Zenith Introduces a Conceptual Take on the Defy Extreme with a New Reference Sporting a Highly Reflective Mirror Finish

An idea that we return to frequently around here is the ability of Zenith, moreso than just about any other Swiss brand with a lengthy, complex history, to straddle the line between heritage and pushing forward with daring, contemporary designs. Think of almost any other brand with roots dating to the late 19th or early 20th century that is still making watches, and chances are they focus largely on paying respect to the past, or they have moved on and iterated in some way. Zenith, on parallel tracks, does both, and I think one of the reasons they’re able to do that so successfully is that pushing the envelope aesthetically is part of their heritage. The Defy line is the most obvious example of this, and with this new Defy Extreme reference, Zenith continues to define what it means to be a Defy in the first place with a bold new take on their high spec chronograph that is as much sculpture as it is horology. 


The Defy Extreme Mirror, as the of the watch would imply, is all mirrored surfaces, creating a unique and highly reflective effect that is actually almost the antithesis of what we’ve previously seen from the Extreme line. This, after all, is Zenith’s most hardcore sports watch, and is frequently seen in rugged, blacked out cases made from tech forward materials. The Defy Extreme Mirror, however, is stainless steel, and has been given a mirror polish on every surface that is meant to evoke the appearance of chrome. It’s objectively decorative, but the highly faceted 45mm case can’t actually be anything but a big giant sports watch no matter how much you polish it. 

The mirror effect is, impressively, extended to the bracelet as well as the dial, which consists of a sapphire disc that is “mirror tinted” according to Zenith, with satin brushed elements on the subdials and outer minute track to keep legibility manageable. Highly reflective dials like this are a strange thing to encounter – seeing your own reflection in the dial whenever you check the time can be off putting, so I’m curious to see if this is the effect when handling the Extreme Mirror, or if the sapphire dial has been executed in such a way that it’s a nonissue. 

Like other watches in the Defy Extreme collection, this one features the El Primero 9004 caliber, which is capable of timing events to 1/100th of a second. That means the chronograph seconds hand makes one rotation around the dial every second when activated, which is quite a sight and fairly addictive if you’re a chronograph fan. To manage this, the movement has two escapements: one for standard time telling that beats at 5 Hz, and another specifically for the chronograph that runs at an incredible 50 Hz. The chronograph is wound separately, and its power reserve is tracked via an indicator near 12:00. 

I remain a pretty big fan of the Defy Extreme line. As a longtime admirer of vintage Zenith Defy references, I feel that the current crop of Extreme references share something with the strange, futuristic case shapes found in obscure Defys from the 1970s. The marketing materials for the Defy Extreme Mirror contextualize the watch as an object that evokes a UFO, and that serves as a reminder that Zenith once made a Defy that is commonly referred to as the Spaceman. It’s another example of how Zenith is conscious of their own history even as they develop new ways of understanding their watches. 

The Zenith Defy Extreme Mirror has a retail price of $26,100. Zenith

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.