Zenith relaunched the Defy collection at Baselworld 2017 with a futuristic high-beat chronograph the Defy El Primero 21, capable of measuring up to 1/100th of a second. While its design was ‘new’ to the brand, many collectors familiar with the single star brand bemoaned a dilution of brand design, given the Defy’s shared styles with sister brand Tag Heuer, Hublot and in some instances Bvlgari. Undoubtedly, the use of similar elements can be attributed to Zenith’s change of ownership to LVMH, under the familiar leadership of Jean-Claude Biver.
Interesting to note however, is how the LVMH watch brands work together for synergy, instead of functioning in SILOs as commonly seen in the other two major luxury groups. Each of the three brands are positioned for a different target market, despite sharing similar product traits. Zenith is uniquely positioned as the brand with more resources channelled to research and development, as seen through the Defy Lab, a time-only watch with a super-high-frequency oscillator.
Following the hype of the ‘concept’ watch Defy Lab, Zenith adds an entry level model with the Defy Classic.
Review: The Zenith Defy Classic
The case and dial
The watch measures 41 mm in diameter and 10.75 mm in height. It uses the same case construction and design as with the previous Defy collection models and is cased in titanium. Although subjective, some familiar with Bulgari’s Octo and Hublot’s Big Bang may see elements of the two iconic models in the Defy’s case design.
The watch is available in both bracelet as well as strap. Noticeably, the bracelet construction is thinner and flatter than usual, without rounded edges. The titanium bracelet is brushed for a more sporty look. Unlike the bracelets that we commonly see with larger mid links, like those on Rolex Oyster bracelets or Omega Sports models, Zenith’s Defy bracelet uses a shorter mid-link which makes for better adjustment.
Zenith’s Defy Classic in strap also comes with the option of a rubber strap with a blue alligator top, or a rubber strap with a textured finish. Both straps are very similar to Hublot’s gummy leather strap or the Big Bang’s tyre texture rubber strap on deployant buckle.
The watch is available in two dial types, a sunburst blue or an openworked dial. The sunburst blue bears classic features of any dial design, with applied baton indices and lume markers on both the hands and hour markers. The skeleton dial comes at a premium of almost $1000 against the sunburst dial, but is the more iconic of the two. One might sound like a broken record, but skeleton models are also becoming a staple with the other LVMH brands. The Defy openworked dial bears a star motif in gun metal color, with chamfered edges. The dial also reveals components of the movement and the date wheel.
Zenith’s Defy Classic uses an in-house Elite 670 caliber, 670SK for the skeleton dial model. It bears the basic functions of a time only watch, with hours, minutes, seconds and a date display. Beating at 4 Hz, the movement has a conservative 48 hours power reserve. Zenith has yet to produce a movement to match the 3 days power reserve movements of other brands that is steadily becoming the new standard in the industry.
Zenith’s Defy collection is an interesting space to watch for their new developments like the Defy Lab. The unique selling proposition for this collection in particular, predictably the new focus of the brand, is in creating new time-telling mechanisms and calibers. While their new offering of the Defy Lab is pleasant and good-looking, it does not bear that same uniqueness that the Defy collection should be known for. In that regard, the classic bears too much a semblance with Hublot and Tag Heuer, without the prestige of an El Primero movement. A chronograph from the brand with the 36,000 Vph movement, like the tri-colour will still be a better choice for a classic entry to the brand. Unless one is looking specifically for a time-only watch, the Defy would be a more sensible collection for a more phenomenal product. The Defy classic is too classic for a Defy, and not classic enough for an El Primero.
Prices bracelet and strap
Regular: S$9900, S$8900
Skeleton: S$10,800, S$9800
Case Material: Titanium
Dial Color: Sunburst blue or openworked
Indexes: Applied batons
Lume: Yes, on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Rubber strap with blue alligator coating, rubber strap with textured finish, brushed titanium bracelet
Caliber: In-House Elite 670 (Elite 670 SK for openworked models)
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Power Reserve: 48 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Departure in design? Fans bemoaned? Is this an artistic exaggeration? One does not need to be a Zenith historian – a very shallow dive into image search with “zenith defy 60” and/or “zenith defy 70” will reveal that current Defy line is as lawfully Zenith’s shape and heritage as can be. In fact, some people not into watches would hardly differentiate some of the old Defys from new ones. A bit deeper dive into something like Chrono24 will cement the understanding how current Defy is actually very much return for the roots and continuation of the line that did quiet some twisr]to and turns and how slogans with the word ‘tradition’ actually make sense for current Zenith.
And no, i’m Not a fan nor Zenith historian. In fact i respect the most questionable period in Zenith history – Thierry Nataff era. However, I must admit what they do now is very legitimate and truthful turn towards their history and heritage. So. All of the claims that their shapes are secondary or follow some other watch brands are simply uneducated point of view. That can be OK for forum posts, but it surely will help to do homework for articles.
Piece and hope that will help to improve rather than see it otherwise!;)