If you’re at all engaged with the watch internet, you’re probably well aware of Zenith’s recently released Chronomaster Sport (Blake went on hands on here) and are quickly tiring of the endless hot takes related to this watch’s alleged similarities to a certain Rolex chronograph. To say some people have some fairly strong opinions on that topic would be an understatement. It almost makes you wish Zenith could get back to doing what they’ve been doing so well in recent years, which is making ultra modern watches that push design and technical envelopes, and are uniquely their own thing. The Defy 21 is the standard bearer for that piece of Zenith’s brand – a high end sports chronograph, often in exotic materials and with a skeletonized dial, and a movement that literally leaves normal chronos in the dust. Last week saw the introduction of a Defy 21 in an all new colorway, so it seems like a good time to take another look at this tech forward chrono.
The Defy 21 Urban Jungle takes a favorite color of many (but not all) and brings it to the watch’s 44mm ceramic case. As you can see, it’s quite green, which is not a traditional tone for a case, to say the least. It does happen from time to time, though – you can think of the Defy 21’s Jungle as a sibling of Autodromo’s Safari, if you’d like. Obtaining a particular color consistently in a ceramic treatment is notoriously difficult, so the unusual choice by Zenith here is something of a flex. It’s also right in line with the brand’s current aesthetic, at least as it relates to the Defy. The Defy Classic, reviewed here in black, is also available in white and blue ceramic. And last year saw the release of this same chronograph in bright purple under the “Ultraviolet” tag. So, I think it’s safe to say that the Defy platform as it stands today represents Zenith’s blank canvas, and it will be interesting to see if they continue to bring out creative colorways as the year presses on.
The technical merits of the watch itself are impressive. The Defy 21 is a 1/100th of a second chronograph, and uses the El Primero 9004 caliber. Actuating the chronograph is a surprisingly violent action for this watch, immediately setting the centrally mounted chronograph seconds hand spinning at one hair-raising revolution around the dial per second. The fact that the dial is open worked only adds to the madness of these things – you get a full view of the chrono in action in a way you don’t with most watches. The massive amount of power needed to run the chronograph is achieved through the use of a second mainspring specifically for this complication (it’s wound separately from the mainspring linked to the time-telling movement, and has its own power reserve at 12:00). It’s a fairly ingenious caliber, and while it might not be practical, per se, it’s certainly a conversation starter.
The Defy 21 Urban Jungle is available now through Zenith, with a retail price of $14,500. Zenith