HANDS-ON: The new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is a superstar in their 2023 lineup HANDS-ON: The new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is a superstar in their 2023 lineup

HANDS-ON: The new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is a superstar in their 2023 lineup

D.C. Hannay

It’s been a good couple of years for Zenith (waiting lists and all), and they’re off to a blazing start for 2023 with the release of the new Defy Skyline Skeleton at LVMH Watch Week in Singapore. This integrated model has been a popular pick since it was introduced, and the new version features some really cool callbacks to Zenith’s history in the form of some retro-futuristic visual updates.

The case

The integrated stainless-steel case is a tempting option in the still red-hot space, stacking up well against more established competition such as the Royal Oak. With well-proportioned dimensions of 41mm in diameter, an 11.6mm thickness, and a lug-to-lug of 46.3mm, it’s a better fit for the majority of wrists, especially when other models creep above the 50mm mark in lug-to-lug length. The sharp angles and crisp edges we all love are present, with polishing along the outer edges of the 12-sided bezel providing a nice contrast against the case’s predominantly brushed surfaces. Flow into the bracelet is seamlessly gorgeous, with an integration that showcases a textbook example of the style. A signed screwdown crown features Zenith’s trademark four-pointed star, and provides 100 metres of water resistance. Sapphire protects both the dial and caseback sides, with said caseback secured by four screws. Around back you’ll also find the push-buttons for the quick-release strap exchange system.

The dial

Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton

Despite the highly attractive casework, I’m going to go out on a limb and call the skeletonised dial the real star (no pun intended) of the show. Instead of the five-pointed star of the Defy Classic Skeleton you’ll find the retro-tastic four-pointed version that echoes the caseback emblem of the original Defy from 1969. The surfaces feature vertical brushing, and come in a choice of black or blue. They’re both objectively handsome, but I’ll admit a bias toward the black shown here. It’s pure horological evil in the best possible way. Skeletonised-dial watches can easily become a visual trainwreck, but no such issues here. Rhodium-plated rectangular faceted indices jut out from the chapter ring, and are easily legible, given their Super-LumiNova infill. It’s a balanced look that provides easy reading, while showing off the fireworks of the movement within. The unique-to-the-space 1/10 second counter is now positioned at six instead of nine, lending some welcome symmetry to the dial layout. I’ll admit that certain dial placement choices can trigger an uncontrollable eye twitch for me, but this one’s just right. Bonus: the date window has been omitted for even more symmetrical goodness, and all is right in my universe.

The bracelet

Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton

First things first: this is one sexy bracelet. The matching stainless H-link bracelet integrates beautifully with the case lines, and is exquisitely finished. The vertically brushed flat surfaces play nicely with the jewell-like polished bevels of the links’ edges. And if you find yourself engaged in more active pursuits, the included black rubber strap should fit the bill. It features a four-pointed starry sky pattern, and secures with a stainless folding buckle. You can swap on a whim, too, via the secure pushbutton attachment system.

The movement

Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton

Zenith is rightly known for their prowess in high-beat movement manufacture, and the new Defy Skyline Skeleton further proves that point. The El Primero 3620 features a beat rate of 36,000 VpH, a silicon escape wheel and lever for magnetic resistance, and an ample power reserve of 60 hours, rather stellar for a high-beat movement. It’s the only skeletonised watch in the world with a 1/10 second indicator, making a complete revolution every 10 seconds. Truth be told, the subdial action is quite entertaining, however frivolous it seems on paper. Movement components feature accents in the same black colour as the openworked dial, including the star motif of the bidirectional rotor. The views from both the dial and caseback sides are really lovely, and should provide a healthy amount of the joy that we get when studying the intricacies of these wristborne mechanical wonders.

The verdict

Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton

There’s a lot to like in the new Defy Skyline Skeleton. It’s got great dimensions, an attractive openworked dial that’s surprisingly legible, and it’s throwing some real horological heat with that El Primero movement blazing away. Fit should be a breeze for a broad range of wrists, and the inclusion of a rubber strap is a nice touch. It’s a worthy contender among the crowded integrated luxury sports watch field, and the price, while not insignificant, is very competitive in this arena.

Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton pricing and availability:

The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is available now. Price: US$11,000

Brand Zenith
Model DEFY Skyline Skeleton
Case Diameter 41mm (D) x 11.6mm (T) x 46.3mm (L2L)
Case Material Stainless Steel
Water Resistance 100m (screw-down crown)
Dial Openworked black or blue
Crystal Sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback
Strap Stainless steel bracelet and folding clasp. Comes with a blue rubber strap with starry sky pattern and folding clasp.
Movement In-house automatic El Primero 3620
Power Reserve 60 hours
Functions Hours and minutes in the centre. 1/10th of a second counter at 6′
Availability Now
Price US$11,000