Whilst both Zenith and Land Rover have changed vastly in the past few years, one gaining the remarkable Defy 21 and the other a new Defender, they continue to work together. Their collaborations have not caught my eye until now as they unveil the Zenith Defy 21 as a modern and cutting-edge yet rugged chronograph.
Based upon the already-fantastic Defy 21 released in 2017, this watch follows the Range Rover inspired El Primero released a few years ago. However, where that overtly showed a Range Rover association, this is more subtle. The case form and movement are carried over from the production model. As such, it remains a 44mm chronograph with a very angular form but is presented with a more austere and handsome charm.
Gone are the gleaming surfaces and, in their place, we see a matte, blasted titanium surface punctuated by the mechanical form of the crown and the square but easily pressed pushers. The dial follows a similar approach — something refreshing considering Zenith’s often-busy dial design. The dial base mimics the tone and finish of the case whilst the the chapter ring is raised in orange and grey. The sub-dials are finished with raised and indented elements which give serious legibility. Whilst this may seem superficial after such a comprehensive redesign of the watch, but I regard the hands as the greatest triumph as they round off and make legible the angular ones of the standard watch.
Perhaps this simplicity conceals what many see as the most impressive chronograph of recent years. Inside this watch beats the El Primero 9004: an in-house automatic chronograph which, conventionally runs at 36,000 vibrations-per-hour for 50 hours. However, with a push of the start button, a second escapement engages which will drain its own spring in 50 minutes. This is the chronograph section which runs at a scarcely-believable 360,000 vph. The result is a second hand at 6 o’clock, a minute counter at 3 o’clock and a central hand which completes one rotation of the dial each second. As such, this is a real marvel of engineering which is monitored by a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.
Putting all of this aside, one is left with an interesting question. If this Zenith Defy 21 watch is designed to go alongside the all-new Land Rover Defender: do the Defender and a new 13,900 CHF chronograph limited to 250 pieces appeal to the same person? The conventional perspective would suggest that they do not, yet I think that this is the very point of the watch. The new Defender deviates completely from the stereotypical Welsh farmer’s offroader or military vehicle and presents up with a modern all-terrain car. By the same token, this Zenith takes the traditional mechanical watch and, in a time of constant retrospection for the golden years of the 20th century, delivers something completely new. For that, and its brilliant design, this looks like a real winner.
Availability: 250 pieces priced at 13,900 CHF
- Dimensions: 44mm in diameter
- Material: Microblasted Titanium
- Crystal: Sapphire Crystal
- Dial: Matte grey surface / Sunken sub-dials for running seconds, chronograph minutes and chronograph seconds / Linear power reserve indicator / Central 1/100 second counter
- Water Resistance: 10 ATM / 100m
- Movement: Zenith El Primero 9004: Automatic & manually wound / TIME LAB chronometer certified / 50-hour power reserve / Timing: 5Hz, 10 ticks-per-second, 36,000 vph / Chronograph: 50Hz, 100 ticks-per-second, 360,000 vph / Power reserve indicator