Double the gear train and double the fun.
I really like the stylish and thick sports watches that were born from the 1970s to the mid-1980s. I have asked Saori, Rich and Sean in our retro team to keep looking for the super mint Heuer Kentucky. Or Mark II Speedmaster. But what I really have been bothering them is the old Zenith Defy from the 1970s with a trapezoid bracelet.
I have tried them when they landed in the store before, and when I visited Zenith Manufacture in Le Locle recently, when I was in Geneva Auction Week in Switzerland, I was able to deal with almost the same example, Zenith Product Development Director and Heritage Director Romain Marietta .
Zenith Defy was born in 1969. It is a series of sturdy and durable watches with unique design, a few years before the development of luxury sports watch types. The octagonal tonneau-shaped case, the 14-sided bezel, the Gay Fréres trapezoid bracelet-enough to drive a person crazy. At Le Locle, the experience has been improved by comparing the latest high-tech Defy version with its older predecessor.
Zenith kindly lent me a sample of the new Defy Extreme for 2021, which is a bold extension of the company’s contemporary flagship product, Defy 21. When looking at Defy Extreme for the first time, it is easy to overlook this line as an ambitious attempt to capture advanced 21st century watch design in a bottle. Its frosted case is full of hard corners and corners, which is true; in addition, the case design is closely related to the Zenith Defy series in the early 1970s. The new Defy is not only Zenith’s response to the high-tech world of watchmaking in the 21st century, but also a way for the Swiss company to finally express a forgotten part of its history.
I chatted with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare when I was in Switzerland and asked him how Defy fits the brand’s goals today, especially since works like Chronomaster Sport and Chronomaster Original have won all awards and headlines this year.
“Defy is about bringing our timekeeping expertise and our mastery of chronographs into the 21st century. Defy is about today and tomorrow. Chronomaster is about yesterday and today. For me, Defy is the locomotive that drives the brand forward.” luxury swiss watches
What makes it ticking
The special feature of Defy is intricately connected with the internal movement. The El Primero 9004 calibre is one of the few chronograph movements in the history of horology, which can record up to one hundredth of a second. Zenith managed to achieve this goal with the central chronograph second hand, which can make a lightning-fast rotation around the dial every second. In the past, some other watch brands have reached similar speeds, including TAG Heuer, FP Journe and Montblanc, but Zenith was one of the first companies to apply this technology to the production of watches.
The 9004 movement is based on the original El Primero architecture, but contains a secondary gear train and a high-frequency escapement running at 360,000 vph or 50 Hz, and a second main barrel. The normal timing part of the watch is similar to the traditional El Primero, with a frequency of 5 Hz, or 36,000 vph, and then a specific part of the movement’s auxiliary stopwatch, which is isolated, so it does not consume energy for the basic timing mechanism. There is no clutch to connect the two separate parts of the whole-although both are integrated on the same main board-so running the chronograph will cause the timing fluctuation or amplitude loss of the main time display to be zero.
The fact that each regulation system has an independent power reserve illustrates this most clearly. Traditional hours and minutes have the standard El Primero 50-hour power reserve, while the chronograph can only run in 50-minute increments. Have you noticed that the Defy Extreme has no sub-dial for elapsed hours? This is why.
Although the two main barrels are independent of each other, they are wound individually. Traditional chronographs are wound by a rotor or by turning the crown counterclockwise, while the chronograph can only be wound by manually turning the crown clockwise-it takes about 50 laps to provide enough power for the chronograph. In order to track the running time of the chronograph, the power reserve is located at 12 o’clock.
Due to the great emphasis on the internal movement of the Defy Extreme, fake Zenith uses a partially open dial with colored sapphire crystals. You can see the main chronograph balance wheel at 8 o’clock, and its main barrel is located at 12 o’clock; the independent chronograph balance wheel can be seen through the sapphire crystal glass back. When the chronograph started, it was running at an incredible 360,000 bph (50 Hz!), moving so fast, it was almost impossible to tell if it was moving. (One of my favorite details of hollow Zenith watches is the star-shaped silicon escape wheel.)
Since Defy Extreme can measure up to one hundredth of a second, Zenith ensures that it can be done clearly. There is a scale ring on the rehaut, measuring 1 to 100, and then three sub-dials-chronograph minutes at three o’clock, chronograph seconds at six o’clock, and running seconds at nine o’clock. Unlike the traditional El Primero 400 and El Primero 3600, the date window is placed on the bench.
I have always considered Zenith to be one of the most intellectually satisfactory watch companies in the past or present. My opinion is correct when wearing Defy Extreme, even if its naming convention sounds like it was born out of the syrupy haze of Mountain Dew’s marketing department.
Zenith is one of the few large watch companies that only uses its own mechanical movements. The company uses zero-source movements in any currently produced watches. This is a very rare thing. For luxury brands, Zenith’s operations also focus on accessibility. I mentioned that Zenith was one of the first watchmakers to put the ability to measure elapsed time to one hundredth of a second, and its price was less than $50,000. But I didn’t mention-dare I say-how extreme the difference is. If you appreciate the technical advantages inside, Defy Extreme offers an impressive value proposition.
Finally, Defy Extreme runs as a larger platform-45mm × 15.4mm-demonstrating Zenith’s overall technical capabilities. Similar to how we look at Lange and salivate for their high-tech achievements in Double and Triple Split, we should look at the high-tech achievements of Zenith’s El Primero 3600 and El Primero 21 in the same way.
Some of you may have read these dimensions and moaned. However, if you happen to find yourself in a room with Defy Extreme, please keep trying. You will realize that the combination of size and weight causes its wear to be different from anything else. The presence of the wrist is definitely there, but it will not make you feel frustrated or attract undue attention. I wore it and a suit jacket to participate in the GPHG, while running around in Geneva to participate in different auctions and wearing different formal shirts. I naturally forgot to wear it on my wrist many times.
I also showed it to the gathered collectors and pressed as much as possible. guess what? People think it’s cool-because it’s really cool. Among them was John Goldberger wearing a vintage Longines watch, who nodded to me in agreement.
I have a few people commented that Defy Extreme represents the trend of Zenith jumping on integrated bracelets. Or perhaps showing a certain degree of undue influence flowing from Hublot’s recklessness, Zenith is the young partner of LVMH’s watchmaking department-although more successful-stable. I don’t think so. I showed those people the old-fashioned Defy photos I showed you to prove my point.
Zenith was always there and did it.
Compared with the previous version of Defy 21, the biggest surprise for me with Defy Extreme is that I like it. Yes, it is bigger and has fewer colors (I think the Defy 21 model does a very good job-I love some UV light), but the micro-blasted titanium on my sample watch is very smooth and has an attractive matte finish Bronze beauty. Compared with the first time I saw news pictures, this watch reads much quieter in human eyes.
On the wrist, the appearance is very coherent, full of sharp corners, clean facets, and a sculptural form, which smiles knowingly under the slim architectural silhouette of Bulgari Octo Finissimo. The matching titanium three-chain bracelet is also a new existence. Its strong lines and one-piece appearance immediately caught my attention. Unlike most other integrated bracelets, Defy Extreme uses a proprietary tool-free system that allows you to easily switch between it, the provided textured rubber strap, and an additional Velcro strap. Although I recently stated that I don’t like rubber straps, I mainly wear fashion watches on rubber straps. Life is full of contradictions-oh well.
Defy Extreme is the rare watch I can imagine, which can attract retro minds as well as technical fanatics. It has the same appeal as a fully equipped G-Shock, I mean the absolute best way. (First remind my roommates, let them find the similarities first.) It is this kind of watch that makes you feel adventurous.
Defy Extreme is a large, eye-catching and powerful watch. Despite its large size, it is very convenient to wear. This is the kind of watch I can imagine that can be paired with a collection full of vintage watches-how cool it is to be invited just to watch the central pointer zoom around the dial once a second. Surprise, surprise, people like fast-moving things.
Zenith did not receive enough praise for continuing to develop its iconic El Primero movement. But I don’t even want to propose the traditional El Primero in the context of the Defy series. It seems that the ability of hundredths of a second will continue to be exclusive to the bigger and bolder Defy, and Chronomaster has received a new tenth of a second movement-El Primero 3600-as seen in the original Chronomaster Sport and Chronomaster .
“Our world is timekeeping and precise,” Tonar said. “We must continue to break through the limitations in this area. This is not easy, because technically speaking, how far can you go? There are some limitations in physics that you cannot go beyond.”
The Defy series will not go anywhere. It was 50 years old two years ago, just like El Primero did, although not so much fanfare.
Although El Primero has brought Zenith copy for the past half a century, if we listen to Tornare’s vision, it is clear that watches like Defy Extreme will push the company to new heights and move forward.