Zenith Introduces a Long Awaited Chronograph to the Defy Skyline Collection

Zenith returns to the Defy collection this year at Watches & Wonders with the introduction of a Defy Skyline Chronograph. This is a version of the next-gen Defy that Zenith fans have been anticipating since the collection’s debut, given the long line of chronographs that have populated Defy collections past and present. The new Defy Skyline Chronograph follows iterations of the Skyline that have played with materials and skeletonization, so it seems possible (even likely) that eventually the chronograph will get similar treatment. For now, we have a trio of references in stainless steel that feel like a logical extension of the Defy Skyline series. 


The 42mm case is effectively unchanged from previous skylines, and is Zenith’s contemporary take on the original 8-sided Defy case first seen in the late 1960s. The Defy, as opposed to the Chronomaster and Pilot lines, has always been Zenith’s playground for the avant-garde and the unusual, and the highly sculptural case design of this watch, that traces a lineage back to the original, underscores the very nature of what the Defy is. 

Dial options at launch include metallic black, blue, and silver, and feature the signature star pattern that has been present in the Skyline from the beginning. The subdials are oversized and overlap just slightly (perhaps not as much as on a Chronomaster) and are color matched to the main dial, but do not feature the Skyline stars. As with most other watches running on El Primero movements, the date window is located at 4:30. This is a point of consternation on virtually every watch but the El Primero, where it’s very much a signature of the design. Zenith has color matched the date disc to match the dial on each reference, so it’s fairly unobtrusive here even if it breaks up the symmetry. 

A nice detail on the dial construction here is that the rehaut, where you’ll find the 1/10th second scale for the chronograph, has twelve facets, matching the 12 sided bezel. This is a fairly subtle thing, but adds just a little visual interest to the dial and lends a sense of coherence to the design as a whole. 

The Defy Skyline Chronographs run on the now well understood El Primero 3600 caliber, which is able to time events to the 1/10th of a second. It’s an impressive mechanical feat, and even though Zenith has been using this movement in virtually every chronograph for the last several years, it’s still kind of an amazing thing to actuate the chrono on one of these watches and see that second hand take off. I’m not convinced that most human beings have the reflexes to fully take advantage of timing events at this level of precision, but an over-the-top chronograph that has precision that is beyond what a normal person can effectively use feels more at home in the Defy collection than anywhere else in the Zenith catalog. 

All three references seen here come on the excellent bracelet Zenith has been using for Defy Skyline watches from the beginning, and naturally they’re all equipped with the brand’s quick strap-change system for easy swapping of bracelets and (Zenith) straps. Each watch ships with a star-patterned rubber strap mated to a steel folding buckle. 

The retail price for the Defy Skyline Chronograph is $13,400. You can find more information here

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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.