HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy Skyline brings a 1/10th of a second counter to a time and date watch HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy Skyline brings a 1/10th of a second counter to a time and date watch

HANDS-ON: The Zenith Defy Skyline brings a 1/10th of a second counter to a time and date watch

Zach Blass

Zenith is well-known for their mastery of hi-beat technology with calibres capable of measuring incredibly fine increments. When the Zenith Defy Revival A3642 was introduced last week, Zenith made it very clear in their assets that it was just the beginning of what was to come for the Defy line – the spark that would usher in the next evolution of the model. Blending aesthetic elements of the original 1969 Defy watch and modern models, as well as adding an all-new 1/10th of a second counter to a Defy time and date model for the first time, the brand now presents the new Zenith Defy Skyline collection.

The case

Across the Zenith Defy Skyline collection, each reference is fabricated in a 41mm x 11.6mm x 46.3mm stainless-steel case that is 100 metres water-resistant – further ensured by a screw-down crown. The case geometry, at first glance, seems very similar to what we have seen from past modern Defy models. But the Zenith Defy Skyline collection actually introduces a fresh evolution of case design by blending elements of past and present Defy watches. The Zenith Defy Revival A3642 announced last week resurrected the debuting Defy design of 1969, along with its 14-sided bezel. Blending its highly multi-faceted design of the past, with an already faceted design of the present, we now have the slightly remixed Defy Skyline case profile – with a new 12-sided bezel and more faceted case flanks.

The 12-sided bezel was designed to best frame the 12 hour indices of the dial. It also increases the presence of a polished finish to the bezel, the flat portion of its top-side still brushed while the ever so sloped portion and perimeter is mirror polished. Owners of previous Defy watches will know that previously the left flank of the case was fluid and curvaceous, while the right flank was a tad sharper with three faceted surfaces, one of which was flat to best frame the crown. As you can see from the shot above, the left flank now adopts this form – creating a more traditional picture of the octagonal form. The top sharp bevels of the case flanks are mirror polished, but the rest of the case, aside from the sloped surfaces and perimeter of the 14-sided bezel, is entirely finished with a rich vertical satin brush.

The dial

Another new striking feature of the Zenith Defy Skyline collection is the new “starry sky” pattern found on their dials – currently available in blue, black, and silver (which appears more like a silvered-white) sunburst configurations. Aside from their colours, each of the dials leverage the same exact layout and colour coordinated date apertures at 3′ to perfectly blend in with each tone. The dials also each utilise rhodium-plated hands and indices, all of which are filled with SuperLuminova® SLN C1 coatings for optimal visibility in darker settings.

But let’s circle back to what is really new with each of the three new dials. It is no secret that many watch enthusiasts perceive the Zenith Defy as a viable alternative to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the new patterned dial of the Zenith Defy Skyline creates another strong parallel. Akin to the tapisserie dials of Audemars Piguet, the “starry sky” pattern adds texture and depth to the dial that results in further intrigue. It is not, however, an aesthetic switch-up without meaning. The repeated star that creates the “starry sky” pattern we see is by no means a random design. It is, in fact, the very same star found engraved on the caseback of the original Defy A3642 from 1969  – a subtle, yet strong, reminder of Zenith’s rich history that cultivates a fresh new modern aesthetic.

The next new element of the dials is the small register positioned at 9′. No, that is not a misprint on the dial. Yes you are correctly spotting the numeral 10 instead of 60. The Zenith Defy Skyline collection proudly boasts their well-established mastery of timing fine increments, debuting a 1/10th of a second counter, normally found only on their chronograph models, to one of their time and date watches for the first time. The hand, at its incredible rate, is very lively as it races around the register – making one full revolution every 10 seconds. While I am well-documented as not a huge fan of asymmetrical counters, I understand its placement is required by the new in-house calibre debuting inside and concede, in this instance, that it works well with the pattern of the dial.

The bracelet and strap

Aesthetically speaking, the stainless-steel bracelet each of the three variants are outfitted on is exactly the same as what we know and enjoy. The tapered integrated bracelet has a rich vertical brush throughout the top side of the bracelet, while the outer bevelled shoulders of the links are mirror polished. Each of the centre links, on their side facets, are also polished, revealing their glistening finish as they are articulated through your wrist movement. A butterfly clasp secures the watch to your wrist, its compact and curved nature keeping the watch very centered on the wrist as well as creating minimal fixed length – great news for those with smaller wrists like mine.

Zenith Defy Skyline

But you are not limited to the bracelet, each watch comes with an additional case-integrating rubber strap as well. The silver dial is paired with a green strap, the blue with a dial-matching blue, and the black with a dial-matching black. Each strap is bolstered with strong lines, but include a sunken channel in which the “starry sky” pattern is continued through its center. Each strap is secured to the wrist via a twin-trigger folding clasp, which can be positioned to optimal size through one of the seven loopholes. It also should be mentioned that swapping between the included bracelet and rubber strap is an exceptionally easy operation thanks to the quick interchangeable strap system. Simply depress the trigger on the caseback to remove the strap or bracelet, and you can then quickly click-on your desired factory option.

The movement

Zenith Defy Skyline

Inside the Zenith Defy Skyline, visible beneath the screw-secured exhibition caseback, is the new in-house calibre El Primero 3620 automatic. The movement is an adapted calibre 3600, the calibre found inside of the popular Chronomaster Sport, which introduces a 1/10th of a second counter to a Zenith time and date only watch for the first time. It is a 36,000 vph hi-beat calibre with 60 hours of power reserve, and an anti-magnetic silicon escape wheel and lever. There is also a stop-seconds mechanism so that the time can be set according to a reference clock as well. All considered, including the 1/10th of a second counter, it is technically very impressive and will certainly appeal to gearheads in the watch community.

Zenith Defy Skyline

As for its finish, you will not find the traditional striping or perlage many Swiss watches are known for. Instead you have a modern aesthetic befitting its pioneering spirit and Defy name. The bridge has an attractive and rich brushed finish, while other surfaces are more matte in appearance. The star-shaped rotor marries brushed surfaces with sunken and skeletonized frosted surfaces, a pairing continued on the brushed winding mass, which, in its centre, has a sunken frosted medallion with ‘Zenith Manufacture” etched in relief.

I could nitpick the placement of the register, or even the necessity of being able to measure 1/10th of a second on a watch such as this. But, outweighing this sentiment in my mind, I am appreciative of the Defy spirit this collection is more than living up to. The aesthetics are familiar yet fresh and result in a compelling modern tribute to Zenith’s history. The technical innovation is a fitting display of Zenith’s technical prowess and its register, while conflicting for me, is a strong element that sets it apart from all other comparable references on the market. And these days we need different, so I am glad Zenith worked to push the boundaries of what we expect from a time and date watch in their Defy Skyline collection.

Zenith Defy Skyline pricing and availability:

The Zenith Defy Skyline collection is available now for purchase at Zenith boutiques and authorized retailers around the world. Price: $8,400 USD (for all models)





Defy Skyline

Case Size

41mm in diameter, 11.6mm thick, 46.3mm lug-to-lug

Case Material

Stainless Steel


Blue, Black, Silver


Steel Bracelet and Rubber Strap


El Primero 3620


Time, Date, 1/10th of a second counter


$8,400 USD


Available now for inquiries