One of the things I’ve most admired about Zenith over the past few years has been their ability to find balance between their heritage focused offerings, and their desire to push (sometimes within the same families) into unashamedly modern territory. Consider the Defy Revival A3642 released last year, and the Defy Extreme pictured in this article, each on opposite ends of that spectrum, yet each representing the very same ethos, some 60 years apart. Perhaps most impressively, the brand’s design language remains intact through this transition, which we also observe within the Chronomaster collection. Helping them push further into the contemporary are collaborators such as Argentinian-Spanish optical artist Felipe Pantone.
Zenith first partnered with Pantone last year with the release of the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone, which included a clear, double tourbillon variant for the Only Watch auction (which achieved CHF480,000 for the charity). The watch featured a vibrant multi-color scheme integrated within the movement and dial in a novel way that even included a set of ‘glitched’ hands that created an effect similar to the artist’s other work both 2 and 3 dimensional. You can read more about that watch and its place amongst other art watches from Zach Kazan right here.
This year, the partnership with Felipe Pantone is moving to the Defy Extreme collection, and it brings a similarly colorful palette to the highly layered dial and case for maximum effect. The watch is meant to be an “expression of time through light, colors and motion” and in that context the impact is clear. The multi-color scheme is toned down a notch compared to the Defy 21, however the case itself plays a larger role in bringing that expression to bear.
An undertone of iridescent blue joins a fully polished steel case that measures 45mm in diameter. The dodecagonal bezel and the bases of the chronograph pushers are constructed from translucent blue YAS (yttrium aluminosilicate), which compliment the light blue silicone strap. A polished steel bracelet as well as black velcro strap are also included and can be swapped quickly thanks to the quick release system at use between the lug structure. Engravings at the top of each lug spell out FP#1, which represent the artist’s initials and the El Primero movement within.
In total this watch is nearly impossible to take in at a glance. There are details small and large that you’ll discover from different angles or in different lighting situations, as I found during a brief hands-on with the watch while in Green Bay with Zenith (more on that trip coming soon). The hands in particular need the right conditions to reveal their rainbow coloration. The only prominent application of color is found in the chapter ring of the minute totalizer at 3 o’clock. The rest is far more subtle, though make no mistake, this is not a subtle watch.
The Defy Extreme is using Zenith’s El Primero 9004, which boasts the dizzying 1/100th of a second chronograph. When actuated, the centrally mounted timing hand kicks into action, making a full lap of the dial every second, which is tracked via the totalizer at 6 o’clock, and each minute via the aforementioned totalizer at 3 o’clock. This is achieved with two separate escapements: one for the general time keeping of the watch ticking away at (a still lively) 36,000 VpH or 5 Hz, and one for the chronograph which beats at 360,000 VpH or 50 Hz.
Like the Defy 21, this Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone is limited to just 100 examples, meaning this one might be tough to experience in person anytime soon. The 29,900CHF price tag doesn’t help, either. But hey, this is a beautiful work of art that blends some rather impressive mechanical chops with the vision of Felipe Pantone in dramatic fashion. It carries the torch of the Defy’s raison d’etre in the same way the original was meant to back in 1969. Zenith.
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