The luxury watches in the Zenith Defy collection are especially robust and often have elaborate designs. Top watches in this series can measure 1/100th of a second or feature a tourbillon and are waterproof to 1,000 m (100 bar).
The luxury watch manufacturer Zenith, based in Le Locle, Switzerland, introduced the Defy collection in the late 1960s. As the series' name suggests, the watches are waterproof, shockproof, and generally very robust. One example of this robustness is the Defy Xtreme chronograph. The extravagantly designed timepieces are waterproof to 1,000 m (100 bar). Inside, they're powered by the world-famous El Primero caliber, the first automatic chronograph caliber ever created. Like the Defy series, the movement was introduced to the market in 1969. Thanks to its high balance frequency of 36,000 A/h, the movement was – at the time – the most precise automatic chronograph caliber in the world. You can measure 1/10ths of a second with this timepiece.
The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 can time even more precisely than its predecessor; this watch, introduced in 2017, can measure 1/100ths of seconds. In order to achieve this, Zenith developed a new caliber with two independent swing and escapement systems. One of them is responsible for displaying the time. As is typical for the El Primero, the balance wheel in this system oscillates at 36,000 A/h. The other system, which is responsible for the chronograph functions, has a balance wheel frequency of 360,000 A/h (50 Hz), an impressive figure in watchmaking. TAG Heuer, a member of the LVMH group, has a similar timepiece on offer for 20,000 euros, the Carrera Mikrograph. The Defy El Primero 21 is more affordable, costing 12,000 euros less.
|Defy Classic Tourbillon Sea, Ref. 03.0529.4035-51.R674||50,000 euros||Waterproof to 300 m (30 bar), tourbillon, chronograph|
|Defy Xtreme Tourbillon Sea, Ref. 96.0529.4035-51.M533||42,000 euros||Titanium, chronograph, waterproof to 1,000 m (100 bar), tourbillon|
|Defy El Primero 21, Ref. 49.9000.9004/78.R582||8,500 euros||Chronograph measures 1/100th of a second, skeletonized, ceramized aluminum|
|Defy El Primero 21, Ref. 95.9000.9004/78.R582||8,000 euros||Chronograph measures 1/100th of a second, skeletonized, titanium|
|Defy El Primero 21, Ref. 95.9001.9004/01.R582||7,200 euros||Chronograph measures 1/100th of a second, silver-colored dial, titanium|
Prices for watches in the Zenith Defy collection range from a few hundred euros for a vintage quartz watch to around 50,000 euros for a Defy Classic Tourbillon Sea (03.0529.4035-51.R674). This tourbillon timepiece is waterproof to 300 m (30 bar), powered by the El Primero, and has a distinctive design that immediately catches your eye. The Xtreme models in this series are even more massive. The Defy Xtreme Tourbillon Sea (96.0529.4035-51M533) has an particularly distinctive crown guard. The 46.5-mm watch is waterproof to 1,000 m (100 bar), is limited to a run of 25 pieces, and measures in at 2 cm thick. A pre-owned titanium version in very good condition with blue accents on the dial, case, and strap costs over 40,000 euros.
The Defy El Primero 21, as its name suggests, is a chronograph made for the 21st century. Inside the 44-mm wristwatch is the in-house El Primero 9004 caliber. This movement consists of 293 pieces, is 32 mm in diameter, and 7.9 mm thick. The power reserve of the escapement and swing system, which is responsible for displaying the time, lasts at least 50 hours. The second escapement for the chronograph feature allows you to time up to 50 minutes when it's fully wound. A power reserve display at 12 o'clock lets you know how much energy is remaining. Zenith uses spirals made of carbon nanotubes in both the swing and escapement systems. Carbon nanotubes are unaffected by magnetic fields and fluctuations in temperature.
You can tell how many seconds have passed by looking at the subdial at six o'clock. You can see how many 1/100ths of a second have passed by looking at the central hand, which makes a complete rotation in one second. The small seconds is at nine o'clock and the 30-minute counter is at three o'clock. You can view the caliber and star-shaped winding rotor in action thanks to the timepiece's sapphire glass caseback.
If you also want to be able to admire the movement from the dial side, then you should look at the skeletonized versions of the Defy El Primero 21. You have your choice of a titanium or ceramicized aluminum case; both materials are very lightweight and robust. The aluminum version has a technical, modern look thanks to the black coloring and its skeletonized design. A non-skeletonized version with a titanium case, silver-colored dial, and black subdials is also available. This variant exudes the most retro charm of the three Defy El Primero 21 watches that were introduced in 2017. Its design, reminiscent of early models from 1969, contributes to its retro look. These ultra-precise timepieces are currently in trend and many Swiss manufacturers are offering retro timepieces. Every version of the Defy El Primero 21 is 14.5 mm thick.
Prices for the ultra-modern Zenith Defy El Primero 21 start at 7,200 euros, but can increase depending on the version. For 7,200 euros, you can purchase the non-skeletonized model with a silver-colored dial (95.9001.9004/01.R582). For around 8,000 euros, you can purchase the titanium version with a skeletonized dial (95.9000.9004/78.R582). The version made of ceramicized aluminum (49.9000.9004/78.R582) costs around 8,500 euros.
Zenith introduced a groundbreaking timepiece in late summer 2017: the Zenith Defy Lab with the caliber ZO 342. What's revolutionary about this movement, however, is that it doesn't have a balance wheel. The swing system is made from a silicon wafer and ensures the watch runs precisely; the timepiece only deviates by 0.3 seconds a day, according to the manufacturer. This precision is made possible thanks to a frequency of 108,000 A/h (15 Hz). With this caliber, Zenith tripled the frequency of the El Primero. They also improved the amplitude, which positively contributes to the watch's precision. The caliber ZO 342 has a power reserve lasting an impressive 60 hours.
The silicon oscillator offers many advantages: It isn't affected by fluctuations in temperature or magnetic fields up to 1,100 gauss, nor it doesn't require any lubrication. Furthermore, it has an innovative case made of Aeronith, an aluminum composite that's lighter than both titanium and aluminum. Only ten of these watches were produced, with a list price of almost 30,000 CHF.
Zenith's extravagant designs in the Zenith Defy collection are simultaneously beloved and despised by fans of the brand. If you prefer the look of a typical Zenith watch, then you should look at the El Primero Chronomaster series; it is made up of countless chronographs featuring the El Primero caliber. The model with reference number 03.2150.400/69.C713 is especially authentic, seeing as it has a case diameter of 38 mm and a design reminiscent of the original chronographs from 1969. New, this timepiece costs around 4,800 euros. The El Primero Chronomaster collection also features many complex watches, such as the rose gold El Primero Tourbillon GFJ . The 45-mm watch is special, as it features a fusée-and-chain transmission. You should be prepared to spend around 70,000 euros on this timepiece.
The Pilot series is another beloved Zenith collection. It features many retro pilot's watches with designs resembling those of timepieces from the first half of the 20th century. A new Pilot Type 20 Extra Special with three hands and a stainless steel case is available for less than 4,000 euros.