The Zenith Defy Skyline Black Ceramic is a brawnier sequel to a modern classic The Zenith Defy Skyline Black Ceramic is a brawnier sequel to a modern classic

The Zenith Defy Skyline Black Ceramic is a brawnier sequel to a modern classic

Borna Bošnjak

After launching as a replacement to the highly revered Defy Classic, the Zenith Defy Skyline was tasked with a difficult proposition. Not only did it have to follow in the footsteps of a well-loved, though often underappreciated watch, but it also had to compete against the ever-more competitive integrated bracelet market. To do so, the Defy Skyline introduced a more obviously geometric case, with a distinct two-finish, dodecagonal bezel and a three-handed, El Primero-derived movement that brought about a contentious feature. In its second year as a model, Zenith has outfitted the Defy Skyline in a slinky all-black ceramic, and we got to check it out at this year’s Watches & Wonders.

All black everything

zenith defy skyline black ceramic wrist

Both its least and most obvious feature, the black ceramic construction of the Defy Skyline is executed sumptuously. It’s a challenging material to work with, least of all for its extreme hardness, and therefore, fragility, but the difficulties go further than that. I’m sure I won’t be the only one to think so, but ceramic can often feel a little cheap, as its light weight and smooth finish give off a plasticky vibe – even in the high-end realm. None of that is true with Zenith’s Defy Skyline, and the choice of having the majority of surfaces finely brushed definitely helps with that. It gives it much needed texture, while the mirror-like polished facets act as sharp accents.

zenith defy skyline black ceramic bracelet

The bracelet is fully ceramic too, once again following the brushed-is-better mantra – if that is even a thing. There’s a lovely taper towards the PVD steel clasp which helps the Defy Skyline wear more seamlessly, even though its dimensions of 41mm in diameter, 11.6mm in height and 46.3mm lug-to-lug are by no means excessive. Zenith also supplies a black rubber strap that makes use of the Defy Classic’s quick-release spring bars for an even sportier feel.

More angles, more details

zenith defy skyline black ceramic case profile

Evoking the Defy models of the late 1960s, the new Defy Skyline sports a complex dodecagonal bezel. Its top surface is vertically brushed, before sloping down into a polished facet that splits into twelve vertical sides. The case continues this angular theme, with a sharp chamfer separating the top and side of the case, further accenting the three-dimensional crown with a high-relief Zenith star.

zenith defy skyline black ceramic dial close up 2

A closer look at the dial reveals that it’s not quite all black everything, though it may as well be. The ingot-like indices are mirror-polished, and their shiny facets appear black from most angles. The same can be said for all three hands, with only the lume plots and subtle printing serving as any sort of contrast. As a result, legibility does suffer somewhat, though it doesn’t mean the dial has no visual interest. For starters, its main pattern is what gives the Defy Skyline its name, evoking a grid pattern of four-pointed stars dotting some geometric sky. This arrangement is interrupted by a stepped, azurage-finished sub-dial, with a single, curious Arabic numeral. Looking at the hand, you’d think that the video footage was sped up or that the watch you’re holding is somehow in need of a major service. Its speedy motion is in fact down to the new El Primero-based calibre, which features a seconds hand racing around the dial indicating 1/10th of a second. For it to properly reveal its secrets, I implore you to watch the accompanying video, it’s quite the effect.

Elite to El Primero

zenith defy skyline black ceramic movement caseback

An El Primero movement in a time-only watch? How strange indeed. Whereas the Defy Classic used the widely adopted Elite 670, the 3620 inside the Defy Skyline is a modification of the El Primero 3600 that debuted in the Chronomaster 2, using its high-beat escapement to drive the seconds hand. However, rather than simply removing the chrono works and using the existing running seconds at 9, the Defy Skyline’s 3620 reroutes the rapidly running central chrono hand to the 9 o’clock position. The other specs are identical, with a 5Hz beat rate and 60-hour power reserve, though the jewel count drops to 26 since it’s a less complex movement.

Zenith Defy Skyline Black Ceramic pricing and availability

The Zenith Defy Skyline Black Ceramic is available now. Price: A$22,600

Brand Zenith
Model Defy Skyline Black Ceramic
Reference Number 49.9300.3620/21.I001
Case Dimensions 41mm (D) x 11.6mm (T) x 46.3mm (LTL)
Case Material Black ceramic
Water Resistance 10 ATM
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Black sunburst
Strap Black ceramic bracelet, PVD steel folding clasp
Black rubber strap
Movement El Primero 3620, in-house, automatic, silicon escapement
Power Reserve 60 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, 1/10th of a second
Availability Now
Price A$22,600