This year, Zenith is staking its money on the recently launched Defy Skyline collection. Unveiled in 2022, the Defy Skyline continues Zenith’s long lineage of robustness and precision with stylistic references to the 1969 Defy but toned down and smartened up to become a contender in the hyper-competitive luxury sports watch segment. Along with the release of a Skeletonised version of the 41mm Defy Skyline is the launch of a new 36mm range. With its more compact dimensions, the Defy Skyline 36mm is positioned as a mid-size unisex model and comes with a choice of three dial colours and plain or diamond-set bezels. One thing to take into consideration, however, is that these new 36mm are not powered by a high-frequency El Primero offshoot; instead, they rely on the brand’s in-house Elite 670 automatic calibre.
The Zenith Defy
The name Defy might sound like an avant-garde proposal for an innovative collection – which it is – but it was first used by Zenith in 1902 for a line of robust pocket watches, spelt Defi. The name popped up again following the epic 1969 release of the first high-frequency chronograph movement – Zenith’s El Primero – and was given to a heavy-duty model with an angular octagonal case and a 14-sided bezel. The Defy was a robust beast of a watch with 300m and 600m water-resistant cases, a patented suspension system and shock-absorbing rings. Radical, edgy and bristling with angles, it’s worth remembering that the Defy emerged on the scene a full three years ahead of AP’s Royal Oak. Revived in 2022 as the Defy Revival 3642, it can be considered the spiritual forefather of the Skyline collection.
What sets the 41mm Defy Skyline apart from most other luxury sports watches, however, is the presence of a 1/10th of a second indicator on the dial powered by an El Primero-based 5Hz automatic movement (3620).
36mm Defy Skyline
It’s interesting to compare the new Defy Skyline to another 36mm model in Zenith’s collection, the Defy Midnight of 2020, also equipped with an Elite 670 automatic movement. Again, the angular, octagonal case is an apparent reference to Zenith’s 1969 Defy but trades the multi-sided bezel for a round bezel. Another hallmark feature of the original Defy was its gradient dial, a detail that is also picked up in these Defy Midnight models.
Zenith’s new 36mm Defy Skyline family has, as the brand assures us, “unisex proportions that perfectly fit those who prefer a smaller fit”. Like the larger 41mm Defy Skyline, the case has plenty of personality, characterised by an octagonal angular base surmounted by a 12-sided bezel. Using a mix of brushed surfaces and polished bevels, the dynamic architecture of the case clearly references the 1969 Defy but in a refreshed, more modern and wearable execution. A screw-down crown with Zenith’s star-shaped logo ensures the 100m water-resistance, and the dial and caseback are protected by sapphire crystals. Like the Defy Midnight, the Defy Skyline is also available with 52 brilliant-cut diamonds in the bezel.
The three colours – metallic blue (like the 41mm version), pastel pink and pastel green – used on the dial have a metallic base that is polished and satin-brushed. The engraved stars on the dial, which are fast becoming a signature feature of the Defy Skyline (except the Skeletonised version), add interest and depth. In contrast to the engraved dial, the sloping flange with black minute markings is brushed and frames the 12-sided contours of the dial.
Applied, faceted, rhodium-plated indices and hour and minute hands glow in the dark with Super-LumiNova SLN C1; the central seconds hand features a newly designed openworked star-shaped counterweight matching the engraved design on the dial and the applied Zenith star at noon. Replacing the missing index at 3 o’clock is a square-shaped aperture for the date with black numerals and a background colour to match the dial.
The stainless steel bracelet is well-built and finished with brushed outer links and a polished central link. In tune with the latest trends in watchmaking, the Defy Skyline models come with a quick strap-change mechanism allowing you to switch the stainless steel bracelet for the rubber strap included with the watches. Colour coordinated to match the dial, the rubber straps feature a central area decorated with the same Zenith star pattern on the dial.
Elite 670 automatic
As we mentioned, the Defy Skyline 36mm is not powered by a high-frequency El Primero movement and relies on the brand’s Elite 670 automatic. Developed by Zenith in 1990 and presented in 1994, calibre 670 was conceived as a modular ultra-thin calibre with a height of just 3.47mm. (With such a slim movement, it’s a shame that Zenith does not provide the case height). Used inside many of Zenith’s time-and-date models, calibre 670 runs at 4Hz and provides 50 hours of energy. The star-shaped rotor is openworked, and the movement is decorated with a contemporary sleek grey finish.
Availability & Price
The stainless steel models of the Zenith Defy Skyline 36mm collection without diamonds retail for EUR 9,100 or CHF 8,400, with diamonds EUR 12,900 or CHF 11,900. All are now available from the brand and retailers. For more information, please consult Zenith-watches.com.