From The Community: The Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton “Night Surfer” Time+Tide Edition
From Le Locle to Australia with love, here’s how this collaboration between a Swiss watchmaker and a Melbourne-based watch media platform came to be.
Time+Tide is a watch media platform that spans online, social, and print. Launched in 2014, it aims to use storytelling as the new lingua franca to connect the magic and romance of mechanical timepieces with new and existing audiences.
Judging by the number of Antipodean enthusiasts I follow on Instagram, Australia has a very healthy collecting community. And a lot of that energy is thanks to Time+Tide, a watch retail and media platform founded by former GQ watch editor Andrew McUtchen in 2014.
Australia is big, very big, so I also imagined that its inhabitants – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, colonists, and more recent settlers – needed to trust the stars to navigate the vastness. That is why it seems so very appropriate that Time+Tide would team up with Zenith, a company whose creed is “Time to Reach Your Star,” for its new, limited-edition collaboration, the Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton “Night Surfer.”
Time+Tide and Zenith are also big fans of storytelling, so here’s the tale of how this timepiece came to be
The Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton “Night Surfer” comes from a conversation between McUtchen and Zenith’s Director of Product and Heritage Romain Marietta at Dubai Watch Week in 2020. McUtchen was admiring the then newly launched 36mm Defy Midnight collection and its starry sky effect. They also discussed the possibility of collaborating.
At some point, Zenith CEO Julien Tornare joined the conversation. Formerly based in Hong Kong and a frequent visitor to Australia while there, Tornare was impressed by the passion of the collecting scene in Australia. He was also captivated by the continent’s geography.
After many conversations about Australia’s surf culture and Zenith’s heritage, Marietta proposed a concept that involved using the Defy Classic Skeleton as the base. In the end, Marietta and his team came up with five novel-to-Zenith innovations for this model.
Are You Sirius?
In a video produced for the “Night Surfer,” McUtchen explains how the watch got its name: “When you are surfing. You think that there’s always one last set before sunset. The sky still has this light on the horizon, but you can also see the Evening Star – Sirius, the brightest star in the Southern Hemisphere.”
One of the five firsts for a Zenith included in the “Night Surfer” is that the logo is expressed entirely in solid Super-LumiNova, an innovation suggested by McUtchen. A week later, Marietta sent him a photo of a prototype via WhatsApp. According to Marietta, this small detail had a tremendous impact on a Zenith team that is always pushing itself to innovate. Up close, the logo not only glows, but it also has dimension so that it’s not lost amid the skeletonized dial.
Zenith’s engineers didn’t stop their Super-LumiNova flex with the logo. Another novelty of the “Night Surfer” is that it’s the first Defy Classic Skeleton with a luminous date frame, which allows the date wheel to be backlit at night.
Another extremely appealing feature is the dial. It features a deepening gradient of blue that darkens to almost black by the time it reaches for that luminous Zenith star. This effect is meant to evoke the line of light that McUtchen described in the video, where the water meets the sky, then, in a deepening gradient of blue, fringes to black in the heavens above.
At the moment, it is Zenith’s only skeletonized dial with a gradient finish. As Tornare explained in a press release about the collaboration: “I have spent many years travelling to and from Australia, and this model, for me, really captures what is special about the place, and the power of the natural elements there.”
Brushed with Greatness
These innovative elements are beautifully framed by a desaturated matte black bezel made from micro-blasted titanium. In fact, it is the first Zenith Defy Classic or Defy Classic Skeleton to have a micro-blasted titanium case. This material, used sparingly used across the Zenith collections, has a very visceral appearance. Think the Defy El Primero 21 Land Rover Limited Edition Automatic Chronograph and how its ceramic case conjured up images of driving across the desert.
With the “Night Surfer,” the finish not only serves to provide a supernatural contrast to the gradient skeletonized dial, but it also makes the 41mm piece feel feather-light on the wrist.
In another first for Zenith, the bracelet is also composed of micro-blasted titanium (the Land Rover, as you’ll recall, featured a rubber strap).
“It’s no secret that the Defy Classic Skeleton is an underrated model on the market, and in the ‘Night Surfer,’ we have sought to highlight its many qualities,” said McUtchon in the press release. “The watch’s high polished, gradient, luminous, layered, and matte elements give the Defy Classic Skeleton a new way to shine. The results speak for themselves and are a credit to the creative and production team at Zenith, led by the extraordinary Romain Marietta. This was a tough brief – capture a totally magical natural moment in a timepiece - and he and his team have absolutely crushed it.”
It’s a bit of a stereotype, but when we think of Australia’s unique beauty, we can’t help but think of its dangerous side. Great White Sharks, crocodiles, blue-ringed octopuses, challenging waves, and all kinds of deadly snakes and spiders. The “Night Surfer” recognizes the untamed nature of the Australian landscape with the robust attributes of the Defy Classic collections, including but not limited to its 100 meters of water resistance and a stunning exhibition caseback offering a view of the Elite 670SK automatic calibre with its 50-hour power reserve.
The Zenith Defy Classic Skeleton “Night Surfer” Time+Tide Edition is available now and is limited to 100 pieces – 50 allocated to Time+Tide and 50 for Zenith boutiques around the world. It is priced at $9,000.
For more information, visit Time+Tide’s website.
(Images © Zenith)