When you look at the new Zenith Defy Skyline, you may wonder if this is the new face of time for the 2020s, and you may be right. Few watches had the same aesthetic sensibilities as the Defy Skyline ten years ago — Zenith, for example, did not have such a watch.
By contrast, if you look through the coverage of time-only watches from the last three years or so, you’ll notice an increasing number of watches that share key characteristics with the Defy Skyline. This is not to say that the three stainless steel Zenith Defy Skyline models are entirely new — a watch collection devoid of history, if you will. Almost nothing in the world of fine watchmaking is completely unique.
Indeed, Zenith’s own revival watch series indicates that the Defy Skyline is heavily influenced by the design sensibilities that defined the original octagonal Defy of 1969. Today, that original has been replaced by the Defy Revival A3642, which does exactly what its name implies. The Defy Skyline brings this reference into the twenty-first century.
To begin, the Zenith Defy Skyline is a two-hander with a date and what appears to be a running seconds counter on the 9 o’clock subdial. It also appears to have guilloche on the dial (in white, black, and blue), which some may find to be rather familiar. Appearances can be deceiving, especially in a small object like a wristwatch. That subdial displays the time to the tenth of a second, and the dial itself has engraved four-pointed stars with a sunburst finish.
The effect of the dial is much more visible in pictures, as seen here, but in practice, the wearer — or anyone inspecting the watch at close range — is the only one who notices it. The fast-moving subdial, which completes one rotation every 10 seconds, is much more visible. This feature lends the watch its personality and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It conveys a sense of vitality while keeping the passage of time abstract.
Zenith Defy Skyline Blue Dial. Image: Zenith
Zenith Defy Skyline Black Dial. Image: Zenith
Zenith Defy Skyline Silver Dial. Image: Zenith
Those who are familiar with Zenith will understand why this subdial tracks time in 10ths of a second rather than 8ths or 4ths, and so on. With its 5 Hz or 36,000 vph escapement, the movement is based on the legendary El Primero chronograph. The El Primero 3620 is the version powering the Defy Skyline here, and it is brand new, with an impressive 60 hours of power reserve and a stop-seconds function for precise time setting. Zenith has never offered a high-beat time-only watch, so the 41mm Defy Skyline is a significant timepiece. For all collectors who are unsure about chronographs, the Defy Skyline is a simple way to enjoy the El Primero. In other words, this model — a study in refined angularity — may attract more interest from the watch-buying public than a typical chronograph or Zenith watch, which is also significant.
The interchangeable bracelet system, which includes an extra rubber strap with every Defy Skyline watch, adds even more value here. This system, which we got a hands-on with last week, is very simple to use and can even be manipulated while wearing gloves. At the same time, it is quite safe because the system cannot be triggered while the watch is on the wrist, unless the watch is worn very loosely — thankfully, this is not a trend that is on the rise. Although Zenith does not specify, we believe the dial patterns were created through laser engraving, but we will find out for certain during the global presentation of Zenith novelties this week.