Although few brands in the current watch industry have grasped the trend towards smaller, more vintage-inspired designs more effectively or thoroughly than Zenith, the brand still has an eye towards louder, more spectacle-driven horology as well. The muscular, ultra-modern Defy Extreme sits at the forefront of this second approach, combining an ultra-technical skeletonized 1/100-second dual-escapement chronograph with the brand’s most audacious case design. For its latest release, Zenith pushes this “blockbuster watchmaking” series even further with a full mirror-polished finish. Combining a gleaming all-polished monochrome look with a truly cutting-edge in-house movement, the new Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror stands as one of the brand’s most attention-grabbing releases in recent memory.
Approximately zero percent of the Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror’s design can rightly be called “demure” or “understated,” and this bold, spectacular presentation begins with the 45mm wide, 16mm thick stainless steel case. This is far from the first Defy Extreme to be rendered in stainless steel, but unlike any of its predecessors, the Defy Extreme Mirror’s case is completely, brilliantly polished. Every planar surface, every sharply angular facet, and every chamfered edge of this familiar form is polished to nigh-on Zaratsu levels of reflectivity. The effect of this new finishing on the wrist is profound, as the Defy Extreme’s complex, geometric case becomes a twinkling beacon with even slight movement. This is especially true for the dodecagonal and circular stepped bezel, as well as the broad, wedge-like stylized crown guards, as the narrower, more intricate surfaces vacillate between monolithic simplicity and complex reflections depending on the lighting. By contrast, the broader surfaces of the upper case and the lugs do, in fact, work as a serviceable mirror. It’s easy to catch oneself in the reflection of the case and dial, reflected in surprising (and often unflattering, given the viewing angle) detail. Of course, this ultra-reflective, single-finish approach will not suit every taste, but the sheer visual impact of this athletic, hefty case in full polish is difficult to deny. Like the rest of the Defy Extreme series, the Defy Extreme Mirror is a ruggedly capable sports watch on top of its aggressive styling, and Zenith rates the watch for a hefty 200-meter water resistance.
Like the case, the Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror’s skeleton dial is ultra-reflective and monochrome, but Zenith takes a somewhat different visual tack. Previous iterations of the Defy Extreme use smoked sapphire for the bases of the 12 o’clock power reserve indicator and each of the three round subdials, to visually separate these elements from the backdrop of the movement and aid legibility. The Defy Extreme Mirror makes this separation even more concrete, replacing the sapphire layer with an actual mirror. The resulting effect is undeniably striking, crisply reflecting its environment and harmonizing with the similarly mirrored outer minutes track, the polished beveled hour indices, and the broad, semi-skeletonized polished paddle handset. Without any use of color, and with a nearly complete high-polish look, the small nuances of the Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror’s design are pushed to the fore, especially for texture. The tight, deep azurage on the subdial chapter rings and the outer chronograph 1/100 second scale becomes an immediate visual highlight, as do the sharply brushed, dark-coated bridges of the skeleton movement. It might seem counterintuitive from a monochrome watch defined by its dedication to a single finish, but the Defy Extreme Mirror greatly rewards close inspection.
As with previous models in the series, Zenith powers the Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror with its in-house El Primero 9004 automatic chronograph movement. Before the chronograph complication itself is added to the equation, the El Primero 9004 is a solid modern performer, with a 50-hour power reserve and a smooth, high-frequency 36,000 bph beat rate. It’s the chronograph functionality that makes this one of the brand’s most technically advanced powerplants, however. The chronograph has its own dedicated escapement which beats at a blistering 360,000 bph, or 100 beats per second, to enable its fully mechanical 1/100-second chronograph function. From a technical standpoint, it’s an impressive achievement, but it’s worth noting that like most pieces of bleeding-edge technology, it’s not without its drawbacks. In this case, the ultra-fast chronograph frequency makes it intensely power-hungry, burning through the movement’s full power reserve in only 45 minutes of continual use. From a visual perspective, the El Primero 9004 is complex and modernist, with a web of narrow dark-coated skeleton bridges, matte blasting, vertical brushing, and the brand’s signature star-shaped winding rotor.
To match the case, the Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror’s integrated bracelet is finished in matching fully polished stainless steel. The strongly faceted H-link design is charismatically weighty and upscale on the wrist, but the uniform, extremely reflective look it gives the watch in conjunction with the case is almost overwhelmingly bright and bold. With that said, Zenith also includes the line’s heavy-duty integrated hook-and-loop strap in black as an option. Rendered in durable black fabric with a tapering matte black rubber central segment, this sportier, more purposeful strap helps to tone down the watch’s more bombastic side effectively while still emphasizing the line’s robust, high-performance sporting spirit.