Zenith and French ski-wear maker Fusalp have teamed to create a pair of 41mm ceramic-cased Defy skeleton watches. Each model pairs Zenith’s signature star and Fusalp’s French tricolor hues on an inventive skeleton dial.
One model, the Zenith Defy Classic Fusalp White Ceramic ($11,000) will be offered as a limited edition of 100 pieces, while the Zenith Defy Classic Fusalp Black Ceramic ($10,000) will be made as a limited edition of 300.
For its part, Fusalp will launch a matching skiwear collection, complete with a black and white theme, the French tricolor and the snowflake motif.
Zenith devised the new open-work dial for the collaborative series. In addition to the Zenith star and tricolor frame around the dial, the new watch’s cleverly drafted dial deftly exposes Zenith’s high-frequency Elite automatic movement, which powers each watch.
The Le Locle watchmaker also created a custom rubber strap for the special editions. The unusual rubber material in the strap features a fabric-like structure with a raised motif of concentric rectangles. The idea, according to Zenith, is to complement the skeleton dial with a similar graphic element.
Zenith reprises its partnership with Argentinian-Spanish optical artist Felipe Pantone to create the new Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone, a limited-edition colorful chronograph with a metallic dial that reflects light with micro-engraved iridescence.
Pantone combines color, metallic components and mathematically conceived shapes to generate optical illusions on the Defy’s dial.
To create the dial’s colorful effect, Zenith reproduced a process Pantone has used frequently in his Planned Iridescence art installations.
Zenith technicians started with a clear sapphire disk as the dial’s base and then applied hidden, micro-engraved patterns measuring only 100 nanometres deep. The patterns reflect light, creating a rainbow of colors that shift with the light.
You’ll see shifting colors on the hands as well. Zenith finishes the chronograph’s minute counter with a graduated scale of colors, where each minute is segmented by a different tone. The chronograph’s second counter mimics a moiré effect with its thin, concentric black and white lines.
At Pantone’s direction, Zenith also made the watch’s dodecagonal bezel and its pusher protectors from translucent blue YAS (yttrium aluminosilicate), a crystalline glass material comparable to synthetic sapphire. This adds more color to the watch, beyond the dial. Just outside the bezel, the four corners of the case are engraved with “FP#1”, a signature for “Felipe Pantone El Primero”.
Zenith then matched that translucent blue with an equally translucent blue silicone strap. Zenith also includes a polished steel bracelet and a black Velcro strap with the watch.
Pantone also demonstrates his chromatic-based style on the watch’s El Primero high-frequency chronograph movement. He advised Zenith to apply the gradient rainbow 3-D PVD coloring used on the watch’s hands to the star-shaped rotor.
As a reminder, the El Primero movement inside the Defy Extreme series is one of Zenith’s most complicated. It features two independently driven regulating organs, beating at 50Hz for chronograph and 5Hz for the timekeeping.
Zenith offers the Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone as a limited edition of 100 pieces, available exclusively at Zenith boutiques and online. Price: CHF 29,900.
Specifications: Zenith Extreme Defy Felipe Pantone
Movement: El Primero 9004, 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph, one rotation per second for the chrono hand, one escapement for the watch (36,000 VpH – 5 Hz); 1 escapement for the chronograph (360,000 VpH – 50 Hz). Certified Chronometer, power-reserve of 60 hours.
Functions: Hours and minutes in the center. Small seconds at 9 o’clock. 1/100th of a second chronograph: Central chronograph hand that makes one turn each second; 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock; 60-second counter at 6 o’clock; Chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock.
Finishes: Ruthenium colored main plate on movement + special “Rainbow” PVD-colored oscillating weight with satined finishings.
Case: 45mm polished steel & blue YAS, water resistant to 200 meters.
Dial:Tinted sapphire with Felipe’s iridescent effect artwork pattern,Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with Beige SuperLuminova hour markers andRhodium-plated, faceted with “Rainbow” PVD coating & SLN C1 hands.
Bracelet: Transparent blue Rubber. 2 straps included: 1 rubber with folding buckle & 1 Velcro, stainless steel folding clasp.
Zenith’s third special edition Defy Extreme, with copper brown accents and recycled components, commemorates the watchmaker’s role as a partner of Extreme E electric rally racing and its latest race in the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Zenith unveils the new watch, called the Defy Extreme E CopperPrix, alongside the Chilean copper mines that dot the South American desert where the next Extreme E championship races are underway.
Based on Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon, a lightweight carbon-cased high-frequency chronograph series, the new watch incorporates recycled elements from championship race environment within its strap and packaging, all echoing the coppery-brown official race color.
Zenith has infused materials of Continental CrossContact tires used in the first season’s races into the watch’s Velcro strap. Zenith will also deliver the watch with two additional straps in black rubber and black Velcro, which can be easily swapped without any tools.
The case for the watch is made using components from E-Grip recycled tires while the plate covering for the box is made from parts of an Extreme E racing tarpaulin.
Zenith creates the 45mm Defy Extreme E Copper X Prix edition with carbon fiber pushers, crown and case, all protected with a twelve-sided bezel made of micro-blasted titanium. The watch’s openwork, multi-layered dial is built with tinted sapphire crystal embellished with coppery-brown accents meant to evoke the copper mines of the Chilean desert.
Inside Zenith fits its El Primero 9004 high-frequency chronograph movement, which offers 1/100th-of-a -second time measurements with two independent escapements. One beats at 5Hz (36,000 VpH) for timekeeping while the second vibrates at 50Hz (360,000 VpH) to activate the chronograph function. Zenith makes the nicely finished movement, a certified chronometer,visible through the sapphire display back, which is emblazoned with the Copper X Prix logo.
Earlier this summer, Zenith hosted collectors and enthusiasts at its Master of Chronographs exhibition in New York. During the special three-day pop-up exhibit and watchmaking clinic, the Swiss watchmaker hosted hands-on demonstrations of chronograph movements and displayed a room full of historical Zenith chronographs.
We spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare during the event to learn more about the purpose of the exhibit. His responses are below.
IW: What do you hope people will learn about Zenith when they see this exhibition?
Julien Tornare: If they know about Zenith, then they probably already know about the El Primero. But they may not know about our history before 1969. My objective is to show that starting from the end of the 19th-Century the race for precision and chronometry began. That’s how we got to the El Primero.
In the 1960s we did not wake up and suddenly decide we were going to make super precise integrated chronographs. No. This started much earlier in the minds of our watchmakers.
This exhibit is to show existence of our heritage and where we got to where we are today.
At the turn-of-the-century, the only argument for the best watches focused on the most precise. In those days precision not only meant accuracy but also security. Sometimes it was a question of life or death, for example in an airplane or in a train it was very important to be precise.
There was no digital backup or satellite at that time. That was the ultimate proof of quality. Zenith has won with so many chronometry prizes, 2,333, out of which 233 or ten percent, were won by the Caliber 135.
Today most clients aren’t going to check the super precision of their watches. During those years this was key and Zenith was the leader. In this exhibition we display this point clearly.
I wish we had more of these. This is unique. When we started the project we begin talking about the commercial versions of the Caliber 135. But the extra-specialized versions of that caliber, which were made strictly for racing contests, will never be done again.
We have only a limited quantity of those. We use these to get them on people’s wrists because we believe this is the best testimony to our incredible past achievements. The remaining pieces we will keep in our museum. All of the recent debut pieces are already sold out.
We will however have one more unique piece later this year with a different material, and a different dial, also by Kari Voutilainen. Phillips will auction that piece at the end of the year.
Many people wrote to me to obtain one of the ten limited-edition pieces. I told them you still have a chance when this piece comes to auction later this year.
Have the Skyline and new Chronomaster debuts met with your sales expectations in stores?
This is a fantastic program, one of the most exciting projects we have started. It is more than a project, it is happening. But we don’t produce those watches so we have to look for them and acquire them. The main challenge is the sourcing. Most of the time we have to find their watches and go to acquire them.
Last year, we acquired between twenty-five and thirty watches and ninety percent of those sold out. So if you go to one of the five Zenith boutiques today where we have these icons, you will see a few, but many of them are empty. Sold out.
We cannot produce these, so this is a great concept but we need to acquire more of the pieces. We are fully prepared with the restoration capabilities.
What are collectors looking for among the vintage Zenith pieces?
They are looking for a nice vintage watch that they know it is fully guaranteed and restored and certified by the brand. Many of them have purchased a vintage watch at auctions in the past. Or they bought them on other resale sites.
And when they receive their watch, it was not working properly. Or they realize much later that some of the parts in those watches are not genuine.
So we thought why not guarantee that you were getting something fully perfect. I’m not excited as much about the revenue from this project, but more about the concept and the message we give to our clients.
What is that message?
The message is that Zenith does commit. We will restore and repair every single watch since day one. You know there are some brands that just will not repair their own watches after twenty or thirty years. I don’t want to do that. I want to be sure that if anybody buys our watches, old or new, we can always restore them.
That is a strong message. The inspiration is there. When one of our employees is wearing an A386 from 1969, and we want to sell a new Chronomaster Original, the speech is right there. Just the presence of the vintage pieces in the stores will help sell the new pieces.
Are the late 1960s pieces currently most in demand among the vintage items?
Yes, primarily the A386, A385, A384. We are just starting to see interest in some of the vintage Defy pieces. The A277, the earlier Chronomaster Sports.
Next year we will begin the new generation of pilot watches, so I expect vintage pilot watches to also come back in demand.
Why should a watch collector today choose a new Zenith Watch?
When you buy a Zenith you buy three things. You’ve buying a brand that has a strong heritage. And when you get to know the brand, our history is so rich. This is a very important and it speaks to our legitimacy.
Second, look at our authenticity. At Zenith I can tell you that all of our stories are authentic. There are other brands that are successful commercially based on good marketing. Do you want to buy a marketing story or a true story?
Finally, we express our history in a very contemporary manner. We have, for example, the big Defy Extreme but also the Caliber 135, which is super elegant and decorated by Kari Voutilainen. We can do both of these things. We have the heritage, we focus on authenticity – and we exist in the 21st-century.
Zenith debuted the second model in series of Defy Extreme Carbon models designed to commemorate the electric rally racing championships for which the Le Locle watchmaker is official timekeeper and founding partner.
The new Defy Extreme E Island X Prix, cased in carbon fiber and with bright orange accents and tinted sapphire crystals, celebrates the upcoming racing series Island X Prix scheduled for this weekend on the island of Sardinia. Orange is the official color of the Island X Prix as it is said to evoking the hot temperatures of the Italian island during summer.
The color stands out against the black carbon fiber case, crown and chronograph pushers of the angular 45mm watch.
Visible in part through the front and the back of the watch is Zenith’s Defy Extreme high-frequency chronograph caliber that offers 1/100th-of-a-second time measurements, with two escapements independently beating at 5Hz (36,000 vph) for the timekeeping part and 50Hz (360,000 vph) for the chronograph. Zenith also shows off its unusual movement through a sapphire display caseback emblazoned with the Island X Prix logo.
Zenith adds to the watch’s racing and recycling theme with a special strap infused with materials of recycled tires. The Velcro strap features a black rubber central element surrounded by an orange rubber inlay. Zenith also includes two additional straps, one in black rubber and the other in black Velcro, each easily swapped without any tools.
Zenith will make the Defy Extreme E Island X Prix as a limited edition of twenty pieces. Price: $27,100.