Perhaps one of the most surprising and unexpected releases this year at Baselworld 2017 is the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Hundredths of a Second Chronograph. This new watch that clearly shows that Mr. Jean-Claude Biver is in the house and in charge of all that happens at the Zenith manufacture, couldn't look more like a hybrid between a TAG Heuer and a Hublot. After the surprising departure of Aldo Magada at the beginning of this year, Mr. Biver took the reigns of Zenith and here's the first of many watches that will for sure look like this moving forward. If TAG Heuer and Hublot were to have a child, the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 would be it.
The new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 is an impressive looking watch that doesn't look like a Zenith at all and that bears the name of the most unsuccessful watch line ever released by Zenith. During the reign of Thierry Nataf as CEO of Zenith between 2002 and 2009, the Zenith Defy collection took the brand down an abyss from where it had to be later rescued by Mr. Biver's protégée Jean-Frederic Dufour —now CEO of Rolex. Therefore, we really wonder why did Zenith decide to revive this name for this new watch. Well, marketing strategies and brand names aside, let's move on to the watch.
Things you Need to Know
Fitted with a 44 mm diameter case in grade 5 titanium or in matte black ceramicized aluminum case, the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 features an openworked dial revealing the inner workings of the first mechanical chronograph in a wristwatch capable of measuring down to a 100th of a second. The Defy El Primero 21 display hundredths of a second by means of a central hand and beats at a frequency of 50 Hz, making it ten times faster and more accurate than its illustrious predecessor the El Primero 36,000 vph.
Representing the aesthetic, visual and audible signature of the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21, its central chronograph hand performs a full turn of the dial in one second. This simple, immediate and direct reading of the hundredths provides an opportunity to grasp the reality of the second being measured. The frequency reaches an impressive 360,000 vph —50 Hz— ensuring its hundredth of a second precision, and energy consumption is ten times higher than in the original. Other unique characteristic stems from a determination to avoid any risk of the chronograph interfering with the smooth running of the watch: the Defy El Primero 21 is therefore equipped with two independent “gear boxes”: one for the time and the other for the chronograph. Each has its own transmission and escapement system and there is no coupling clutch.
The gorgeous and very modern looking dial features a running seconds indicator at 9 o'clock, 30-minute chronograph register at 3, Seconds Chrono Register at 6, a handy 50-hour power reserve indicator at 12 o'clock and a red tip central chronograph seconds hand capable of measuring down to a hundredth of a second. Featuring the signature colors of the El Primero chronograph in anthracite, blue and red, the dial comes to life with impressive finishes and stunning skeletonization. An extremely modern looking Zenith that we aspire to own soon.
The case features striking angles and a totally new design never seen before in other Zenith timepieces recently launched. Performed via a crown with two positions —for winding and time-setting—, manual winding works in both directions: clockwise for the chronograph, counterclockwise for the watch. 25 turns of the crown are enough to obtain a 100% charge of the chronograph barrel.
The watch is delivered on a black rubber strap with alligator leather coating and equipped with a titanium double folding clasp. The strap is identical in construction to the straps you typically see in Hublot watches.
Powering the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 is the new in-house automatic calibre El Primero 9004. Composed of 203 parts and with 53 jewels, this movement beating at an impressive frequency of 360,000 vph provides a power reserve of 50 hours when fully wound. Additionally, the new balance-springs developed by the LVMH group engineers stem from a patented technology that is also a world premiere. The exceptional physical and mechanical properties of this balance-spring with its graphene matrix render it insensitive to temperature and to the influence of magnetic fields, well beyond the known 15,000 Gauss standard, thereby guaranteeing peerless precision in all conditions of use. Alongside its integrated construction, its double-chain architecture and the remarkable chronometric performance of its new balance-springs, the El Primero 21 movement features a patented chronograph-reset control mechanism composed of three heart pieces and an exclusive starter mechanism, ensuring simultaneous resetting of the seconds as well as tenths and hundredths of a second. A star-shaped openworked oscillating weight handles one-way automatic winding of the watch function.
On the Wrist & Price
On the wrist, the new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Hundredths of a Second wears true to its size and with remarkable wrist presence. One of our favorite watches at Baselworld and an unexpected move by Zenith that will for sure bring new customers to the brand. Even though the watch is very TAG Heuer and Hublot looking, this new watch is simply gorgeous and one that is worth every penny. A very cool looking Zenith that while it doesn't look much like other Zeniths, its design and craftsmanship make it a very desirable timepiece.
Sticker Price $11,600 USD as reviewed, $10,600 USD in titanium and $9,600 in titanium without openworked dial. For more info on Zenith click here.