July 21, 2019
by Rob Nudds
The Zenith Defy range is one of the brand’s fastest-growing collections. With the release of the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Boutique-Exclusive Limited-Edition watch, Zenith has brought together its most popular and enduring movement, and its new, avant-garde case shape to create a modern, extremely wearable, and visually distinctive timepiece. This model is differentiated from its core collection counterpart by the bright “Zenith blue” used on the dial and incorporated into the strap options.
The El Primero movement is an industry legend. Launched in 1969, the high frequency (36,000vph) caliber was the first fully integrated column-wheel chronograph. It emerged around the same time as the Valjoux 7750, which used a cam rather than a column wheel as the control component of the mechanism (the bit that engages or disengages the chronograph function). While the cam was designed on a computer and had ease of manufacturing in its court, the column wheel provides a much more satisfying user experience, with a noticeably superior click upon actuation. The top-grade functionality, tasteful finishing, and advantage of a high-frequency escapement made the El Primero a hit, and it has remained one of the most desirable movements ever since, still featuring regulalry in new releases. The fact that it is highly unusual for a movement rather than a watch to have such a reputation speaks volumes of the widespread respect it deservedly receives.
The 36,000 vibrations per hour mean that the EL Primero movement is effectively ticking ten times per second (10×60×60=36,000). This is particularly useful for chronograph accuracy, as it means events can be timed to one-tenth of a second. As with the standard Zenith Defy El Primero 21, the chronograph has a second escapement, which boasts an operating frequency of 360,000vph. That’s ten times that of the base movement. That means events can be timed to one-hundredth of a second. In order to record such tiny units of time, the centrally mounted chronograph hand spins at lightning speed, completing one full dial rotation per second (passing 100 split-second markers on its travels).
In addition to the futuristic blue of the movement, which is visible through the openwork dial, the whizzing central chronograph hand (which is backed up by a regular 60-second counter on the 6 o’clock sub-dial and a 30-minute register at 3 o’clock) makes for a stunning display. At 12 o’clock, a power reserve indicator (an impressive 50 hours) can be seen and a 9 o’clock the going seconds can be read via a three-armed hand. This limited piece is made from midnight black ceramic and measures 44mm in diameter. In order to mix up the look and feel of the watch, Zenith is including three straps with every purchase: a black alligator strap with rubber backing and blue stitching, a black rubber strap with a “Cordura” effect and blue stitching, and a textured blue rubber strap. There will only be 250 pieces made, and they will be available at Zenith boutiques only. This Zenith Defy El Primero 21 special-edition watch will be priced at $12,700. To learn more, visit zenith-watches.com.