Across the Time+Tide team, I am probably the least tuned into the racing world. Fun fact: I do not even have a driver’s license. Shameful, I know, but as someone born and raised in NYC, it is more common than you might think. Nonetheless, I can still appreciate the racing watch category. We often see collaborations between the world of watchmaking and racing. TAG Heuer and the Monaco Grand Prix, IWC and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, and plenty more. The latest instalment intertwining these two worlds is the new Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition, the brand’s second edition commemorating the “Extreme E” sustainable and electric rally racing championship of which Zenith is a Founding Partner and Official Timekeeper.
Especially in the context of electric cars, when I think of racing, I think first and foremost of speed and timing, hi-tech and engineering. Considering this watch is celebrating the Extreme E series, it makes sense Zenith would choose their Defy Extreme watch as the canvas for this commemorative edition. Leaning into the automotive theme, the watch is cased in a combination of carbon fibre and microblasted titanium — leading it to be both highly robust and scratch-resistant while also being super lightweight. It clocks in at 45mm in diameter and 15.5mm in thickness, but it wears more compact than its diameter lets on, at 51mm lug-to-lug across the wrist. And while I would hope nobody wearing it while driving takes their car into the water, this chronograph boasts an ample depth rating of 200 metres, further secured by a screw-down crown.
Zenith is known for often open-working their dials, allowing you to see the frontside of the movement while worn. This common characteristic of their timepieces is definitely appropriate for a racing watch, effectively letting you see the engine at all times. Carbon and microblasted titanium are definitely stealthy in appearance, but Zenith has emboldened the aesthetic of the Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition with orange accents to the outer 100th of a second track, the indications found on the tinted sapphire registers of the chronograph, and to the orange Velcro strap made with parts of Continental recycled tyres.
The use of orange is by no means random. Orange is the official colour of the “Island X Prix” and, according to Zenith, evokes “the scorching-hot temperatures of the Italian island during the summer season” when the race is held.
If you want to tone down the orange flavour, you can take advantage of the interchangeable strap system and the two other bundled straps. By simply depressing the trigger on the caseback, you can easily remove the orange Velcro strap pictured and swap it with either the black Velcro or black rubber straps also included in the offering.
Running through the registers of the chronograph, you have a running seconds register at 9, a 60-second register at 6, and a 30-minute elapsed minutes register at 3. At 12, a power reserve indicator is displayed — akin to a fuel/gas meter on a car dashboard. Some chronographs would simply have the central hours and minutes hands, as well as the hour indices, coated with Super-LumiNova. The Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition takes luminosity a step further, with each of the register hands, including the power reserve indications, also coated with Super-LumiNova as well.
Beneath the commemorative-etched exhibition caseback, you will find the in-house calibre El Primero 9004. The automatic movement boasts the pinnacle of Zenith’s chronograph technology, with a 1/100th of a second central chronograph seconds hand that makes one full rotation each second. If you are timing a race with an analog timer, this is as good as it gets — with the ability to time each lap or finish to a remarkable 1/100th of a second. The calibre has two escapements, one for the watch, which runs at a high-beat pace of 5Hz (36,000 VPH), and the other for the central chronograph seconds hand that runs ten times faster (50Hz or 360,000 VPH). Considering the rates at which the movement runs, the Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix” Edition has a very solid power reserve of 50 hours.