Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Extra Special Review

Past, present, and future come together to create a Pilot's watch that truly captures the golden age of aviation.

Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Extra Special Review

The first thing that comes to mind when you lay your eyes on the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Chronograph Extra Special is the case material. Contrary to the usual highly polished case which is a distinct Zenith look, this has an unconventionally rugged look; something more consistent with a vintage WW2 pilot's watch. It's also a nice larger size of 45mm with a thickness of 14.25mm.

The nostalgic feeling of these pilot watches didn't stop at the case material itself but is also felt in every element of the design from the finishing on the case to the very passé font used for the Arabic numerals. Even the screws used to seal the case have a vintage look with their rounded heads protruding slightly from the case.

brass case

The bronze case of the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph is made out of solid brass and appears to have design elements on it where they made use of oxidation to blacken the grooves in the lines on the case, crown, and chronograph buttons. Whether or not they acid-etched the case to achieve this effect is a well-kept secret, but it certainly looks great!

The Nubuck leather strap uses a process where the leather was sanded & buffed down to produce some small fibers providing a soft, almost velvet-like touch. The model featured in this review is reference number 29.2430.4069/21.c80 and comes on a vintage-looking green leather strap with off-white stitching.

nubuck leather strap in green

The matte black dial gets offset by the white railroad-style minutes & split-seconds track around the outer perimeter of the dial. The Hands of this Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph are rose gold-toned and filled with luminous material. Centered at the top of the dial is a rose gold pentacle. Beneath this star is the Zenith wordmark with the words "Montre D'Aeronef" (pilot watch) just underneath it. Just above the 6 o'clock position is the word 'Pilot,' printed in orange and surrounded by what appears to be the creative use of blockquotes.


Titanium case back has the Zenith Flying Instruments logo, a special engraving that says "Zenith Flying Instruments" around the top, and the words "Montre D'aeronef Type 20" around the bottom. Engraved at the center of the case back is an Airplane and coat of arms with the Zenith logo in the center and of course the recognizably Zenith five-pointed star above it.

engraved case back

The Crown is oversized and protrudes quite a bit from the right side of the case but not in a visually unbalanced kind of way. Somehow the black stripes which are part of the design of the crown make the crown appear smaller than it is.

The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph pushers are a long rectangular shape with rounded edges and have about a dozen grooved lines to provide better grip when starting or stopping the stopwatch function.

chronograph pushers
Zenith El Primero caliber 4069
Zenith El Primero caliber 4069

It should come as no surprise to any watch aficionado that the Zenith El Primero movement is what was used to power this column-wheel chronograph. The in-house 35-jewel Zenith El Primero caliber 4069 is what makes this watch indeed Extra Special. It is comprised of 254 parts and has a 50-hour power reserve. The 4069 automatic movement beats at 5Hz or 36,000 VpH making it a highly precise chronograph.


The Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Chronograph is an excellent pilot watch that is built tough and that has the weathered look of a veteran air force pilot. The movement that powers this watch is possibly one of the most iconic chronograph movements ever made and there are several models available with various color combinations.


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