it reminds me of the blood and sweat and tears and the smell of ammonia of my more than half a decade of architecture studies, but in a good way. It’s like I imagine myself growing old one day, sitting in my rocking chair with my grandchildren, smoking a pipe and reminiscing about my architecture hay days. This is that kind of a watch, and boy if I had the means, this would be in my collection by now. Not only is it from Zenith’s Pilot family of watches that are legible to the degree of crime — and anyone who has read my reviews would know that I am a sucker for legibility — but its striking blue dial is reminiscent of the blueprints that design and engineering students/professionals use to provide a certain sense of uniformity in their otherwise eclectic and messy environments.
While the dial of the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint may have been inspired by plane and watch drawings, in essence, in its soul, to me its reminiscent of everything that’s to do with design and creativity; it is these blueprints that form the foundations of the finished products and architecture that people get to see.
As a watch lover, there is nothing more fascinating than seeing the movement of a watch go about its business, churning along the time. And as an architect, there is nothing more fascinating than the smell and feel of a freshly printed blueprint. Okay, the latter may be an exaggeration. But the point I am trying to make is that the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint combines these two loves of mine — not ammonia but architecture and watches — in such a distinctive way. Suffice to say, I am in love.
Oh yes, and as a watch critic, the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint doesn’t disappoint either, starting with the reliable and fairly accurate in-house calibre Elite 679 that is decently finished with its oscillating weight featuring “Côtes de Genève” motif, nicely hidden by a case-back engraved with Zenith flying instruments logo.
Missing: Besides the rather large 45mm diameter, nothing. Zilch, Nada. It’s a sheer delight. Actually, one thing; the limited 250-pieces production means that even if I muster up the patience to save $12’200 AUD, it would be sold out by then.
The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint reference 03.2435.679/51.I012 features an automatic winding in-house calibre Elite 679 which uses the calibre Elite 680 as base and is one of the few Zenith calibres to feature a central seconds hand and no date complication. It is used extensively in Zenith’s lineup, including the Pilot Type 20, Elite Classic and Elite Ultra Thin Lady collections.
The 25.6mm diameter and 3.85mm thick movement comprises of 26 jewels, 126 components, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28,800 Vph), and offers a decent power-reserve of 55-hours.
Inspired by the legendary Zenith aviation watches, the movement is encased inside a 45mm diameter and 14.25mm thick —with the diameter opening of 37.8mm — stainless steel case with polished and satin-brushed surfaces. The car sports a unique double layered dial and a case-back engraved with Zenith flying instruments logo. I am glad to note that while this is not strictly a sports watch, the case is nonetheless decently water-resistant to 100m and also features the signature oversized “onion” shaped crown that allows the time to be adjusted even while wearing flight gloves. I also like that the side of the case features a screwed plaque bearing the unique limited edition number of the watch.
Completing the pilot’s style look of the watch is the blue calfskin leather strap with rivets and a titanium pin buckle that recalls the classic shearling leather flight jackets with their distinctive tabs.
Given that I am someone who swaps out his straps very frequently, and since I liked the strap on this particular model, I was pleased to note that Zenith has provided details for the strap. And I haven’t confirmed this from the brand yet but if you like me want this strap and wish to order it for another timepiece, that should be possible and the ref. number for the strap is 27.00.2321.I012 and for the pin buckle is 27.95.0021.001. In terms of wrist sizings, the strap comes on standard length of 115/80 which should work for a majority of the wrist sizes though other options include a larger size at 125/90 and a smaller one at 105/70 are also at your disposal. Last but not the least, the strap also features an interchangeable system as well.
Besides blueprints, aviation of-course has had a fair amount of influence on the design elements of this watch. Earlier this year Zenith introduced the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Rescue collection that is essentially this watch but in a different coloured avatar, and we have discussed some of the aviation influences in that review. You can read about it here and see the similarities and differences for yourself. There are currently 6 variations on the Zenith website for this collection, and while each of them has its own inherent vintage-inspired aesthetic, the new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint is something special, even though it comes at a premium of $1’500 AUD compared to the rest.
The dial is the real star here, no doubt. The dial has been inspired by the blueprints of Aeronefs, the earliest aircrafts conceived by the pioneers of flight, most notably Louis Blériot and his Type XI aircraft that he flew across the English Channel.
The rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with SuperLuminova SLN C1 cathedral hands fit well with the case dimensions and help in increasing the legibility of the dial. The dial is topped by a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides. The interesting part is that this sapphire crystal acts as one layer of the double layered dial that includes the matte blue base with all technical plans and notes used by the dial-maker, as reminiscent of a blueprint. The above sapphire crystal and a sapphire crystal layer features the usual oversized and legible as hell Arabic numerals in white varnish and the branding text and logo.
Zenith has managed to capture and combine the beauty of both an architectural drawing and a rather masculine feel of an aviator watch perfectly. The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint presents a good looking utility watch that can also transform into a sports watch though as a tip, if you are a single watch guy and are looking to get this for daily wear, I don’t think at 45mm diameter is very versatile. But if you like and can pull off oversized watches, this one is a must have to add to any collection.
“Everybody that’s successful lays a blueprint out,” once said Kevin Hart.
The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint is one such offering, one that you can bet your bottom dollar lays out a model for how all pilot’s watches should be. It is the horological paradigm of the ideal pilot’s watch.
For more information of new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Blueprint and other Zenith watches, head to their website here. All images unless stated otherwise ©Zenith.