While Zenith occasionally looks into its famed attic for inspiration, the brand regularly shows off its innovation and forward-thinking sensibilities. Case in point – the new Defy 21 Ultraviolet.
The watch is dressed entirely in violet, a colour with one of the highest frequencies in the visible spectrum, making the livery a conceptual complement to the 1/100th-of-a-second El Primero 9004 inside the watch.
It never really struck me how uncommon the colour is in watchmaking until I saw the new Defy 21 (though the influencer and collector Amr Sindi has collaborated with several brands to create watches in the colour, and may have had a hand in conceiving the Defy 21 Ultraviolet).
A bold choice of choice, violet is used for the dial and strap, but also throughout the movement, making for a fun and casual watch, especially on the rubber strap covered in violet fabric.
Though the violet elements might seem loud at first glance, the colour isn’t actually too much. It’s a dark purple that’s more Imperial Rome than Joker from Batman. And it is essentially a two-colour watch in violet and dark grey; the use of a micro-blasted titanium case, helps to diminish the visual prominence of watch.
Colour aside, the Defy 21 is a strong value proposition – though it’s the best value in its simplest guise – offering a twin-oscillator, high-frequency chronograph movement for a relatively affordable price.
A new face
Colour aside, the look is pretty much like the other versions of the Defy 21. It’s a big watch with a chunky case and an open dial with a highly technical appearance.
But here the open-working on the dial has been reduced, improving legibility. The Ultraviolet is one of the few Defy 21 chronographs with solid chronograph registers on a skeletonised dial, unlike the standard combination of open sub-dials on an open-worked dial. The sub-dials are also rendered in dark grey, creating a cohesive look with the case.
The case is tonneau-shaped, and a large 44 mm wide and 14.4 mm high, in part to the size of the movement. Like the Land Rover Edition launched earlier in the year, the case is titanium that’s been bead blasted to create a smooth, finely grained finish that matches the sporty and outgoing nature of the watch.
Despite the size, the watch wears light due to the case material, though if earlier versions of the Defy 21 are a guide, getting a good fit with the stiff rubber strap is a bit of a challenge.
El Primero 9004
The biggest, structural components of the El Primero 9004 – namely the bridges and rotor – have been anodised to create a metallic, violet surface finish that changes in tone depending on the light and angle, adding a dynamic visual element to the mechanics. Notably, the purple movement finish has a hue that’s similar to the colour of the silicon escapement parts.
Other than the generous violet treatment, the movement is identical to the calibre that made its debut inside the Defy El Primero 21 in 2017.
Three years on, it remains a technically-impressive movement that is one of the highest-frequency chronograph movements on the market, allowing it to record elapsed times of up to 1/100th of a second (at least in theory, given user error).
The movement has a “double chain” construction, which is essentially two movements in one. It’s equipped with two sets of balance wheels, gear trains, mainsprings and escapements, one each for timekeeping and the chronograph.
The timekeeping balance wheel runs at an conventional 5 Hz, while the chronograph balance blazes forward at 50 Hz once it is released. That drives the central seconds hand whiz around the dial once per second – which is very cool to watch. The immense frequency of the chronograph mechanism means it is energy intensive, and will run its mainspring flat in 50 minutes, something that’s shown on the power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.
Key facts and price
Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet
Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 14.4 mm
Water resistance: 100 m
Movement: El Primero 9004
Functions: Hours, minutes, 1/100th of a second chronograph and chronograph power reserve indicator
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Availability: From August 2020 at retailers and boutiques
Price: 13,400 Swiss francs; or US$14,000
For more information, visit Zenith-watches.com.
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