November 3, 2020
by Bilal Khan
Just released by Zenith is the new Defy Classic Carbon with an all-new, and quite impressive, all carbon fiber case and bracelet. The Defy Classic is Zenith’s contemporary sports three-hander and a lot of the DNA of umbrella brand LVMH is on display here, with slight elements of Hublot and Bulgari showing themselves here and there. The case of the Defy Classic looks like it was just waiting to be done in carbon fiber with a matching bracelet to do it justice, and Zenith delivers.
While carbon fiber cases are nothing new in watchmaking, we have seen surprisingly few carbon fiber bracelets out there. In fact, this new Zenith Defy Classic Carbon watch is the first automatic watch to boast an all-carbon-fiber case and bracelet. The last, and only, one I can think of off the top of my head is the manual-wind Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater from 2018. It’s true that there have been bracelets with carbon fiber composite plating over a metal base, but you would immediately know from the weight that it’s not the real deal.
The first thing I noticed about this watch wasn’t the bracelet, though, it was just how light it is. To give you an idea of how lightweight 65 grams is, it comes in at half the weight of an all-titanium model (while being twice as durable). The links are each made of one solid piece of carbon fiber that’s “molded and milled with precision in such a way that it highlights the layers or ‘strata’ of the carbon fiber” — i.e., it’s worked so as to really show off that cool carbon fiber pattern. Not that bracelet material really has much to do with the wearing experience (other than the initial shock you may have at the weight), but the bracelet is totally comfortable and wears very nicely on the wrist.
Alternatively, the Zenith Defy Classic Carbon is also available on a rubber strap for a substantially more affordable price. It was funny, but I had a hard time distinguishing between the weight of both models and, after a certain point, it’s quite difficult to perceive the difference of however many grams it may be. I’ve included plenty of photos of the rubber strap model in this article, but understandably, the carbon fiber bracelet is the star of the show here. That said, the cohesiveness of the all-carbon-fiber body makes it pretty hard to resist when you’ve got both of them in your hands.
The Defy Classic case has that angular (let’s call it LVMH Hublot-adjacent) style that was just made to be given the all carbon fiber treatment. The case measures 41mm-wide, 10.75mm-thick, and has a lug-to-lug height of just under 45.5mm, which is pretty ideal sizing, in my opinion. The watch is water-resistant to 100M, as well.
The dial is like previous Defy Classic models with an open-worked dial that is designed to evoke the star-shaped Zenith logo. My personal taste never really leans toward open-worked or skeletonized dials (for legibility reasons), but the lume on the large hour and minutes hands actually help a lot here and I didn’t have to strain much here.
Turning the case over reveals the in-house Elite 670 SK movement that has been finished with ruthenium. The black Zenith star rotor ties the piece together, acting as a sort of mirror reflection of the more abstract star on the front of the dial. Even though it may not have the name recognition of the El Primero (and few do), the Elite has long been a staple in Zenith’s movement catalog. The skeletonized Elite 670 SK operates at 28,800 vph and has a 50-hour power reserve.
As I mentioned, there is indeed a wide price differential between the rubber strap and carbon fiber bracelet variants. The Zenith Defy Classic Carbon with the rubber strap is priced at $11,500, while the Defy Classic Carbon on carbon fiber bracelet is priced at $19,500. It’s a hefty price tag, for sure, but there’s essentially no competition right now. You can learn more at zenith-watches.com