Review: New Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone

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Zenith recently announced a collaboration with Filipe Pantone, and we were told that within hours, the complete allocation for some markets were spoken for. We managed to get a close look at the new Defy 21 Filipe Pantone, and here are our thoughts.

A global sensation in the world of contemporary art, Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone has reached his star in becoming one of the brightest talents in the world of contemporary art. Instantly recognizable, polarizing and never leaving observers indifferent, Felipe Pantone’s work is coveted by art-lovers and those with an eye for radical design.

Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone

The Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is priced at US$19,100.00 and on

Zenith and Felipe Pantone began their collaboration in 2020, when the Manufacture offered the façade of its main building as a canvas to the contemporary artist. Now, Felipe Pantone has reimagined Zenith’s most advanced chronograph to date, the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone, a strikingly colourful creation that is all about playing with frequencies – visually and mechanically.

With its 1/100th of a second El Primero 21 chronograph movement beating at an extremely high frequency of 36’000 vibrations per hour, the DEFY 21 is a logical choice of canvas onto which Felipe Pantone could express his “visible spectrum concept”, where all the detectable frequencies of light and its refracted colours come into play with the highest-frequency chronograph in production.

The Case

The DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone case have been revisited by Felipe Pantone for a dynamic overhaul. The black ceramic DEFY 21 features a grid pattern engraved on the bezel, and “FP#1” engraved on the four corners of the case, denoting “Felipe Pantone El Primero”. Allowing the various details of the chromatic dial and movement to stand out, the artist opted for a black textured rubber strap with a warped grid motif.

For those who prefer an even bolder look that matches the striking tones of the dial and movement, a second rubber strap is offered, with a central insert that goes from dark grey to a flash of all the colours in the spectrum, depending on the angle of light. The colours are not actually embedded in the strap, but are the result of iridescence caused by the surface of the material and how it reflects light.

The colored pieces

One of its most striking features are the multi-coloured bridges, a signature trait in Pantone’s work. Using the principal of interference colours, the coating on the bridges reflects a gradient of metallic rainbow tones. Requiring months of trials and finding the appropriate solution with specialists to achieve this rainbow effect, the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is the first watch to ever use this innovative kind of three-dimensional PVD with silicon particles as a surface treatment on a movement to produce a spectrum of perfectly transitioning colours. While the process has been standardized, each piece will take on slightly different colours, essentially becoming a unique work of art.

The central hour and minute hands take on an intentionally distorted look resembling the lightning bolts that figure in much of Pantone’s work with a rainbow gradient of colours applied through the same state-of-the-art process as the movement’s bridges. Both the unusual shape and scale of the hands as well as the precise application of the gradient PVD so that the colours transition perfectly between the different segments of the hands.

The moiré optical effect produced by thin alternating white and black bands is a recurring theme in Felipe Pantone’s paintings and sculptures, which has been miniaturized and reproduced on the top bridges and portions of the dial of the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone, using fine laser-engraving and lacquering techniques so precise that they provide an optical illusion of fluidic movement in the contrast of the stripes. The open dial is no less dynamic, with a mix of gradient and block colours on the markers and counters.

Fit for the work of art that it is, the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone comes in a presentation box that mimics a hardcover book. On its cover is a miniaturized painting that Felipe Pantone created exclusively for this special series, complete with a signed certificate.

Concluding thoughts

With the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone 100-piece limited edition, Zenith is deftly merging the worlds of contemporary art and watchmaking to produce a watch that is as much a high-precision instrument as it is a piece of kinetic, wearable art.

The collaboration method, limited edition, street fashion allusion is reminiscent of Nike’s Snkrs and high-end fashion streetwear drops. Currently the most profitable way of releasing fast fashion capsule products. A similar model is being adopted by marketplace Amazon’s – the Drop.

This direction is also practiced by other LVMH brands, TAG Heuer x Fragment, Hublot x Berluti. With the former collaboration more successful considering Fragment’s popularity.

The DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone dropped on March 15 2021 at Zenith Boutiques around the world as well as on the Zenith online shop. The watch is priced at US$19,100.00 and is currently on backorder on

Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone specifications

Key points: 1/100th of a second Chronograph movement. Exclusive dynamic signature of one rotation per second. 1 escapement for the Watch (36,000 VpH – 5 Hz); 1 escapement for the Chronograph (360,000 VpH – 50 Hz). Chronometer certified. Limited edition of
100 pieces.

Movement: El Primero 9004 automatic
Frequency 36,000 VpH (5 Hz)
Power reserve min. 50 hours
Functions : 1/100th of a second chronograph functions. Chronograph power- reserve indication at 12 o’clock. Hours and minutes in the centre. Small seconds at 9 o’clock, Central chronograph hand, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 60- second counter at 6 o’clock

Finishes: “Rainbow” PVD-coated bridges. Black laser engraved main plate on movement. Special black colored oscillating weight with satined finishings.
Material: Black ceramic

Water resistance: 10 ATM
Dial: Openworked
Hour markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with “Rainbow” varnish
Hands : Rhodium-plated, faceted and “Rainbow” PVD coated
Bracelet & Buckle: Black Rubber. Titanium double folding clasp with black DLC coating. A second rubber strap is offered with a central insert that goes from dark grey to a flash of all the colours in the spectrum, depending on the angle of light as a result of iridescence caused by the surface of the material and how it reflects light.


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