INTRODUCING: The new Zenith DEFY Extreme delivers three titanium-armoured sports watch contendersThor Svaboe
Zenith threw a knockout punch only a few weeks ago with the new Chronomaster Sport, and our enthusiasm is quite apparent when reading Andrew McUtchen’s story here. It’s clear that CEO Julien Tornare and his team are on a roll and determined to continue their momentum. The new Zenith DEFY Extreme range enters the sports watch category with a confident swagger, offering high-tech tool watches in lightweight titanium.
These watches are not for the wrist-shy out there, but hang on, let’s start by addressing this. I sometimes make the mistake myself of thinking larger diameters are the exceptions in 2021, but they’re clearly not. The DEFY has a 45mm case but comes with a light titanium case and a hewn-from granite look which, as if by magic, sits damn comfortably on the wrist.
The new battle-ready trio are unashamedly bold in their dynamic case design and angular by execution. You can forget about pairing them with that dress shirt, as these offer proper physical presence. The watch does have a 15.4mm thickness in a 45mm case with well, rather large and blocky chronograph pushers, but they’re more than acceptable given their functional purpose.
With the intricate, twin-escapement El Primero 9004 Automatic movement, you have chronograph history on your wrist, with the dizzying spin of the central chronograph hand showing 1/100th second. We know the 36,000 vph high beat of the El Primero is still the benchmark, but what about the second escapement for the chronograph? Well, it has its own 360,000 vph. The mic drops and conversations stop when the seconds hand sweeps madly around the dial.
All three models have the strong DEFY trait of an open-worked visage thanks to the tinted sapphire dial. Despite a barrage of details, a deft choice of contrasting surfaces and laser-sharp white print for minute and second tracks makes this a highly legible chronograph. A special treat for us strap-aholics is also in store. Hallelujah! The new DEFY Extreme comes with the godsend of no less than three strap options included. A tough looking titanium bracelet, the soft comfort of Zenith rubber, and a decidedly sporty velcro strap.
Reference 97.9100.9004/02.1001 – The dark stealth option
Matte microblasted titanium and black is back in this symphony of darkness, yet with crisp white print and polished details that brings the intricate craftsmanship to the fore. The beguiling sweep of the 1/100th second polished chronograph hand across the sapphire dial is framed in the black titanium and tiered bezel. The angular build of the case brings multi-layered titanium juxtaposition to the chronograph dial, a black coloured mainplate in the background making the large DEFY hands pop on the balanced dial. The darkness dominates the exterior, but it only takes a brief ray of light to catch the polished details of faceted indices, broad hands and a couple of rubies sweetening the deal. Price 17,900 CHF
Reference 97.9100.9004/01.1001 – Fresh blues for the summer
Here we recognise the DEFY blue tones, which once again brings it up to a fresh summer vibe. The dial is a superb calling card for the Zenith El Primero, with the trademark tri-coloured registers and those small but delicious red details that makes this instantly identifiable as a Zenith. This has a maritime vibe on the soft blocky-patterned new rubber strap, and a natural brushed titanium case with the ping of polished details. The brighter case finish makes you notice the discernibly bold striations of the brushwork, and the layered bezel construction. The vertically brushed bezel has a dark titanium dodecagonal ring sandwiched between it and the muscular case, matching the dark crown guards. If I managed to squeeze this under a shirt cuff, the large yet proportionate shapes of the pushers and hefty crown would be a conversation starter in itself. I’m off to the tailor’s for those custom-wide cuffs. Price 17,900 CHF
Reference 87.9100.9004/03.1001 – The Baller
Here’s your choice if the two first references are too demure, as Zenith has created a proper flash of wrist flex. The broad shouldered DEFY case is here quietly confident in microblasted titanium, with the layered bezel having giving the game away with the sparkle of polished rose gold. The large crown guards are even more of a powerful presence here, the rose gold being a bold, yet delicate contrast to the matte titanium.
Its glimmering case details might be polarising, but the dial binds it all together with a warmth that defines this DEFY Extreme, the gold-coloured main plate deliciously visible through the sapphire dial and sharp black-edged registers. I can well imagine this on a summer’s evening as the final sun-rays catch the blunt polished indices, sword hands and Zenith star. A functional sports chronograph this may be with one of most impressive twin-escapement chronograph movements available. But let’s face it, this is one dazzling tough guy. Price 21,900 CHF