January 10, 2023
As a central part of its new releases for LVMH Watch Week 2023, Zenith is expanding its Defy Skyline series, which first made an appearance at last year’s edition of the show. Zenith’s Skyline collection is the brand’s modern reinterpretation of its original Defy watches that first appeared in 1969, and they offer a thoroughly contemporary take on the Defy’s signature angular aesthetic. Debuting alongside a new skeletonized model powered by a high-frequency movement is a lineup of mid-size versions of the Defy Skyline that offer the collection’s signature geometric case and integrated bracelet design inside a more compact 36mm package.
The overall case profile of the new mid-size Zenith Defy Skyline 36mm watches is virtually identical to the full-size 41mm models, although everything has been shrunk down in order to correspond with their reduced sizing. Just like the larger models, the cases of the new 36mm watches are crafted from stainless steel with an integrated lug design, and they feature the collection’s signature twelve-sided bezels surrounding flat sapphire crystals above their dials. Similar to their full-size siblings, the new 36mm versions of the Zenith Defy Skyline feature screw-down display casebacks that offer a view of their self-winding movements, while star-signed winding crowns at the 3 o’clock location screw down to the case in order to help create 100 meters of water resistance. Additionally, while the standard version of the watch features a regular stainless steel bezel, Zenith also offers the new Defy Skyline 36mm with a bezel that is set with 52 VVS brilliant-cut white diamonds.
At the time of launch, Zenith is offering the new mid-size Defy Skyline 36mm with the option of three different dial colors. The first of the trio is the same deep metallic blue that can be found on the dial of the full-size 41mm version, while the other two are metallic pastel tones in either green or pink that offer a significantly softer overall aesthetic, and which aren’t available on any of the larger models. Just like the dials found inside the full-size Skyline watches, the dials fitted to the new 36mm versions feature an engraved geometric pattern consisting of four-pointed stars that reimagine Zenith’s “double Z” logo from the 1960s, along with luminous baton-style hour markers and an angled chapter ring that follows the same twelve-sided shape of the bezel. At the 3 o’clock location sits a date window with a color-matched calendar wheel, but rather than having a small 1/10th of a second hand inside a register at the 9 o’clock location, the 36mm versions of the Zenith Defy Skyline feature standard centrally-mounted seconds hands. That said, just like the larger models, the dials fitted to the 36mm versions opt for minimal text, with the only words being the “Zenith” name below the logo at 12 o’clock, along with the obligatory “Swiss Made” signature at the 6 o’clock location.
While the focal points of the full-size 41mm Defy Skyline models are their high-frequency movements that are based on the famous El Primero chronograph, the mid-size Zenith Defy Skyline watches are powered by the more conventional Elite 670 automatic movement. Despite still being one of Zenith’s manufacture calibers, the Elite 670 runs at a fairly traditional frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz), while offering users a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. In addition to having its seconds hand mounted at the center, the Zenith Elite 670 also isn’t a high-frequency movement, meaning that its seconds hand makes one full rotation around the dial every minute, instead of once every ten seconds like on its full-size 41mm siblings. Similar to other contemporary Zenith automatic movements, the Elite 670 is fitted with a skeletonized star-shaped oscillating weight that can be viewed through the sapphire display window in its caseback.
In the same way that the overall case design has been carried over from the larger models, Zenith’s integrated quick-release strap system has also been incorporated into the case of the new 36mm version of the Defy Skyline. In addition to including their standard stainless steel tapered H-link bracelets, the new 36mm models also come with textured rubber straps fitted with stainless steel folding clasps, and each of the rubber straps comes color-matched to the dial of its watch for a highly cohesive overall aesthetic. Accessing the quick-release system is done by simply pressing the small buttons located on the underside of the integrated lugs, and this means that swapping between strap and bracelet options is a quick and easy process that can be performed on the fly and without the use of any tools.
As someone who doesn’t have the largest wrists, I often prefer the mid-size versions of integrated bracelet watches, as their smaller case sizes can often do a better job of showcasing their signature bracelets. That said, part of why the original Skyline model is so interesting is because it uses a high-frequency movement, and not having one in the new 36mm versions makes them just feel slightly less special. Additionally, with an official retail price of $8,500 USD for the standard model and $12,000 USD for the diamond bezel version, it’s not like these new Zenith Defy Skyline 36mm watches are significantly less expensive than their full-size siblings, despite the fact that they do not use the same high-frequency caliber. However, from an aesthetic perspective, these new mid-size models are still very much Defy Skyline watches, and they make Zenith’s contemporary angular integrated sports watch available to a significantly wider range of wrist sizes. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.