December 9, 2022
It’s hard to have a meaningful and complete conversation about chronographs without including Zenith, and in addition to being one of the world’s very first automatic chronograph movements, the Zenith El Primero is also frequently considered to be one of the finest designs ever created. Expanding upon the core platform of Zenith’s Defy Extreme 1/100th of a second high-frequency automatic chronograph are two models that add a pair of independent tourbillon mechanisms to create one of the most advanced iterations of the El Primero that has ever been put forward. Available in either full-titanium or rose gold and carbon fiber, the new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches join the brand’s collection as regular serially-produced models, and they feature separate tourbillon mechanisms for both the timekeeping side of the movement and the chronograph. Just like the two escapements within the movement that run at different frequencies, each of the two tourbillon mechanisms rotates at a different speed, creating what could be seen as the ultimate expression of the Defy Extreme’s signature hyper-sporty aesthetic.
Built around the same 45mm case profile as the other Defy Extreme watches, the new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon makes its debut in two very different executions. The first features both a case and matching bracelet crafted from brushed and polished titanium, while the other pairs a forged carbon and matte sandblasted 18k rose gold case with a black textured rubber strap. Despite their very different case materials, both versions of the Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon offer the same angular case shape with the collection’s signature oblong geometric pushers and twelve-sided bezel. On both versions of the watch, a flat sapphire crystal protects the dial, while a second sapphire crystal is set into the screw-on caseback, and despite the fact that these are chronographs, they still offer users a fairly generous 200 meters of water resistance. In terms of their external profiles and overall design, these two new models will be largely familiar to those who have experience with the existing Zenith Defy Extreme range, although as you move toward the inside of the watches, things start to become quite a bit different.
Similar to the other models from the current Defy Extreme series, the new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches feature highly open-worked dials with smoked sapphire surfaces and applied counters and hour markers. While the time is displayed by a standard skeletonized pair of hour and minute hands, the centrally-mounted chronograph second hand makes one full rotation each second in order to permit the watch’s 1/100th of a second timing capabilities. At the 3 o’clock location is a 30-minute counter for the chronograph, while a corresponding 60-second register occupies the 6 o’clock location. Sitting on the opposite side of the dial just below the 12 o’clock marker is an arc-shaped power reserve indicator for the chronograph; however, rather than having a running seconds subdial at 9 o’clock, the pair of Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches use the left-hand side of their open-worked displays to prominently showcase their two independent tourbillon mechanisms set inside star-shaped cages. On both versions, the skeletonized hands and applied hour markers are plated in rose gold and coated with Super-LumiNova C1 for added visibility in low-light settings, and while the overall aesthetic is very much in line with the rest of the Defy Extreme range, the two rotating tourbillon mechanisms ultimately create a significantly more dynamic appearance. While the tourbillon for the time makes one full rotation each minute, the other tourbillon for the chronograph rotates once every five seconds, making it one of the fastest-moving tourbillon systems ever created.
While the core design of the new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches is largely in line with the existing models that make up this collection, the real party piece of this new duo is their El Primero 9020 automatic chronograph movement, which was previously only found inside a few ultra-exclusive limited-edition models. Consisting of 311 individual components, the Zenith El Primero 9020 features one escapement for the time that runs at a high-beat frequency of 36,000vph (5 Hz), while its other escapement is dedicated to the chronograph and runs at the staggering rate of 360,000vph (50 Hz), and each one features its own dedicated tourbillon mechanism. Operating this high-speed 1/100th of a second chronograph is incredibly draining for the movement (hence the chronograph has its own power reserve indicator), so while the power reserve for the watch itself comes in at approximately 50 hours, the chronograph only has a power reserve of 50 minutes. To highlight its advanced functionality, Zenith decorates the El Primero 9020 in a thoroughly modern manner. The open-worked and satin-brushed bridges receive a black PVD finish, while the angles and edges are highlighted in rose gold to outline their interlocking geometric forms. Completing the movement is Zenith’s signature skeletonized star-shaped oscillating weight, and both sides of the El Primero 9020 sit on full display through the skeletonized dial and the watch’s sapphire display caseback.
It goes without saying that these new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches are positioned as premium models within the brand’s lineup, and while they aren’t the flat-out most expensive options currently available, they are still significantly more costly than the vast majority of the other models from the greater Defy collection. The titanium version on a matching titanium bracelet (ref 95.9100.9020/78.I001) is accompanied by an official retail price of $69,600 USD, while the carbon and 18k rose gold edition on a black rubber strap (ref 12.9100.9020/78.I200) is priced at $79,700 USD. That said, the new Zenith Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon watches do offer some unique features that you won’t find anywhere else, and when you consider that you are getting an ultra-high-frequency chronograph with two independent tourbillon systems and more than enough water resistance to handle whatever you can throw at it, the prices being asked for these new models don’t seem nearly as outrageous as some of the other values that exist within the industry. Additionally, these two new models are also significantly less expensive than any of the limited editions that previously featured this movement, and while they are encroaching upon the price of a midsize luxury automobile, they do represent some of the most impressive chronographs in Zenith’s modern lineup. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.