The Type 20 Extra Special Bronze
It"s been a few years since we"ve had interesting bronze watches at Topper Fine Jewelers. Back in the mid 2000"s, we added an Italian brand (Anonimo) just as they were completing their first few runs of bronze-cased watches. The most popular for us was the "Polluce", which was a bronze version of a robust dive watch. The use of bronze in timepieces is a relatively new development, though there are older non dive watches in bronze. Perhaps the first was Gerald Genta"s "Gefica". However, these days when people think about bronze watches, it"s likely that Anonimo and Panerai come to mind, and that bronze is reserved for dive watches.
In contrast to the bronze stereotype, the Zenith Type 20 Extra Special Bronze is a departure from the watches that have come before it with its use of bronze in a pilot watch. Otherwise it presents all of the classic pilot watch features: a matted black dial, clean Arabic markers, onion crown, large case (this one is 45mm), and distressed, brown leather strap. Interestingly, this could very well be the first bronze pilot watch.
What makes owning a bronze watch different from those of other materials is not just the visual reddish tone of the material when new, but the way the watch patinas over time. Bronze is an alloy made primarily of copper and tin, and as the copper interacts over time with the air, humidity, and the acidity in the wearer"s skin, it will oxidize and change color. Depending on the environmental factors mentioned above, and the length of exposure to each, this process can take days, weeks, or months. However, in every situation, variances in the metal will cause the patination process to provide a unique coloration pattern in every piece.
For those who would appreciate the physical change and resulting unique appearance, bronze is a wonderful choice in case material. It is not a good choice for those who prefer to maintain the like-new appearance of an original finish. In the photos below is a watch which has only been in the relatively dry air of Burlingame for less than a month, and the patination has already began.
Unlike the 2014 Extra Special which featured a lower price point and contained a Selita movement, Zenith has gone back to exclusively using their own manufactured movements. This Extra Special features the "in house" Elite 679 Calibre which is essentially the same movement in the Elite Calibre 683 in the Pilot Type 20 40mm model that came out a few years ago. The main difference between the two movements is that the 679 features a central second hand, while the 683 features a subdial second hand at nine o"clock.
The fact that the model so closely resembles others in the Pilot series is a positive development for Zenith. Fortunately, the 2015 model line is entirely clear of Selita movements, and all Zenith models introduced this year resemble timepieces you would expect from Zenith.
A bronze pilot watch is a unique and interesting idea, and one that I think is refreshing. The Zenith Type 20 Extra Special Bronze retails for $7,600.
The simple, symmetric, and matt black dial of the Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.
The faceted and and gold-plated hands of the Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.
Look close and you can see how the case has already started to patina.
The short lugs and distressed leather strap make for a comfortable fit on most all wrists.
The domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides.
Large onion crowns provided easy use even when the early pilots were wearing gloves.
The distressed leather strap and titanium pin-buckle of the Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.
The ornately engraved titanium case back of the Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.
The outstanding lume of the Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.