Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II

Hands-On With The Playful Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II

What’s black or white and rainbow all over? This pair of avant-garde chronographs.

By Rhonda Riche

Undoubtedly, 2023 has so far been a strong year for Le Locle-based Zenith. First, there was the launch of the Defy Skyline Skeleton at LVMH Watch Week in January. Then the was the one-two-three punch of a revived Pilot collection, the Chronomaster Revival Shadow, and the Defy Skyline Skeleton in black ceramic.

There are many reasons that Zenith is flying high these days. One is that it’s a historic brand with a legacy that speaks to enthusiasts. Two, a big part of the story is its formidable technical expertise, especially with its El Primero movements. Because these elements are so strong, Zenith can play around with its new models.

The brand recently introduced two visually compelling timepieces, the Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II in black (ref. 49.9013.9004/21.R952) and matte white (ref. 49.9014.9004/01.R953).

Watchonista got up close with the white version to show you how Zenith’s designers are using the language of the Defy 21 as a jumping-off point to explore color and architecture in daring new ways

Layer Cake

Shall we start with the specs or the visuals? It’s hard to decide because the mechanics are enmeshed with the design. The openwork dial of the Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II features raised chronograph counters that match the color of each reference’s ceramic case. Below the display, you catch a glimpse of the majestic El Primero 9004 self-winding chronograph movement.

This mechanism is already a masterpiece with its two escapements: 36,000vph (5Hz) frequency for main time and 360,000vph (50Hz) for the chronograph, with a 50-hour power reserve for main time and 50-minute autonomy for the chronograph.

But it’s the use of gradient “rainbow” PVD coating on the bridges that make the mechanism come alive. And each of the applied index markers are filled with a different color of lacquer, displaying the full spectrum of visible light. The result is a remarkable 3-D feeling.

A see-through sapphire crystal on the case back allows you to view this high-frequency movement in motion, as if looking at it head-on isn’t enough. You can see the independent regulating sections too, as well as the geartrains.

The color accents on the white ceramic version definitely feel more vibrant than on the black, with shades of pink and multiple blues brightening the display. The sporty white rubber strap also features rainbow stitching.

Hard Cases

The Defy 21 Chroma II is playful, but it is also substantial, both in size and function.

The cases are composed of hard-wearing ceramic. The finish of this material reflects light differently than metal and the color of ceramic is a property of the material itself, making it more resistant to discoloration – a big plus when it comes to white watches.

It also feels warmer to the touch. When a watch has this much depth, it’s nice to have a tactile experience. The Chroma II measures in at 44mm, but the ceramic makes it feel light and comfortable to wear.

Final Thoughts

This is an extraordinary watch that is robust enough to wear every day. But it is not a trendy timepiece. The color makes it visually striking, but the Defy DNA also makes it timeless.

If you are a chronograph fan, you will likely aspire to have an El Primero in your collection. And if you get the chance to try one out, you are going to want to see the movement in motion. Here, the sapphire crystal on the case back of Chroma II allows full visual access.

It is also numbered because, of course, this is a limited edition of 500 pieces in each colorway for a total of 1,000 watches.

Both versions of the Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II watches are priced at $15,600 and are available at Zenith boutiques and authorized retailers. To learn more, visit the Zenith website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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