May 11, 2022
by Ariel Adams
The Defy Skyline watch collection was released by Swiss Zenith (aBlogtoWatch debut here) several months ago and is Zenith’s latest entrant into the “integrated bracelet” watch category. This is a very popular watch product category that has no shortage of options today, and it originally stemmed from the modern popularity of high-end casual-wear luxury watches such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak as well as the Patek Philippe Nautilus. At first, brands just started copying Gerald Genta’s Royal Oak and Nautilus design without giving the larger product much thought. Then brands started to realize what people wanted in such watches — essentially, versatility in a luxury watch designed for how most people dress today, which isn’t a suit and tie.
The actual wearing effect of such products isn’t the look and feel of a traditional timepiece but rather a utilitarian men’s jewelry bracelet. Accordingly, the most popular ones don’t immediately look like a round case strapped to your wrist, hence why more angular case and bracelet designs are appealing. Consumers have more or less voted with their purchase preferences that they like simple dials (often with only the time and date), cases, and bracelets that draw visual attention, and other convenience features such as easy-to-change straps and accurate movements. Zenith has listened carefully because the Defy Skyline is a really ideal product that mixes current consumer preferences with unique elements that are distinctive to the Zenith brand.
A few months ago, aBlogtoWatch published an article that discussed how the Zenith Defy collection is more than 50 years old and how modern watches like the Defy Skyline merge traditional aesthetics with contemporary features. Bilal from the aBlogtoWatch team did a great job of explaining the Zenith Defy Skyline collection in his previous hands-on article (linked above). I’d like to add some of my own personal thoughts since I truly feel that this is a collection of timepieces that could easily be overlooked by those people for whom it would make a lot of sense to own.
Let’s start with the movement, as it has been the source of a lot of discussion. Many people know of Zenith’s popular El Primero automatic chronograph movement, which operates at 5Hz and offers 1/10th of a second precision for the chronograph. That movement architecture has been used for the Defy Skyline’s caliber 3620 automatic but without the chronograph part of the system. What we are left with is a time-only with date automatic movement operating at 5Hz with 60 hours of power reserve. While it doesn’t have a chronograph, it still has the extra accuracy of a 5Hz (versus say 3 or 4Hz) mechanical system. There is a small but effective reminder of this interesting movement in the form of the subsidiary dial on the face. At a glance, it looks like a seconds subdial, but it isn’t. Rather, it has a fast-moving hand that revolves around the subdial once every 10 seconds. It makes for a fun animation and is a reminder of the El Primero movement base. No, it doesn’t offer functionality like a more traditional indicator, but you hardly care when you view the dial in action. At the same time, there is a small number of folks whose eyes might get tired of the fast-moving hand. That’s totally fine, as there are plenty of other watches for them out there.
The dial of the Defy Skyline is really cool, with a new sort of texture that uses a series of perforated star shapes (the Zenith graphical logo is a star). Zenith currently offers three dial colors for the Defy Skyline: silver, blue, and black. I find the legibility and overall contemporary style to be really appealing. There is loads of personality, as well as trendiness, in a watch collection like this. It might be hard for Zenith to perfectly articulate what this watch is meant to do and who it is meant for, but the market should be able to sort that out, in my opinion.
The Defy Skyline case is 41mm-wide and water-resistant to 100 meters in steel. It wears rather comfortably but is a bit on the large side. My one ding to the overall presentation of this product is the relatively thick case. It isn’t super-thick by any means, but the more expensive competition pieces (such as the Royal Oak) tend to have appreciably slimmer cases. Zenith is limited by the overall size of the movements it uses, and overall, the watch is very wearable regardless of the thickness. I’m just saying this because I think if there was one area where people will be wanting something else out of this Zenith collection, it is for a thin version. If that were to come in the future, it would probably need to contain a different movement with slimmer overall proportions.
Zenith does include an easy-release system for the integrated bracelet, which can be swapped out with an included rubber strap. I think it is great that Zenith includes a sporty rubber strap option because, if anything, it simply increases the wearing versatility of the watch. The rubber strap comes on a handy steel folding deployant system. I really do like that Zenith focused as much on wearing comfort and options as the movement and overall design of the watch. There is a lot of engineering and effort that went into the Defy Skyline, and that tends to translate into a more satisfying and cohesive wearing and ownership experience.
When it comes to price, Zenith is also in a good spot. While this isn’t an inexpensive product, overall, it is way better priced than a lot of the competition, and it still comes equipped with an interesting and special movement. I would say that much of the competition in this space for a watch this nice is in the $15,000 to $30,000 price range. So, Zenith’s under-$9,000 option looks like a great bargain when you consider many of the alternatives. I’m actually excited about wearing one of these Zenith Defy Skyline watches more in the future and look forward to seeing how Zenith may expand the collection. Price for the steel versions of the Zenith Defy Skyline watch is $8,400 USD. Learn more at the Zenith watches website here.