The Zenith brand which is part of the LVMH Group choose the Baselworld 2016 event to redefine its strategic approach. From now on, Zenith will try to associate itself more with: vintage inspired chronographs and motorsports, be it racing cars or motorbikes. Their previous bronze inspired timepieces, had already gone for the faux-patina and vintage look. But, they were still up in the sky with aviation themed watches, although now they’ve been grounded.


Café Riders from the 1960’s in England * Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

Back in England during the 1950’s surged a bikers movements, which felt the need to shorten the time it took them to commute between cafés. So, they began customizing their motorcycles by striping the bikes of all redundant elements and maximizing engine power. And thus was coined the expression “Café Racer” that in essence described a rebellious counterculture heading nowhere fast. The goal of many of these riders was to be able to swift from one café to another and back, before a single song had played till conclusion on a jukebox.


Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

Expressions from this customized idle era include: “the ton” which meant to reach 100 miles per hour; or “record-racing” which related to the back and forth between café establishments before a chosen record had played out. Some claim these stories are based more on myth than reality. But, this movement is plausibly associated to the rockabilly music scene. And the “greasers” fashion style and excessive hair gel use, that also became prominent in America’s subculture, played to the tune of Elvis Presley and further mythicized by actors like: Marlon Brando and James Dean.


Marlon Brando (Left-side) and James Dean (Right-side) * Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

The 45mm round case is made of aged stainless steel for that vintage look, while the caseback featuring an engraving of the Café Racer Spirit (man on a motorcycle) is made out of titanium.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

There are two pushers to control the chronograph on the right side of the dial, with the iconic large screwed-in onion crown between them. Also maintains the fixed wired lugs and vintage militaristic feel, custom to this “Heritage Pilot” model line.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

The slate-grey toned with grained pattern dial exhibits Arabic stencil style hour numerals, which are pointed out by black ruthenium-plated and faceted hands. Both the numerals and hands feature a SuperLuminova SLN GL beige lume to them. There are also two sub-dials: a 30-minute counter towards the 3 o’clock position and a sub-seconds located near the 9 o’clock mark. Also a white minute railroad track runs along the side with every five-minute mark highlighted in orange, matching the “Pilot” inscription.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

Zenith Heritage Pilot Café Racer

This “Zenith Heritage Pilot Café Racer” (Ref#: 11.2430.4069/21.C773) is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, caliber 4069, with 35 jewels and 36,000 vph. Power reserve on this timepiece can last up to 50 hours. This is the first time Zenith has integrated a classical chronograph in the Pilot Collection. Mounted to the watch is a green oily nubuck leather strap with protective rubber lining and a titanium pin buckle.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

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Written by Mauro Az