Much has been made about the massive trend for vintage-inspired watches in recent years. But this is an industry that logically should have died out years ago. Quartz was supposed to kill the mechanical watch, and that did not happen. Then came the smartwatch – which is only going to get smarter – and yet still people cannot get enough of hand-wound and automatic watches.
With the past underpinning watchmaking’s present, it helps to have a rich history to draw upon, and the watch pictured here shows how much Zenith has to play with. This watch is inspired by a chronograph developed in the 1960s for the Italian air force. The original Tipo CP-2 was commissioned by Italian retailer Cairelli on behalf of national military chiefs, who wanted a pilot’s watch that could easily be read in low light. That led to a case size of 43mm – massive at the time, if more usual in the modern age.
Just 2500 examples of the original watch were made, but it has always been a favourite among collectors and, in 2016, the year after Zenith celebrated its 150th birthday, a modern version was made. The original watch had a hand-wound movement – this being the only choice, as an automatic chronograph was not available at the time. The modern watch contains an El Primero movement – the pioneering automatic chronograph calibre that was unveiled in 1969 and continues to be a mainstay of the Zenith range today.
New for this year are two versions of the watch in either aged steel or bronze. Bronze has been one of the hottest metals in watchmaking recently, with many brands offering it as a case material on one or more of their watches. It is particularly favoured because of how the copper alloy oxidises, with each watch developing an individual patina over time. This tells you a lot about the modern market: even when they make new watches, they are thinking about how well they will age.
The Zenith Pilot Cronometro Tipo CP-2 Flyback has a 43mm case made from either aged steel or bronze and comes on an oily nubuck leather strap. £6800.