In March, Zenith’s Pilot watch collection got new wings when it was given a stealth makeover in a handsome all-black iteration. To celebrate, the Swiss watchmaker is hosting an exhibition at Watches of Switzerland in its Hudson Yards boutique in New York City starting August 8 through September 10 that will showcase the brand’s rich history of creating pilot’s watches.
As far back as 1888, the company trademarked the word “Pilote” (French for pilot), followed by the English word in 1904. The reason? It was an early supplier of dashboard instruments in aviation. And in 1909, the first person to fly across the English Channel—French aviator Louis Blériot—wore a Zenith pilot’s watch on his wrist.
To chart some of its history with the skies, Zenith will have six Zenith Pilot heritage pieces on display at Watches of Switzerland, alongside its new collection of 3-hand automatic and flyback chronograph Pilots (the latter of which come equipped with new El Primero movements). The exhibition will include the following: a Dashboard Altimeter (1910s), Pilot Wristwatch (1928-1930s), Chronograph Tipo CP2 (1968-72), El Primero Pilot-Diver (1972), El Primero Rainbow Fly-Back (1997), and El Primero Pilot Big Date Special (2010). For aviation and horological enthusiasts, you could consider this a sort of visual collector’s guide. Although, the new all-black ceramic Zenith Pilots are great looking and offer plenty of reasons to get interested in this brand, which, in case you didn’t know, has a truly rich history in the watchmaking industry, having played a hand in its revival in the post-quartz crisis era.
The company has been on an upward trajectory under the leadership of CEO Julien Tornare, who took over the helm of the brand in 2017 after a 17-year-long career at Vacheron Constantin. Sales were up 45 percent over last year and many insiders in the industry are closely following Tornare’s own trajectory. Rumors are swirling that he could be poised to take over the helm at TAG Heuer (like Zenith, it is also owned by LVMH), while Frédéric Arnault, the current CEO of TAG Heuer and the son of LVMH head honcho, Bernard Arnault, is thought to be headed to Bulgari. Arnault, however, has denied these rumors to Bloomberg. Despite the buzz, one thing is for sure: Arnault Sr., currently the second richest person in the world just under Elon Musk, has big intentions for all of his company’s brands, which is why Zenith will continue to be one to watch.