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The Black Ceramic Editions Of The Zenith Defy Skyline & Defy Skyline Skeleton

Edgy, stealthy, scratch-resistant... could these two be the best interpretation of Zenith's luxury sports watch?

| By Robin Nooy | 5 min read |

Introduced in 2022, the Defy Skyline collection by Zenith has caused quite some waves in the luxury sports watch genre of our beloved industry. Inspired by the original Defy series of watches from the company’s archives, this modern-day sports watch comes in a range of sizes, styles and colours. But, despite the fact stainless steel and blue are the most classical and popular styles, the most striking-looking Defy Skyline is arguably this black ceramic duo introduced during Watches & Wonders earlier this year. And just like their steel counterparts, both are available in a full dial or skeleton dial configuration. Fitted with an automatic movement based on the legendary El Primero, the Defy Skyline and Defy Skyline Skeleton in black ceramic get a closer inspection today.

Where previously the Zenith Defy Skyline and Defy Skyline had a stainless steel exterior, these blacked-out iterations come in full black ceramic. Zenith has an extensive history with the material, so it’s no surprise the brand would eventually combine it with the edgy style of its luxury sports watch. The scratch-resistant case measures 41mm by 11.6mm and wears pretty well on the wrist. The sharp angles and edges give it loads of character, emphasized by the 12-sided black ceramic bezel. On the right-hand side, the sturdy screw-down crown lets you adjust the time and date (if it has one, that is) without any effort.

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The style of the dial, open or closed, is similar to those found in the previous versions of the Defy Skyline and Defy Skyline Skeleton, such as the lovely boutique editions. To start with the simplest of the two, the full dial has a four-point starry pattern running across it, adding depth and character to it. The large applied indices with minute markings in between, paired with large stylised sword-shaped hour and minute hands provide excellent legibility. Thanks to a good dose of Super-LumiNova on both the hands and the indices, reading the time at night is a breeze as well. On the left side, there is the 1/10th of a second subdial, with the date on the opposite end.

The openworked version comes with the same set of indices and hands but exposes the movement underneath. Shaped like a four-point star, a symbol close to Zenith’s heart, the top structure is finished in black, with the charcoal elements underneath clearly visible. The balance wheel in the top-left corner, half of the barrel, the running gear, and the keyless works, most of it is clearly visible. For this one, the 1/10th of a second indication is positioned at 6 o’clock and the date has been removed.

Zenith is of course synonyumous with the El Primero, and even though neither of these have a chronograph function, the El Primero 3620 (or 3620 SK for the skeleton version) is based on the architecture of the fabled automatic chronograph. From the back, the movements look identical but it’s a completely different story from the front, obviously. The four-point star-shaped dial, through which you can see the skeletonized mainplate and bits of the running gear. Other differences that set the two apart are the location of the 1/10th of a second subdial, positioned at 9′ for the closed dial and 6′ for the open one, and the date. It’s there on the Defy Skyline, but absent in the Defy Skyline Skeleton.

You can debate about the sense of the 1/10th of a second indication on a non-chronograph watch, but it does link to the El Primero’s high 5Hz frequency. It’s driven directly from the escapement, which has a silicon escape wheel and lever. When fully wound through the five-point star-shaped rotor, the movement holds 60 hours of power reserve. To complement the darkened look of the exterior, almost the entire movement is finished in a dark tone as well, with only a few parts breaking the monotone colour scheme.

Zenith presents either the Defy Skyline or the Defy Skyline Skeleton in black ceramic as a full set, with a black ceramic bracelet as well as a black rubber strap. Both can be easily exchanged thanks to the integrated quick-release system, which is one of the easiest to use I have ever experienced. The simple pusher on either end of the caseback releases the bracelet, with the rubber strap snapping into place easily, or vice versa. Personally, I think the best way to go is on the full ceramic bracelet as the fit and finish of it is just brilliant. The rubber strap also feels very good on the wrist, so you’re fine with either of the two in terms of comfort. The quick-release pusher also doesn’t dig into the skin whatsoever, which is pleasant.

Now, priced at EUR 14,900 for the closed dial version, or EUR 16,900 for the Skeleton, they’re not exactly cheap. But they are available, look mighty cool on the wrist and are very well made. Whether you like the full stealth mode of the closed dial or prefer the flair of the openworked dial, both of these edgy luxury sports watches are a joy to wear.

For myself, I would like to see the movement as much as possible and generally prefer a single subdial to be placed at the bottom of the dial, so that leads me to the Defy Skyline Skeleton. To me, it looks a bit more balanced despite the busier style of the face of the watch. The vertical alignment of the hands, highlighted by that four-point structure over the movement just speaks a bit more to me.

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