HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy 21 Chroma Limited Edition brings rainbow vibes to 2022 HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy 21 Chroma Limited Edition brings rainbow vibes to 2022

HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy 21 Chroma Limited Edition brings rainbow vibes to 2022

D.C. Hannay

Unless you’ve been marooned on a desert island for the past several years, you’re probably all too aware of the rainbow colourway boom in the horological world. And let’s face it, some of these timepieces are, shall we say, aesthetically more harmonious than others. For every rainbow Daytona out there, there are twice as many watches that resemble the aftermath of a third grader attacking a bag of Skittles. And what if jewels aren’t your thing? Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, so if you’re looking to taste the rainbow, but don’t want the flash of coloured sapphires, your options become much more limited. Fortunately, Zenith has a brand new option for the bling-averse that still brings the playful optimism of the rainbow look to those searching for something with a decidedly sportier edge. Its name: the Zenith Defy Chroma 21 Limited Edition.

The case

The new Zenith Defy 21 Chroma is a bright, bold celebration of the entire spectrum, wrapped in a brilliant matte white ceramic case that evokes pure white marble. Although the Defi/Defy name has been a part of Zenith’s history since the late 19th century, the tonneau-style case that the current model descended from wasn’t part of the design language until the late 1960s. A good deal more freewheeling than Zenith’s more sober black ceramic Defy models, the Chroma’s bright white case and multicoloured detailing brings a sense of fun that we haven’t seen since the dynamic white and orange pop of the sold-out Swizz Beatz Defy El Primero 21 from 2019. That limited edition proved that a highly technical timepiece needn’t look so serious. But a serious piece of engineering it is. High-tech ceramics are notoriously difficult to work with, but the payoff is worth the effort, with incredible scratch resistance, uber-sharp case lines, and noticeably lighter weight. The 44mm case is also water resistant to 100 metres, which is rather exceptional for a chronograph without screwdown pushers. But the Chroma’s case is only part of the story.

The dial

Behind the sapphire crystal, the openworked dial and all its many points of visual interest are exploding with colour, beginning with the chronograph’s 1/100 second scale, which follows the spectrum all the way around the outer edge of the dial. Moving further inward, the minutes track is accented with faceted rhodium-plated, rainbow-varnished markers every five minutes, colour-coordinated to the outer track. The hour, minute, and second hands are faceted, and also plated with rhodium. From there, the visual tour-de-force of the El Primero 9004 automatic movement comes into view.

With the kind of energy a high-frequency movement burns through, Zenith smartly includes a chronograph power reserve indicator at 12, with a red-tipped hand to match the marker above. Moving around the dial, the raised white chronograph subdials are laid out as follows: 30-minute counter at 3, 60-second counter at 6, and running small seconds at 9. In another thoughtful design touch, the chrono subdial hands are also colour-matched according to their position on the main dial. Even the crown gets in on the action, with a yellow rubber accent ring to correspond with the marker at 3 o’clock. And if that weren’t enough, the movement’s bridges peeking out underneath the forefront of the dial elements are coated with a metallic-finished PVD and colour-matched to complement their position relative to the markers. This visual bacchanal of a movement continues around to the other side, fully visible through the sapphire display caseback, including the added interest of the blue satin-finished Zenith signature star-shaped oscillating weight.

The strap

Completing the package is the white rubber “cordura textured” strap with rainbow stitching that again coordinates with the dial accents according to where the strap ends meet the case. The entire package is secured with a titanium triple-folded clasp. The rubber is wholly practical too, well-suited to a watch that just begs to be in the thick of whatever action you might find yourself in. I see this watch as not only a perfect piece for summer, but one that would look completely at home carving up turns on the slopes of St Moritz.

The movement

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma

Two separate escapements are at work here: the timekeeping escapement runs at 5 Hz, or 36,000 vibrations per hour (with a 50-hour power reserve), while the chronograph beats at an astonishing 50 Hz. That’s a mindblowing 360,000 VpH, which you can see in action as the chronograph hand makes a full revolution every second. So fast and furious is the action of the chronograph, you can actually hear a faint sound as the hand makes its trip around the dial. Zenith aren’t kidding around. They were pioneers of this type of high-frequency movement, and their R&D pays great returns here. Full disclosure: this has to be one of the most visually entertaining movements out there, and a pretty great party trick for your next IRL watch meetup.

Zenith has come up with yet another winner in the Defy 21 Chroma. As a cohesive whole, the use of colour is just so incredibly well thought out, yet it doesn’t shout the way a jewelled piece might. And from a technological point of view, the El Primero 9004 movement is a remarkable feat of engineering. Not that it should come as a surprise, since Zenith has been at the forefront of innovation in the field of high performance chronograph movements since the original El Primero debuted in 1969. Packaging that tech in such a vibrant timepiece as the Chroma is just the rainbow-sprinkled frosting on the cake.

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma pricing and availability:

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma

The Zenith Defy 21 Chroma is available for inquires now, and is a limited edition of 200 pieces. Price: $14,500 USD

Key Points 1/100th of a second Chronograph movement. Exclusive dynamic signature of one rotation per second for the Chrono hand. 1 escapement for the Watch (36,000 VpH – 5 Hz); 1 escapement for the Chronograph (360,000 VpH – 50 Hz). Certified Chronometer.
Case Material Matte White Ceramic
Case Dimensions 44 mm in diameter, 14.5mm thick, and 50mm lug-to-lug
Water-Resistance 100m
Dial White Openworked
Movement El Primero 9004
Power reserve 50 hours
Complications  1/100th of a second chronograph functions. Chronograph Power Reserve indication at 12 o’clock. Hours and minutes in the centre. Small seconds at 9 o’clock, Central chronograph, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 60-second counter at 6 o’clock
Straps White rubber with white “Cordura effect” rubber and multicolored. Titanium triple folding clasp.
Price $14,500 USD (Limited Edition 200 pcs.)