LVMH Watch Week: The Renewal Of Zenith’s DEFY Collection
At this year’s LVMH Watch Week, Zenith is putting its DEFY collection back on the map with a host of new models, including the DEFY Revival A3642 and the DEFY Skyline.
When talking about Zenith, the first thing most of us probably think about is the El Primero movement. The world’s first automatic chronograph movement, it launched in 1969. But that same year, in response to the concurrent emergence of quartz-powered timepieces, Zenith also issued a new collection: the DEFY. And as the brand’s answer to the cheaper, mass-produced quartz models flooding the market, Zenith put its best foot forward with the audacious (and now iconic) DEFY A3642, proving once and for all: mechanical calibres were here to stay.
Now, for the 2022 edition of LVMH Watch Week, Zenith is redefining the DEFY collection for the 21st century with the extremely well-balanced DEFY Skyline and the time-only DEFY Revival A3642, a worthy heir to the spirit of the original model from 1969.
Plus, in addition to those more sedately-hued models, the brand’s brilliant use of color in the DEFY collection’s new Midnight Sunset, Midnight Borealis, 21 Chroma, and Extreme Carbon (which is black, but I challenge anyone to argue it is not as vibrant as its rainbow siblings) make the collection shine like a freshly minted penny, or centime, if you prefer.
Luckily, both our US and Swiss teams had the chance to experience and photograph these novelties before their release. So, while we plan to give you more in-depth looks into these models soon, let’s take a quick look at what all of these new DEFY models are made of, including original pictures and up-to-date pricing.
Introducing the Zenith DEFY Revival A3642: An Ode to 1969
If you read our recent article about the year, then you already know that 1969 was probably the most important year in horological history. And just like the broader societal change that took place in the late-1960s, the winds of change blew over the design world too. And in the spirit of the times, the DEFY collection debuted in 1969 with the A3642, a watch that featured a highly advanced geometric design and sporty steel bracelet.
However, to be clear: While, even for the time, the A3642 was no doubt audacious with its radical case and bezel and bold dial design, the A3642 was also (and primarily) a contemporary expression of a reliable time-only daily watch.
Mixing shapes with finishings and adding to that a warm gray dial with a striking gradient effect that was among the first of its kind, the original A3642 from 1969 is what we would call a sports watch today. Now recreated this year, with the DEFY Revival A3642, this foundational time-only piece is available in a limited edition of 250 pieces and priced at $7,000.
Introducing the DEFY Skyline: A Starmap to the Future
Also being released for LVMH Watch Week 2022 is the new DEFY Skyline, an extremely clever addition to the collection by Zenith. “Why?” you may ask. Well, to understand, you’ll need a little background.
When the DEFY A3642 debuted in 1969, with the strong geometric bezel and case that earned it the nickname “coffre-fort” (French for “vault” or “safe”), the original DEFY A3642’s prescient case and bezel structure were soon overshadowed by sports watches from the 1970s. These later models also featured geometric designs but, unlike the original A3642, included an integrated strap. Two prominent examples of these models are the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (launched in 1972) and the Patek Philippe Nautilus (released in 1976).
So, with this history in mind, you can see the cleverness behind Zenith’s design of the new DEFY Skyline. For this new model, the brand took the geometric tension of the A3642’s bezel, retained the silhouette of the A3642’s case while reducing its angularity, and added an integrated bracelet.
Less avant-garde than the venerable A3642, the DEFY Skyline’s design is well-balanced between the audacity of its optically challenging bezel/case/integrated bracelet combination and the visual harmony inherent in its dial design. Plus, with a diameter of 41mm and a flexible, fully interchangeable bracelet perfectly positioned on the case, the DEFY Skyline is a comfortable fit for even small wrists like mine.
When first looking at the DEFY Skyline’s dial, the eye is immediately drawn to the counter at 9 o’clock and its hypnotically sweeping hand, which constantly runs at 1/10th-of-a-second intervals. Powered by the new El Primero 3620 – a descendant of the El Primero 3600 1/10th of a second chronograph – the DEFY Skyline’s movement beats at 5HZ (36,000 VpH), making the display in the 9 o’clock counter a “natural” fraction-of-a-second indication.
Clean as it is readable, the dial of the DEFY Skyline has a kind of historical faithfulness, evidenced by a discrete “Double Z” pattern on the dial. As you can see on the caseback of my A385 El Primero Chronograph Automatic from 1969, the central medallion also has this “Double Z” logo, and it makes the same 4-pointed star design used for the Skyline’s dial Pattern.
Available in three dial colors (blue, black, or silver) with a sunburst pattern, Zenith’s DEFY Skyline is delivered on an interchangeable integrated stainless steel bracelet and comes with an additional starry sky patterned rubber strap; all for $8,400.
Introducing the DEFY Midnight Sunset & Midnight Borealis: Simply Beautiful
In 2020, Zenith pleasantly surprised the watch world with the more feminine DEFY Midnight.
Now, for LVMH Watch Week 2022, the brand is releasing two new 36mm stainless steel variants, the DEFY Midnight Sunset and DEFY Midnight Borealis, both of which come on an integrated stainless and three interchangeable colored straps.
The Zenith DEFY Midnight Sunset comes with a red to yellow gradient guilloché dial. Meanwhile, the DEFY Midnight Borealis also has a guilloché dial, but the gradient is blue to green.
Additionally, both feature diamond-set hours markers and brilliant-cut white diamond-set bezels that play with the light and work as counterbalanced to the beautiful but intensely-colored guilloché dials.
Finally, equipped with the automatic Elite 670 SK movement, both models are available for $11,400.
Introducing the DEFY 21 Chroma: A Symphony of Color
Akin to the way a kaleidoscope plays with color, so too does the DEFY 21 Chroma’s gradient dial seamless transitions across the colors of the rainbow in a clockwise direction.
Powered by the emblematic El Primero 9004 automatic high-frequency 1/100th-of-a-second Chronograph movement, the white ceramic case and white strap of the new Zenith DEFY 21 Chroma combine to make the perfect canvas and really allow the symphony of color playing across its dial to pop. Orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and pink run along the periphery of the openwork white dial, but even some of the movement components flash hints of color.
Finally, the white rubber “Cordura effect” strap continues the chromatic game with rainbow stitching. Limited to 200 pieces, the Zenith DEFY 21 Chroma is priced at $14,500.
Introducing the DEFY Extreme Carbon
Introduced in 2021, the aptly named DEFY Extreme is a 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph that already exuded a mien of robustness with its strong design and 45mm diameter. But now, for the 2022 edition LWMH Watch Week, Zenith’s DEFY Extreme gets the carbon treatment with a 45mm carbon fiber case mixed with microblasted titanium parts.
The result is a pretty aggressive aesthetic that is somehow still incredibly appealing and, of course, almost impossibly lightweight. The case, pushers, and crown are all made of layered carbon fiber. Meanwhile, the pusher protectors and bezel are made of microblasted titanium to better fortify then against impacts and more generally wear and tear.
Available for $25,100, the new DEFY Extreme Carbon from Zenith comes with three interchangeable straps: a black textured rubber strap with a microblasted titanium folding buckle, a red textured rubber strap, and a black Velcro strap.
For more information on all of Zenith’s LVMH Watch Week releases, visit the brand’s website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell & Zenith Watches)