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Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon is a sight to behold in black carbon, with the blue steel fusée chain and tourbillon housed within the architecturally striking skeletonized dial. The recent Zenith Defy Lab and Defy Inventor 18Hz watches showed the brand flexing its innovation muscle through high-frequency movements. This Defy Fusée Tourbillon goes in an interesting direction by taking the thoroughly contemporary Defy style while housing a centuries-old and highly impressive mechanism inside. The fusée and chain concept isn’t new to Zenith, but throwing in a tourbillon is a great “why the hell not” move. 

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The purpose of the fusée and chain mechanism is to help the mainspring barrel maintain steady torque rather than weakening as it continues to operate. The fusée, located at 2 o’clock, is just a conical pulley that has the chain coiled around it while extending across the dial and wrapping around the mainspring barrel. Rather than reexplain the intricacies, below is our explanation of the mechanism in our discussion of the Zenith Academy Georges Favre-Jacot watch:

The fusée cone sits in between the barrel and the gear train. The chain is attached to the bottom level of the fusée (the widest part), and snakes around the cone wall, guided by a helical groove, extending from the top level of the cone (the thinnest part) to connect with the barrel. As the mainspring unwinds and the barrel turns, the chain unwraps itself from the fusée and is slowly wrapped around the barrel’s outer wall. When the mainspring is fully wound and pulling on the chain with high torque, the fusée is being driven by its narrow end. As the power runs down and the chain wraps further around the barrel and so the weaker pull of the mainspring is compensated by the increased radius of the fusée, keeping the torque constant.

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

It’s simple in theory, yet obviously, a visually impressive and technically complicated mechanism to pull off, and not many brands can do it. The chain itself is made up of 575 pieces that are hand-assembled, and according to Zenith, it’s the first blued fusée and chain system, which is a pretty believable boast. 

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Looking at 6 o’clock, the one-minute tourbillon with off-center balance wheel is also done in the really quite striking blue. It’s all very impressive and is another piece of the 807 component manual-wind El Primero 4805SK movement that operates at 36,000 vph and has a 50-hour power reserve. The tangible benefits of the tourbillon and fusee and chain mechanism are amorphous, but that’s not why they’re present. They’re there because they can be and because Zenith can make a contemporary sport watch that houses some of the most old-school, highly complicated mechanisms in watchmaking history.


Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I haven’t forgotten the fact that it’s all skeletonized. The Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon comes in black carbon, as well as platinum, but having only seen the former, that’s the model I’ve been referring to and that you see in the photos. Between the central spoke and three bridges for the tourbillon and fusée and chain mechanism all done in black and carbon fiber, reading the hour and minutes hands isn’t the easiest thing in the world, though the lume goes pretty far in helping with legibility. It sounds almost silly to point out the specifics of legibility here because, let’s be honest, telling the time isn’t why you buy this watch.

What does stand out and is pretty easy to spot on the dial is the red power-reserve indicator at 5 o’clock. True, it’ll get a lot of use with just a 50-hour power reserve but the burst of red on the dial is a nice visual addition.

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I’m a huge fan of sportier, non-leather straps and the black rubber Cordura-style strap on the black carbon is no exception. The 44mm-wide case in black carbon is super-lightweight, to the point that it’s almost surprising at first. I assume the same can’t be said for the platinum model, though.

Zenith Defy El Primero Fusée Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Zenith is making 10 pieces of the Defy Fusée Tourbillon in platinum, priced at $102,500. There are a few more in black carbon, with each of the 50 pieces of these made priced at $80,100. You can learn more at

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  • It sort of bugs me when Zenith calls a watch an “El Primero” and it’s not a chronograph. Oh well, it’s their product name so they can abuse/debase it as they see fit.

    I do like the watch but the “forged” CF look is getting tiresome these days. But it does match the movement’s skeleton, so I guess it’s OK this time. The $20K up-charge for a platinum case is shameful though.

    The blue fuse chain color is a nice match to the tourbillon parts. But really (and this applies to any brand that makes fusee movements) this is just a way to drive up the tiny parts count and associated price. A brand with Guy Semon doing the engineering could easily use a kevlar belt instead of those gazillion itty bitty links and get the same effect for a lot less money and easier servicing. Think TAG V4 tech for a fusee.

    • NaJo

      Its a title mistake; its not el-primero since as u said its not a chrono… its defy fusee tb ..

    • SuperStrapper

      Not that I disagree, but Zenith using an el primero for a time-only watch is nothing new. At least this one has horological majesty.

    • cluedog12

      You’re right on the button, Mark.

      It’s needlessly complicated and needlessly expensive, but you have to respect the fact that the designers did not mail in their effort. The dial looks fantastic AND they actually kept the El Primero branding off the dial.

    • Gokart Mozart

      I am gonna agree but mostly disagree with you Mark. I agree about the CF but it has always looked dubious in my eyes.

      A $20k surcharge for platinum seems pretty reasonable to me, as I am approximating CF to be maybe 1 or 2k more than steel. If it is was GS you would be looking at a 20k charge just for gold and 35k for platinum.

      To be honest I would say $100k for a platinum tourbillon with fusee chain is very good value for money.

      Kevlar belt. No thank you. It is good for the tweeter in my loudspeakers, not as an alternative to a fusee.

      Saying that I am a bit disappointed with the blue chain. That is pretty much a horological wet dream, but it is not how I expected.

      I think it is the wrong shade of blue and too bright. Needs to be a much darker blue. Get Romain Gautier to do it then you will have all the beautiful jewel links as well.

      • I understand that platinum has a usual gouge factor with watches but look at it by the numbers:

        50 grams for a typical SS case (8 gr/cc) = 134 grams of pure platinum (21.45 gr/cc) = 127 grams of 950 platinum.
        Platinum cost = $3243 USD at today’s price of $25.46/gram.
        Sure machining costs and there is some waste. But for this watch the mark-up above material costs is $16,750 or over 6 times markup on the platinum.

        What a good business to be in eh? And yes this explains why precious metal cases watches are often the most discounted since there is so much margin to deal with.

        • Gokart Mozart

          I agree with you gold and platinum watches are ridiculously overpriced, but in my opinion Zenith ripping off is much less than some other companies like Grand Seiko. This below is a ABTW article from a few months ago regarding the price. That is with a leather strap by the wY

          The limited edition Grand Seiko Sport Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC231 (limited to 500 pieces) in titanium has a retail price of $12,900 USD and the 18k rose gold SBGC230 (limited to 100 pieces) has a retail price of $42,000 USD

  • NaJo

    A TB is out of my range and eventhough i do have the budget i wont buy one…
    that apart i love the defy case design, defy classic blue plsin snd skeleton both are my fav..

  • SuperStrapper

    Well, I’ve never seen a blues fusee chain before and boy it is cool as fuck. Not so much a fan of this case, but what an amazing watch.

  • hatster

    I can see some well-off cyclists picking up one of these.

  • cluedog12

    Though aesthetically similar to its TAG Heuer and Hublot siblings, this Zenith really a cut above. To start, the shape of the Defy case works beautifully with the forged carbon case. Highlighting the complications through the used of blued steel is not exactly groundbreaking, but the design team makes the most of the fashion trend. The way in which the bridgework, complications and blued steel are combined to provide visual symmetry across the three sectors leaves me quite impressed. The very fact that the addition of a tourbillon cage improves the dial, rather than detracting from it, deserves a special jury prize.

    The design team deserves recognition for this achievement. In lesser hands, this could have been an ugly monstrosity where the tourbillon was forced on the dial to plump up gross margins.

    • egznyc

      I basically agree with all of your comments … except the forged carbon case looks like plastic to me.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I would have preferred to see the inner rings to be black as well, maybe keep the

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I would have preferred to see the inner rings to be black as well, maybe keep the tourbillion a different colour but I don’t like that blue. Legibility issues blah blah…boring crown blah blah…very unattractive material blah blah…

  • Jon Heinz

    Can’t afford, but I really want this.

  • Jon Heinz

    If that was supposed to be a haiku, it was even more awful. 😀

  • Jon Heinz

    Goin’ off the rails on a Fusee Chain….

  • dr3

    A movement this fantastic deserves an equally challenging-to-make and develop case. A carbon fibre cage is not a worthy home!

  • Agnar Sidhu

    I think we all would like to see this one in person!:)

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