Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Zenith Defy Skyline: Refined Angularity

The new Zenith Defy Skyline is a playful interpretation of fast-paced downtown urban life that hides some serious horological chops.

Jan 24, 2022 | By Ashok Soman
Image: Zenith

As you look at the new Zenith Defy Skyline, you might wonder if this is the new face of time for the 2020s, and you might be right. Very few watches had the same aesthetic sensibilities as the Defy Skyline 10 years ago — Zenith certainly did not have such a watch, for example.

By way of contrast, if you scroll through our own coverage of time-only watches from the last three years or so, you will see more and more watches that share key characteristics as the Defy Skyline. This is not to say that the three Zenith Defy Skyline models in stainless steel are entirely new — a watch collection without lineage, if you will. Hardly anything in fine watchmaking arrives totally without precedent.

Indeed, Zenith’s own series of revival watches tells us that the Defy Skyline is very much informed by the design sensibilities that marked the original octagonal Defy of 1969. Today, that original has been succeeded by the Defy Revival A3642, which does pretty much what its name suggests. The Defy Skyline brings this reference properly into the 21st century. 

Zenith Defy Skyline
Image: Zenith

To begin with, the Zenith Defy Skyline is a two-hander with date and a subdial at 9 o’clock, which appears to be a running seconds counter. It also appears to sport guilloche on the dial (in white, black and blue), in what some would consider a rather familiar style.

Appearances are deceptive, especially in an object with tiny real estate such as a wristwatch. That subdial shows the running 1/10th of a second, and the dial actually features engraved four-pointed stars with a sunburst finish.

In pictures, the effect of the dial is much more obvious, as seen here, but in practice, the starry dial is only really noticeable for the wearer — or anyone examining the watch at close range. Much more obvious is the fast-moving subdial, which completes one rotation every 10 seconds. This feature gives the watch its character, and can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. We think it conveys a sense of vitality while keeping the passage of time abstract.

Zenith Defy Skyline Blue Dial
Zenith Defy Skyline Blue Dial. Image: Zenith
Zenith Defy Skyline Black Dial
Zenith Defy Skyline Black Dial. Image: Zenith
Zenith Defy Skyline Silver Dial
Zenith Defy Skyline Silver Dial. Image: Zenith

Those who know anything about Zenith will know why this subdial tracks time in 10ths of a second and not 8ths or 4ths, and so on. The movement is indeed based on the legendary El Primero chronograph, with its 5 Hz or 36,000 vph escapement. The version powering the Defy Skyline here is the El Primero 3620, and it is brand new, with an impressive 60 hours of power reserve and a stop-seconds function for precise setting of the time.

To our knowledge, Zenith has never offered a high-beat time-only watch, so the 41mm Defy Skyline is an important timepiece. For all collectors who are ambivalent towards chronographs, the Defy Skyline is one way to enjoy the El Primero without the complication. In other words, this model — a study in refined angularity — might well draw more attention from the watch-buying public than a typical chronograph or Zenith watch would, and that too is important. 

Zenith Defy Skyline
Image: Zenith

Adding even more value here is the interchangeable bracelet system, which for the Defy Skyline means that there is an extra rubber strap included with every watch. This system, which we experienced hands-on last week, is very easy to use and can even be manipulated with gloves on.

At the same time, it is quite safe as the system cannot be triggered while the watch is on the wrist, unless one is wearing it very loose — thankfully not a trend that is on the up-and-up. Although Zenith does not say so, we assume that the dial patterns were accomplished by laser engraving, but we shall find out for certain during the global presentation on Zenith novelties this week.

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