As the company responsible for the creation of the legendary El Primero movement, Zenith is arguably best known for its high-frequency chronographs, although the brand’s Defy Skyline series takes this concept in a different direction by using the same high-beat framework to create a lineup of three-handed models. Since first emerging in 2022, the Zenith Defy Skyline collection has expanded to include different case sizes, configurations, and colorways, although we have also seen the series start to place a greater emphasis on the fact that it is powered by a high-frequency movement. Last year, Zenith introduced the Defy Skyline Skeleton, which showcased its rapidly moving components through its open-worked dial, although the brand’s latest release for 2024 is the Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon, which is available in either stainless steel or black ceramic, and it takes this concept several steps further by pairing the Defy Skyline’s high-frequency platform with one of horology’s most visually captivating complications.

Both of the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon watches have 41mm cases, and while the stainless steel ref. 03.9300.3630/51.I001 is fitted with a blue dial, the black ceramic ref. 49.9300.3630/21.I001 receives a matching black dial with rose gold accents for its hands and hour markers. Both models feature flat sapphire crystals protecting their dials, along with signed screw-down crowns at the 3 o’clock location that help guarantee their 100 meters of water resistance. Additionally, just like other models from the Defy Skyline series, both of the new Defy Skyline Tourbillon models include an interchangeable strap/bracelet system and come as a set with both a bracelet and a rubber strap. While the stainless version comes with blue rubber strap and an H-link bracelet crafted from brushed and polished stainless steel, the black ceramic Defy Skyline Tourbillon gets paired with a matching black ceramic bracelet, and it comes with a secondary black rubber strap that has a black PVD-finished folding clasp.

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Aside from their different finishes, the dials fitted to the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon models both follow the same overall design and layout with a pair of centrally-mounted hands, faceted baton-style indexes, and a large one-minute tourbillon that is prominently displayed through a circular aperture at 6 o’clock. Similarly, both dials are adorned by a metallic sunray pattern and engraved with a “starry sky” motif consisting of four-pointed stars that radiate outwards from the tourbillon and get larger as they move toward the top of the dial. While the hands and hour markers on the stainless steel Defy Skyline Tourbillon are rhodium-plated to match the white metal tones of the case, the black ceramic model receives a rose gold-plated set to create a luxurious splash of contrast against its dark black components. Despite having different finishing, all of the hands and indexes on the new Defy Skyline Tourbillon models receive an application of Super-LumiNova C1 to help increase their low-light visibility.

To echo the star-shaped motif on the surface of the dial, the tourbillon cage also appears in the shape of a four-pointed star on the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon watches, and it is attached by a single mirror-polished bridge that is horizontally mounted across the circular opening in the dial. Since it is the escapement itself that runs at a high frequency, the tourbillon still takes one full minute to make a rotation, and it is therefore able to double as a running seconds indicator, just like any other one-minute tourbillon. If your look closely at the star-shaped tourbillon cage, you will notice that one of its points has been given a small trapezoid-shaped indicator to serve as the seconds hand, although collectors who want to see rapidly moving mechanical components will still be able to enjoy the balance assembly and escape wheel working away under the star-shaped tourbillon cage.

Powering the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon watches is the brand’s El Primero 3630 automatic movement, which consists of 219 components and winds itself with a star-shaped oscillating weight. Even though this model is essentially a tourbillon-equipped version of a time-only watch, the Cal. 3630 movement that powers it is based upon the core platform of the brand’s legendary high-beat El Primero chronograph, and it therefore runs at a frequency of 36,000vph (5 Hz), while offering users a power reserve of approximately 60 hours. Given that a wristwatch is constantly placed in different poisons through the natural process of being worn, the real-world performance benefits of a tourbillon on a wristwatch are rather debatable, although this complication still remains one of the most celebrated in all of horology, and a large part of that is simply because a tourbillon is visually captivating and fascinating to admire.

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Given that the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon watches are integrated bracelet models with patterns that radiate from their 6 o’clock tourbillon apertures, there is undeniably some aesthetic overlap between these latest releases and a few of the tourbillon-equipped Royal Oak models. That said, these new high-frequency tourbillon watches from Zenith are significantly less expensive, and they also represent something entirely different within the context of Zenith’s catalog and the evolution of the El Primero. Rather than just adding a tourbillon to the El Primero chronograph movement, Zenith stripped this legendary caliber back to its core for the original Defy Skyline series, and the Swiss brand is now using that simplified high-beat framework as the foundation for new El Primero movements with other compilations. While a high-beat tourbillon is objectively interesting all by itself, the new Defy Skyline Tourbillon models also might be a hint that Zenith has far larger plans for the high-frequency El Primero in the future.

Just like the tourbillon, high-frequency movements were originally created in the pursuit of superior accuracy, and the pairing of these two features on the Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon feels organic from a conceptual standpoint (even if the real-world practicality of both technologies on a mechanical wristwatch is somewhat debatable). With an official retail price of $55,300 USD for the stainless steel ref. 03.9300.3630/51.I001 and $65,400 USD for the ref. 49.9300.3630/21.I001 in black ceramic, the new Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon immediately claims the top spot as the most expensive model in the entire Defy lineup. That said, the additional premium being charged for ceramic feels rather reasonable considering that you are also getting a black ceramic bracelet. Given that the stainless steel model is more than six times the price of its time-and-date sibling, it would be easy to expect that at least one of the new Defy Skyline Tourbillon models might be a limited edition, although both appear to be joining the collection as standard-catalog offerings, and they will be available online and from physical Zenith authorized retailers. For more information on the Zenith Defy Skyline Tourbillon watches, please visit the brand’s website

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