The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were a watershed moment in luxury watch design. As the traditional Swiss industry began to face stiff competition from affordable quartz movements and a rapidly advancing Japanese watchmaking sector, brands increasingly turned toward wild colors and imaginative sculptural forms to stand out on retailer shelves. Zenith emerged from this era as one of the most visually and mechanically imaginative brands in the business, and this reputation can largely be laid at the feet of two iconic series released in 1969. The first, of course, is the El Primero chronograph line, but the three-hand Defy series has proven to be arguably just as enduring and influential on the brand’s lineup as its more complex stablemate. While Zenith has spent the past few years reimagining early references in the El Primero catalog, the brand has kept the Defy series strictly contemporary — until now. The new limited-edition Zenith Defy Revival A3642 is a hyper-faithful revival of one of the very first Defy references, combining flamboyant faceted case design with a charismatic fumé dial treatment and fully modern build quality.
The Zenith Defy Revival A3642 is built using the original Defy production plans from 1969, and this ultra-accurate reissue of the ‘60s original begins with an accurately sized 37mm stainless steel case. Although these dimensions may seem compact on paper, this starkly geometric case should carry a fair amount of wrist presence through its use of form and finishing. The overall profile of this hooded-lug case is octagonal with sharply faceted polished surfaces, and the only curvature Zenith allows to enter this angular design is through its half-moon cut chamfers. In addition to giving this simple case layout a sense of dimension and complexity in images, these chamfers also work to add splashes of contrasting finishing with sharply brushed surfaces. The 14-sided angular bezel is also shared directly with the 1969 original, but within this bezel, the brand opts for a modern sapphire crystal for greater scratch resistance. The oversized screw-down pillbox crown at 3 o’clock gives a visual hint to the Defy Revival A3642’s sporting capability without falling into recognizable dive watch iconography. Around back, Zenith adds the second major update to the Defy Revival A3642’s design, with a sapphire display caseback showcasing the in-house movement within. Like the original model, however, the idiosyncratic design of the Defy Revival A3642 hides an impressive level of durability, including a hefty 300 meters of water resistance.
Like the case, the dial of the Zenith Defy Revival A3642 is a prime example of the wildly creative and adventurous design climate of the late ‘60s. The applied rhodium indices immediately stand out in initial images, with a ridged faceted design that should create dramatic highlights on the wrist. Zenith’s use of broad faceted sword hands is carried over directly from the original model, as well, and helps to give this simple dial a bold sporting edge. But perhaps the most obviously vintage element here is the dial surface itself. This smoky, cool-brown gradient immediately stands out in a modern market dominated by blues and greens, creating a uniquely vintage look while maintaining a versatile neutral color palette. Like so many Zenith designs from this era, the Defy Revival A3642 uses a trapezoidal cutout date window at 4:30 and, as with the El Primero line, this window should prove to be a point of contention with enthusiasts. Although Zenith does continue the outer seconds scale around this cutout, the off-center placement noticeably impacts the visual balance of the dial overall.
Zenith powers the Defy Revival A3642 with its in-house Elite 670 automatic movement. Like the movement in the original Defy from 1969, this is a 28,800 bph powerplant, but outside of beat rate, the two movements have little in common. The Elite 670 offers a respectable 50 hours of power reserve, along with an ornate star-shaped custom rotor and vintage-style matte finishing throughout. To complete this late ‘60s look, Zenith equips the Defy Revival A3642 with its instantly recognizable stainless steel ladder bracelet. The ladder bracelet, with its distinctive gaps between center links, was a hallmark of many period Zenith designs, and complements the bold and offbeat look of the case and dial handsomely in initial images.
With a remarkably faithful revival of the original Zenith Defy design and an ethos that still feels bold and distinctive today, the limited edition Zenith Defy Revival A3642 adds a new dimension to Zenith’s current crop of vintage reissue models. Only 250 examples of the Zenith Defy Revival A3642 will be made, and the watch is available now through authorized dealers. MSRP for the Zenith Defy Revival A3642 stands at $7,000 as of press time. For more details, visit the brand’s website.