The watch’s USP though is an extremely unusual take on an already rare complication, the semi-foudroyante, which indicates time using a second hand which travels in distinct increments rather than sweeping smoothly.
Here Zenith has implemented a 10-second foudroyante – as it did on the El Primero Striking 10th in 2011 – which completes six rotations every minute or, more pertinently one rotation every 10 seconds. This allows the watch to indicate the time down to 1/10th of a second as allowed for by its 5Hz El Primero 3620 automatic movement.
While the complication makes a great deal more sense on a chronograph like the Striking 10th and is more apparent on a full or one-second foudroyante like the Habring Foudroyante Felix, here it lends a subtle visual point of difference to a time and date watch.
While supplied on a stainless steel bracelet with contrasting polished and satin-brushed finishes, each Zenith Defy Skyline is also supplied with a “starry sky pattern” rubber strap in either blue, black or olive green, depending on the dial color.\
Zenith introduced the Defy Revival A3642 one week ago today. It represented a new type of Defy, a limited-edition release focused on elevating the collection’s history in a more direct manner than Zenith has ever attempted before.
It was also a strategic release, a way to highlight Zenith’s positioning in the luxury sport-watch category and start a conversation leading up to today’s announcement of the Zenith Defy Skyline, a new flagship sub-collection within the contemporary Defy series. At launch, this collection consists of three watches that introduce a new case design, a new movement, and a new way of thinking about a three-handed sport watch. The first thing to note about the Skyline is obvious – it’s not a chronograph. But the second thing you should know about the watch is that it is powered by a variant of the El Primero 3600, the high-beat, tenth-of-a-second measuring chronograph movement that debuted inside last year’s hit, the Chronomaster Sport. The Skyline takes the El Primero 3600 used in the Chronomaster Sport and flips it on its head. The result is an unconventional sport watch with a central hour and minute hand and a running small seconds at nine o’clock that makes a full rotation once every 10 seconds, just like the central chronograph seconds hand on the Chronomaster Sport.
The Zenith Defy Skyline also functions as a spiritual successor to the Defy wristwatches that are represented by the original A3642 and were released the same year the El Primero made its debut, in 1969. The A3642 and its early siblings were watches defined (pardon the pun) by their dedication to pioneering a new type of sport watch – released three years prior to the introduction of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak – with enhanced water resistance up to 300 meters and the incorporation of a shock-absorbing suspension system surrounding the movement that provided a nearly unprecedented degree of impact resistance for the time.
The Skyline doesn’t have quite the same utilitarian remit of the original Defy, but it does carry through the vintage model’s genuine desire to offer something new. Here, that’s through the implementation of the fast-moving, tenth-of-a-second sub-dial at nine o’clock. The Skyline maintains a historical lens on the Defy as a sport watch, while providing a new-age platform for Zenith to build around.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare who described the Defy collection as “the locomotive that’s pulling the brand forward.” I interpret that in two ways.
First, there’s the technical approach – the Defy has been the primary home for most of Zenith’s recent horological achievements since it was officially brought back in 2017. Those watches have taken shape in the form of one-hundredth-of-a-second chronographs (Defy 21), new oscillators (Defy Inventor), double tourbillons (Defy Double Tourbillon), zero-gravity tourbillons (Defy Zero-G), and more. And then there’s also the question of variety – the Defy is now the most comprehensive collection at Zenith. We have a flagship sport watch in the new Defy Skyline, a headline-grabbing high-beat chronograph in the Defy 21 and the Defy Extreme, and then a top-line segment for halo pieces in the vein of zero-gravity tourbillons.
Zenith has been on my mind quite a bit recently. I visited the Le Locle Manufacture last November, and I’ve recently developed a camaraderie with a dedicated group of online Zenith enthusiasts.
What I’ve determined is that if you want to understand the future of watchmaking at Zenith, it promises to look a lot like the Zenith Defy Skyline.