For all their advances, mechanical watches haven’t changed fundamentally in over 340 years. Now Swiss watchmaker Zenith has broken new ground by creating an “oscillator” that replaces the conventional spring escapement with a precisely engineered silicon disc. Zenith claims this makes its Defy Lab the world’s most accurate mechanical watch.
It was one of the highlights of last year’s Baselworld: the Zenith Defy El Primero 21. While the El Primero itself has already set the standard of its chronograph to 5Hz/36.000 bpm in 1969, allowing you to measure with a 1/10th of a second accuracy, the El Primero 21 exceeds this tenfold. Running at a staggering 50Hz, the chronograph measures up to 1/100th of a second, and does so with a central seconds hand, which makes this accomplishment all the more tangible.
Even a year later, this is still amazing, and not to mention fun, to see. Earlier this year, in January, Zenith expanded the Defy El Primero 21 collection, presenting us in Geneva with a version in rose gold. In this precious metal, the Defy El Primero 21 shows a different side of itself, highlighting its exclusivity. By giving it a brushed finish, for the most part, even this version maintains its technical look.
Looking at the Zenith Defy Lab watch, it’s obvious that something else is at work. Instead of the conventional spring balance, the movement visible behind the dial seems to vibrate like some powerful machine that’s on the verge of exploding into bits. That’s because the spring balance has been replaced by Zenith’s new oscillator.
The rose gold Defy El Primero 21 debuts not only on a leather strap (priced at $27.600,-) but is also available on a new rose gold bracelet ($42.400,-). Also, the titanium and ceramic versions of the watch can now be ordered with a bracelet in the same design, adding $2.900,- to the price of the ceramic model, and $1.000,- to that of the titanium. Designing a good bracelet is about as difficult as designing a good watch, yet Zenith did a wonderful job. When attached, it merges nicely with the design of the case, even giving the impression that the bracelet is integrated. The links follow the curve of the wrist very closely making it comfortable to wear, even when you opt for the heavier rose gold version on a bracelet.
Zenith also debuted a Defy El Primero 21 featuring a pave setting of diamonds. There are a few things that make this watch special. First of all, the case is titanium. Usually, diamonds are set in gold, because this metal is far more malleable, making it easier to work with. Titanium, however, is far more difficult to set diamonds in, especially a pave setting as with this Defy El Primero 21. Zenith used a total of 5 carats of diamonds, of which a large portion are the baguette cut diamonds that make up the bezel of the watch. Normally watches set with so many diamonds are quite expensive, but since Zenith uses titanium instead of precious metal, they offer this one for $26.300,-. This is a very competitive, if not aggressive, pricing, especially since you get the incredible El Primero 21 movement in this watch as well!