Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Zenith’s Flying Start 

Zenith debuts a new type of Pilot watch for the contemporary era, including the Big Date Flyback that leads the way for us

Oct 14, 2023 | By Ashok Soman
Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

In a year dominated by chronographs, with the flyback variant taking flight, one of our favourites is the Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback. We saw this watch at Watches and Wonders Geneva, and spent some time discussing it with WOW Thailand editor Ruckdee in our Conversation article elsewhere this issue. Like many new chronographs worth salivating over, this Flyback has plenty to recommend it. Unusually, the story here is in the double date window, and the smoothness of the chronograph pushers. We do have a penchant for great date watches and chronographs typically do not scratch this particular itch for us. Not so with the Pilot Big Date Flyback Chronograph. 

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Before we get to the details, there are some important points to make here, especially for those enthusiasts and collectors more familiar with the Chronomaster and Defy collections. Zenith is actually one of the pioneering aviation timekeeping brands, and the brand’s old aviation watches are out. The Pilot part of the name of this Big Date Flyback, for example, is a throwback to one of the early terms registered by the Le Locle manufacture as a hallmark. In French, the word Pilote is also used in the marine world, meaning navigator. Zenith also registered the English word, which would have major consequences. 

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

When, in 1909, aviator Louis Bleriot made a successful Channel crossing with a Zenith timekeeper on his wrist keeping him on course, the firm was one of only a few that could lay claim to the skies. It is still the one brand that can use the word Pilot on a dial. However, this is not a story the brand leaned into back when the Type 20 models debuted in 2012, if we recall correctly. The watches made a big impression at that time, and now mark a very specific phase in the contemporary story of Zenith. With the new Pilot collection, another story is beginning.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback

Now the Pilot Big Date Flyback is part of multiple stories for us this year so this one will just be an introduction. That we are not covering the time-only model is just a matter of space constraints. We are not even getting into the details of the new El Primero calibre that powers the Big Date Flyback. What we will say here is that the date is one of the coolest that you may never even notice. It jumps in 7/1000th of a second, if our notes can be believed, though we have seen it in action. It can also be adjusted with the crown quickly, without fear of desynchronising the date. This all amounts to an impressive watch, and we have not even gotten to the specifications yet. As always, the summary is here (opposite), but we will come back to this watch in due course. 

Movement: Automatic El Primero 3652 with big date and flyback chronograph; 60-hour power reserve
Case: 42.5mm in steel and ceramic; water-resistant to 100m 
Strap: Black rubber and brown leather 
Price: USD 17,000 

This article was first seen on WOW’s Summer #69 Issue. 

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