Zenith presented a fully redesigned and thoroughly modernized Pilot range at Watches and Wonders last year. Although many of our team members had a chance to try them on at the fair, we had not yet done a full hands-on article on Fratello. We figured it was long overdue! So, now that there is a new Boutique Edition Zenith Pilot duo, we set that straight.

Our own Brandon, however, did write a very thorough introduction article last year. He went about as deep into the redesigned Zenith Pilot as one can go without having the watches in hand. I will, then, only very briefly reintroduce the basics before focusing primarily on what these watches are like in real life and on the wrist. If you want the full story, regard Brandon’s article and mine as a mini-series.

Zenith Pilot Automatic and Big Date Flyback Boutique Editions

The redesigned Zenith Pilot watches

Zenith and pilot’s watches go together like white bread and peanut butter. As you may know, Zenith trademarked the term “Pilote” in 1888, followed by “Pilot” in 1904. That is why it is the only brand to feature the title on its dials. From 2013 through 2022, the Pilot range very much reflected that early 20th-century style. They were distinctly throwback, retro-styled timepieces.


This changed last year. The almost-steampunk Zenith Pilot range was discontinued and replaced with this much cleaner, more modern range. Zenith unveiled the Pilot Automatic in steel and ceramic alongside the Pilot Big Date Flyback in steel (with Rainbow-inspired color accents) and ceramic. Now these new Boutique Editions are added with blue dials.

Stylistically, the new generation breaks with tradition. Only the font for “Pilot” still hints at the previous generation. Otherwise, these represent a much more modern style. There is a broad, flat bezel, beefy lugs, and a modernized diamond crown. The dials feature a pattern inspired by old corrugated steel airplane fuselages. Overall, the look is direct, bold, and contemporary. My first impression upon seeing them was that it is almost a tad cartoonish but in a positive sense. I like the style, although I see that it may be controversial.

Zenith Pilot Automatic Boutique Edition

Zenith Pilot Boutique Edition specifications

The Zenith Pilot Boutique Editions are both fashioned out of stainless steel. The Automatic measures 40mm wide, 49.6mm long, and 12.9mm thick, with a 100m water resistance rating. Inside ticks the El Primero caliber 3620. This is a high-beat 36,000vph caliber, ensuring a beautifully smooth sweep of the seconds hand.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition

The Pilot Big Date Flyback is a little bit bigger at 42.5mm wide, 51.4mm long, and 14.3mm thick (2mm of which is the crystal). This model is powered by the El Primero caliber 3652. Like the 3620, it features a 60-hour power reserve and 36,000vph pace. Here, however, you get flyback chronograph functionality thrown in. The big date at 6 o’clock changes in a flash — less than 0.03 seconds.

Both watches come with two straps — a sailcloth-style strap in blue and a brown calfskin strap on a double-folding clasp. There is a clever quick-release system that works extremely well, unlike those of some competitors. You unhook the strap by pushing a button and simply push it back in place for a secure fit.

Some ergonomic challenges

I know the restyling was controversial; Brandon’s release article was met with very mixed responses in the comments section. I, however, like the new styling and appreciate that Zenith is looking forward with a more modern design. But, then again, I do experience some fatigue for vintage-inspired watches in general. Having missed last year’s Watches and Wonders, I was very keen to go hands-on with these.

My first impressions were great. The build quality and finishing are as you would expect at the price, and the matte blue corrugated dials are very attractive. But when I strapped these two Zenith Pilot watches to my wrist, things changed a bit. The 40mm Automatic is relatively small for a pilot’s watch, but it is quite clunky. It stands rather tall on the wrist and doesn’t curve at all. The 42.5mm chronograph, interestingly, sits a bit better on my 17.5cm wrist. Both look oversized, but the 40mm model feels a little tubby and top-heavy.

I keep hammering on about how proportions matter more than dimensions, and these watches prove it. The lugs are bigger on the 40mm model, both absolutely and proportionally, even though the lug-to-lug is a tad shorter. On the chronograph, the lugs dip down a little steeper, although the bottom is almost flat. Neither watch will win any prizes for wearing comfort, but the bigger chronograph wears its proportions better, I feel. To me, the Automatic strikes the wrong balance. It should either have been a bit smaller and a lot thinner or a bit larger and more curved, leaning into the “oversized pilot’s watch” vibe more confidently.

Zenith Pilot Big Date Flyback Boutique Edition

Living with the Zenith Pilot Boutique Editions

Besides my ergonomic quibbles, these watches are very well made. The movements are buttery smooth to operate. The column-wheel chronograph has some of the nicest button action I have felt short of an A. Lange & Söhne. Handling these watches, you feel why the El Primero is such a legendary movement.

Some aesthetic issues started to bother me a bit after some time. No, it is not the oversized sub-dials on the chronograph that eat into some numerals; in fact, I like their visual weight. It is not the slight mismatch in color between the dial and the strap that some colleagues noticed either. My issues are with the hands. With such a bold case and dial, I feel the classic sword hands could be executed a bit wider. The hand stacks are also quite high. I feel that heavier-looking hands, stacked lower, would look more forceful and in character with the watch.

If I come across as critical, that is because I am. Zenith is one of the greatest at crafting pilot’s watches (and chronographs). Also, the Automatic is priced at €8,100, while the chronograph comes in at €12,300. Even with watch prices creeping steadily up overall, I feel that we should expect fantastic watches here.

So, would I recommend the new Zenith Pilot?

Let’s try to answer that core question: are these fantastic watches? I think they are close. My aesthetic quarrels are largely subjective, and the ergonomics can work out radically differently on your wrist. The build quality, on the other hand, is more objectively superb. So, if you have the new Zenith Pilots on your shortlist, I would recommend trying them on at your local boutique. If they sit right on your wrist, I would recommend them.

I love the direction in which Zenith took the design. These are a little bit awkward but in a cool way. At least you cannot confuse them with anything else. There is a lot of recognizable and strong design language being set here, upon which I hope to see many more variations. I just feel there is room for a hair more refinement in details like the case curvature and the handset. Then again, you know I will find such points of improvement in almost all watches, so consider my critique in that light.

What do you think of the new Zenith Pilot watches and these blue Boutique Editions? Let us know in the comments below.