What we have here is a trio of new(ish) ceramic Defy watches from Zenith. As you can see, they have undeniably modern looks, and yet the name, and certain elements of the watch's design most obviously the case are inheritors of a design language dating from the late '60s to early '70s, even though the case is made from a material that watchmakers only began utilizing some time later.
About a week ago, I wrote up the revival of the watch from which this Zenith design language sprang, the company's A384, which debuted with the first wave of El Primero chronographs in 1969. The A384's angular tonneau shape shares more than a passing resemblance with the Defy line that would launch a short time later. Zenith CEO Julien Tornare told me that it occurred to him while deciding to revive the A384 that this was the watch where the Defy design came from, and I have to agree with him. Looking at the modern Defy and understanding the history of Zenith, I think that the three watches we are looking at today represent well-executed examples of how a watchmaker can evolve designs and use new materials while still honoring its history. Let's check them out.
What we have here are three monochromatic, openworked time-and-date sports watches in different colors of ceramic that are presented on *rubber straps. There's a sleek black one with a hip, sleek vibe; there's a white version that looks like it was made for life on the beach in Miami; and there is a blue one that is bit harder to pin down. I don't dislike it by any means. I just feel as if the first two are no-brainers that will have no problem finding their way onto plenty of wrists. This last one might be a bit more challenging or niche.
Ceramic cases were once a rarity in watchmaking, but the material's use has since become much more widespread, including at more affordable price points. The blue case caught my eye for the simple fact that non-white and non-black ceramic cases are still relatively rare. Hublot (another LVMH brand) and a few other companies currently make them, sure, but the majority of ceramic timepieces still tend to be basic black and white. One of the primary advantages of making a watch from ceramic is its resistance to scratching. You could wear these Zenith Defy Classics day in, day out, for a long time without them ever showing any signs of wear and tear. In each of these three executions, the ceramic case is 41mm in diameter and 10.75mm thick, right in line with popular tastes for sports watches, and each watch is water resistant to 100 meters.*
In each version, a geometrical openworked dial matching the color of the case and strap allows a view onto the in-house Elite automatic movement inside. While I don't think this is a fantastic recipe for legibility, the look is modern, sporty and stylish. I think that these particular watches are much more about having a particular look than about functioning as instruments, so the fact that their dials do not place legibility first is not a dealbreaker from my point of view. For example, the date is tucked away unobtrusively at six o'clock. The information is there when you need it, but also blends in well to the overall design.*
The movements come from the Elite range, Zenith's other automatic movement, which is not a chronograph like the El Primero and has long lived in the shadow of the El Primero. Nonetheless, the Elite movement range, which launched back in 1994, has been around for some time and launched to critical acclaim back in the '90s. Made fully in-house by Zenith, the Elite 670SK features a frequency of 28,800 vph and comes with a power reserve of 50 hours.
All three versions of the Zenith Defy Classic Ceramic will set you back $7,500, a price that seems more than reasonable for a modern sports watch in ceramic with a fully in-house movement and an original design.
For more, visit Zenith online.


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