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The first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air flight by the Wright brothers on 17 December 1903 covered a mere 40 metres, flying just a couple of feet above ground, with Orville Wright, spread-eagled across the lower wing of the biplane, functioning as the world's first aeroplane pilot. News of this achievement was met with disbelief across the Atlantic Ocean almost to the point of scorn. Only when the Wright brothers repeated a flight on French soil in 1908, one year before French aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot crossed the English channel by aeroplane wearing a Zenith timepiece, were the detractors forced to apologise for their scathing criticism. Much more significant than the Wright brothers' first flight itself, however, were the principles that the brothers had developed for controlling any fixed-wing aircraft, starting with the gliders that they launched on the Kitty Hawk sands in North Carolina. Based on controlling the aircraft along three axes - pitch, roll and yaw - they remain the basic principles for controlling fixed-wing aircraft to this day. A vintage Zenith cockpit clock Zenith The development of aviation created an entirely new market for flight instruments, in which Zenith was one of the early pioneers. Using the same proven technology that helped its pocket replica watches withstand vibrations and magnetic fields, the brand was one of the first to supply altimeters, on-board clocks and chronographs to equip early aircraft. As the field of manned flight evolved, it made its mark on the history of wristreplica watches. Genuine wristreplica watches (rather than pocket replica watches that had merely been adapted to wear on the wrist) had only been around for a couple of years at the time and were quickly adapted for use by early pilots. The key requirements: a clear dial, ideally black to avoid reflections, a large crown that could be manipulated wearing gloves and, of course, a reliable mechanical movement to ensure precision timekeeping. The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT 1903 is the perfect example of such a watch. But despite its vintage look, it is a timepiece of the 21st century with the technology to match. Part of a collection that is still going strong some 75 years after it was fitted to the instrument panels of aircraft such as the Caudron trainer planes used by the French air force, this new limited-edition model pays tribute to the Wright brothers who started it all over a century ago. The Zenith Pilot Type 20 GMT 1903 Zenith It recreates the look of its vintage predecessors using a DLC-coated titanium case with an imposing 48mm diameter, in which an unusually high level of detail has been applied to creating an original vintage look. The black dial is sandblasted five times and the period Arabic numerals are given an "old radium" treatment before the more modern coating of SuperLuminova is applied. The same treatment is applied to the black ruthenium hands and the distinctive pattern of apparent ageing that this creates is unique to each individual watch. Precision timekeeping is ensured by the Zenith Elite 693 self-winding movement, which runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour and offers a power reserve of at least 50 hours. It drives the central hour and minute hands and a small seconds indication at 9 o'clock on the dial. An additional central GMT hand offers a handy reference for the modern pilot or traveller and is easily adjusted using a large pushbutton at 10 o'clock. Beneath this pushbutton, on the side of the case, a plate bearing the individual number of the limited edition is screwed on to the case middle. Only 1,903 units of this piece will be available, commemorating the year of the Wright brothers' flight. A bund-style strap in brown nubuck leather perfectly underscores the pilot replica watch credentials of this piece and has a lining that is heat-embossed with the "Zenith Flying Instruments" logo, the same found on the case-back. After Felix Baumgartner jumped from a balloon on the edge of space to free-fall back to Earth wearing a Zenith timepiece less than two years ago, the brand now comes full circle with this admirable tribute to the early daredevils in aviation history. Over the past two decades, a new psychological bar has been set within the replica watch industry: in-house movements are regarded as the nec plus ultra - mechanical independence being the best way to legitimize a high-end brand in the eyes of demanding customers. These days, with more and more companies able to produce their own movements and claiming that coveted Manufacture status, the bar might be set differently: by the Midas touch. The star gold model in Chopard's 2013 collection: the L. U. C Perpetual Tourbillon. Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo Few replica watch brands are capable of making their own cases, let alone gold cases. Chopard is one of the rare manufacturers mastering the gold case production process from A to Z, due to an in-house foundry where 24-carat fine yellow gold ingots are transformed into five different shades of 18-carat gold alloys, used to shape not only replica watch cases but also jewellery. Personality goes a long wayDie-hard aficionados will enthusiastically discuss the aesthetical and technical aspects of Manufacture movements and complications, but replica watch cases aren't nearly as fiercely debated - despite the fact that they contribute as much or even more to the personality of a timepiece. If a dial may be considered the face of a watch, the case certainly is the body. Much like in a movement or on a dial, a replica watch case also requires maximum precision and any replica watch company that is able to completely control the quality of production will not only save precious time by responding faster to its needs, but also gain an edge on the competition. Sculpted in the precious metal: the Happy Sport Medium Automatic with gold case & bracelet. Chopard Founded by young Swiss watchmaker Louis-Ulysse Chopard in 1860 and bought by a dynasty of German jewellers in 1963, Chopard has now acquired five full decades of expertise in smelting its own gold and creating precious alloys for the brand's timepieces. The company has three manufacturing sites; Pforzheim, in the German region from where the Scheufele family originally hails, has a facility mainly dedicated to jewellery; Fleurier is where the movements are manufactured; whereas Meyrin (on the outskirts of Geneva) comprises the headquarters and several watchmaking trades - including the workshop where gold cases and bracelets are produced. Five shades of goldEach year, Chopard buys at least 2. 5 tons of gold - that's 2,500 one-kilo certified gold bars (corresponding to a 999,9 fineness standard). Every gold bar is smelted and blended with other metals to create various hues of gold: white gold, two shades of yellow gold (2N, 3N) and two tones of rose gold (4N, 5N). Regarding yellow and rose gold hues, silver and copper are mixed in different proportions: for the yellow 2N, it's 75% gold, plus 16% silver and 9% copper; for the 4N rose shade, the silver amount goes down to 9% while the copper part ascends to 16%. In the case of white gold, palladium is added and then rhodium-plated. It all starts with a one-kilo certified 999,9 pure gold bar. Chopard The 18-carat alloy (or 750/1000 gold, meaning 750 grams of pure gold for 1 kilo of matter) instituted by law in most countries is greatly appreciated because it provides an excellent balance between resistance, excellence and fine gold content; it is also ideal for setting precious stones and stands up well to the impacts sustained in daily life, whereas 24-carat gold is too malleable. Pure gold has a hardness of 30 Vickers (2. 5 Mohs); while a gold alloy may be ten times as hard (up to 300 Vickers). Alchemy duoThe gold casting workshop involves two members of staff, headed by Portugal's Paulo Caetano, who confided in us that Chopard's 18-carat gold always has a little over the required 750 grams of fine gold. Besides the foundry, the workshop has been equipped with a second vacuum induction oven entirely computerised that serves to cast 6 to 20 kilos of gold at once. Even though new technologies are employed, the Midas touch is still needed: human expertise remains crucial, because gold is made according to a specific recipe and requires carefully controlled gestures in order to obtain the ideal chemistry. The flaming red liquid begins to bubble at the heart of the crucible: once fired, it pours like a flow of lava into a steel mould. Chopard To mix the various components of an alloy together, they are placed in a high heat (around 1000oC) crucible to combine them and then poured into a mould to form a larger bar. The original thicker bar passes several times through a machine to progressively become a thinner bar of 60x6 cm; further firings at an average temperature of 600C are needed in order to restore the ingot to its initial structure. It may then be rolled one last time in order to give it the necessary thickness that is required by the creations for which the gold is intended; then each one of those bars is labelled and one corner is cut out to be sent for verification (the amount of precious metal in an alloy) and certification (whether it qualifies for the hallmark) at the Precious Metal Control of the Swiss customs administration. A flamboyant sports watch: the 2013 version of the Mille Miglia chronograph in rose gold, cast at the Chopard foundry. Chopard Before the alloy is ready for usage, further firings at around 600C are needed. The lengthy stamping process generally involves 16 steps to make a replica watch case, and between each of those steps, the metal is annealed for more than half an hour at high temperature in an oven to relieve the stresses from the stamping and prevent the metal from breaking. Some 16 stamping steps are required in making a gold replica watch case. Miguel Seabra/Espiral do Tempo Since the dawn of time, gold has been the stuff of myths, legends and fairy tales - from the Philosopher's Stone to the famous El Dorado. While no one has yet discovered a way of turning any base metal into gold through mystic alchemical procedures, gold still has the Midas touch. It has been the investment phenomenon of the past decade, frequently hitting new highs, and during that period, investors in gold have made nearly five times their money while Wall Street has gone sideways. So maybe it's time to think about a gold watch! The L. U. C 1937 Classic: a precious timepiece manufactured in-house, from the movement right down to the gold case and bracelet. Chopard