Zenith DEFY Skyline Skeleton

LVMH Watch Week: Meet the New Zenith DEFY Skyline Skeleton

Equipped with the new El Primero 3620 SK movement, this scintillating skeletonized watch still leaves everything to the imagination.

By Rhonda Riche

We have come to expect a January surprise from Zenith. Twelve months ago, the Le Locle-based brand launched the acclaimed DEFY Skyline sub-collection – a family focused on chronographs and skeletons based on the DEFY, which itself represented the resurrection of a sports model from the late 1960s.

Kicking off the New Year at LMVH Watch Week in Singapore last week, Zenith presented its most intricate skeleton watch yet. It is also the only openworked timepiece to feature a 1/10th of a second indicator.

On paper, it’s a real firecracker, but on the wrist, it’s even more impressive. Luckily, Watchonista got the chance to photograph the delights of the Zenith DEFY Skyline Skeleton.

Baby, You’re a Star

The modern DEFY collection has made its name with complex pieces like the Zero G, the Inventor, and the Double Tourbillon. At the same time, it represents the marriage between high horology and high style. What takes the new Zenith DEFY Skyline Skeleton to the next level is how it has further rationalized many elements (history, aesthetics, and function) and rationalized them so that nothing feels retrofitted.

Take, for example, the architecture. Last year, Zenith came out with the DEFY Skyline.

This sub-collection drew its design inspiration from how light interacts with architecture in modern cityscapes. The result was a case that incorporated the faceted bezel of the historical DEFY from 1969 (and arguably the very first octagonal steel sports watch) but bumped it up to a dodecagon (12-sided polygon) for a bolder case silhouette. The company also introduced a clean, integrated bracelet with an easy-to-use quick-release mechanism that allows the wearer to swap it out for a sportier rubber strap.

The Skyline was a big hit. Not only was it more accessibly priced ($8,400) and more available than many of its stainless steel sport chic competitors, but its angular design also made it stand out in the looks department. So, by expanding the DEFY Skyline sub-collection to include a skeletonized model, Zenith has now reimagined what an openworked watch can and should be.

Good Bones

Zenith has a bit of a convoluted history. Established in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot, it is one of the oldest continuously operating watchmakers. The brand has always been ahead of its time (Favre-Jacob invented the concept of “in-house movements”), but it sometimes took the buying public to catch up with its revolutionary ideas.

Most notable was the El Primero movement – the first fully integrated, high-frequency, automatic chronograph movement. During this era, the brand passed through the hands of several different owners. In 1976, management auctioned off the metal presses and the tools necessary to make the movement.

Happily, Charles Vermot – the Zenith watchmaker in charge of the workshop where every El Primero chronograph movement was assembled – hid the parts, plans, and spare tools necessary for building the El Primero movement behind the wall of an isolated storeroom at the Zenith manufacture.

Skeletonized Shangri-La

The Zenith DEFY Skyline Skeleton goes far beyond presenting just an openworked dial. It once again brings the El Primero movement out of hiding.

The skeletonized dial offers a peek deep into the inner workings of the updated El Primero 3620 SK movement. Moreover, the face of the Skyline Skeleton also showcases a constantly running 1/10th of a second counter at 6 o’clock that makes steady jumps in fixed increments, completing one revolution every 10 seconds. It’s a feature that’s unique to this next-gen automatic high-frequency calibre.

Every aspect of the watch feels like it’s telling a cohesive story. First, the symmetrical display takes on the form of a four-pointed star (which is, itself, a tip of the hat to the Zenith “double Z” logo of the 1960s). Then the chapter ring’s applied baton hour markers, along with the central hour and minute hands, are filled with Super-LumiNova for easy legibility – something usually sacrificed in skeleton watches. And finally, the architectural shapes of the skeletonized dial feel integrated into the angular 41mm case.

Specs Appeal

The DEFY Skyline Skeleton comes equipped with so many other satisfying details. The open dial comes in black or blue, with the skeleton movement finished in the same color as the open dials for a cohesive presentation. The screw-down crown features a nicely engraved star emblem (and helps provide water resistance of 10 ATM or 100 meters).

The sapphire display caseback highlights an open-worked version of the high-frequency 3620 SK automatic El Primero calibre at work. At rest, this super-efficient mechanism provides a power reserve of approximately 60 hours.

Like any thoroughly modern timepiece, the DEFY Skyline Skeleton is also versatile. The watch is set on a steel bracelet with a satin-brushed surface with chamfered and polished edges. Like the other design elements of this watch, the links flow into the sharply faceted lines of the case. It also comes with a dial matching rubber strap and steel folding buckle with a starry sky pattern to complement the dial.

Pricing & Availability

The DEFY Skyline Skeleton is available at Zenith boutiques and authorized retailers around the world and priced at $11,000. For more information, visit the Zenith website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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