As part of its new watch offerings at the 2024 Watches & Wonders event in Geneva, Zenith has introduced two new dive watches to its Defy collection — the first time the Swiss manufacture has featured dive watches in many years. Dubbed the Defy Extreme Diver, these new pieces live up to their name, offering above-average depth ratings, authoritative design, and characteristics that bridge disparate parts of the brand’s collections. Utilizing high-contrast orange on the rehaut, the Defy Extreme Divers are a profound re-introduction of dive watches to Zenith’s lineup.

Housed in a highly geometric brushed titanium case and with integrated lugs, the overall shape of the watch makes it easily identifiable as a member of the Defy collection. However, unlike the other Defy Extreme watches with which they share their name, the new Defy Extreme Divers have dials more similar to the recent Skyline pieces. Here, four-pointed stars pattern the blue or black sunburst dials, making the watches mercifully readable when compared to the skeletonized designs of other Defy Extreme watches. This is a welcome move toward the legible, something the Extreme collection is not known for.

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Other defining elements include a unidirectional rotating ceramic bezel infused with lume that actually sits below a fixed 12-sided steel bezel surrounding the sapphire crystal. This creates a compelling visual experience not typically seen in modern dive watches. It’s decidedly modern, despite being a design usually found only on vintage pieces. Also eye-catching are the hands. Taking on oversized paddle shapes, they are unlike anything in the brand’s current collection. Additionally, they’re partially skeletonized with the ends bulging out, to accommodate a healthy dollop of Swiss Super-LumiNova. A tinge of orange completes the look, helping the hands match the most aesthetically arresting part of the watch — the bright orange rehaut. Like other members of the Defy family, the Extreme Diver possesses characteristically huge crown guards affixed to the case flank with uncovered screws. Lending a utilitarian look, it’s a clue that this watch is capable of more than resting on a velvet cushion.

To that end, the Extreme Diver’s ratio of depth-rating to diameter is important. Not often do sub-43mm divers offer more than 500m of water resistance but at 42.5mm diameter, the Extreme Diver claims a full 600m of capability. In fact, this equates to 1,969 feet which is (uncoincidentally) also the year Zenith debuted its first dive watch. This impressive water-resistance may be in part thanks to the beefy 15.5mm case thickness, a portion of which may or may not be attributable to the prominent crystal, and not necessarily a bulky case design.

Powering the Defy Extreme Diver is Zenith’s El Primero 3620 SC movement. Functioning at the brand’s signature 5Hz frequency and promising 60 hours of power reserve, it’s plenty capable and like other El Primeros, features one of the best-designed rotors in the game: Zenith’s star-shaped oscillating weight, viewable through the exhibition caseback. Unique for watches at this price-point, Zenith includes three different straps with purchase. Interchangeable without tools via the brand’s proprietary system, each watch arrives with a three-link titanium bracelet, plus a textured FKM rubber strap color matched to the dial. Finally, there is a unique style pass-through strap made from recycled fishing nets that makes use of a clever system of attached end-links.

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Considering Zenith’s place in watchmaking history, it’s a head-scratcher why the brand has forgone dive watches during a time when such pieces were arguably the dominant style among collectors. Nevertheless, Zenith has done well with its reintroduction of dive watches to its lineup in 2024. Astute design choices like a wearable size and legible dials certainly help ensure appeal, while bonuses like a bracelet and two extra straps included add value. Despite having less name recognition than some of its competitors, Zenith is once again part of the conversation when it comes to dive watches. Come on in, the water’s fine.

The Zenith Defy Extreme Diver will be available soon from authorized retailers and via Zenith’s website. Both the blue dial version (Ref 95.9601.3620/51.I301) and black dial (Ref 95.9600.3620/21.I300) are priced at $11,300 USD. Learn more at the brand’s website.

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