Zenith Unveils the Top Rung of the Defy Ladder with the Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon

It’s hardly a secret that I’m an enormous fan of the Zenith Defy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pound for pound, there isn’t a sports watch line that I like more. I’ve owned both vintage and modern flavors of the Defy over the years (I reviewed my gone-but-not-forgotten black ceramic Defy Classic right here) and covered this year’s new Defy Skyline in a review that we ran in March. Part of what I love about the Defy is that there is so much variety in the product line as you go back through the decades, but it’s always been a sports watch that’s a little crazy, and a little experimental. It’s where Zenith tests the waters with new designs and technologies, with varying degrees of success. But even the failures are interesting, and that’s a big part of why I keep returning to these watches over and over again. 


The latest watch out of Le Locle with the Defy moniker is the Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon seen here. Like some of the very best watches, it tells you what you need to know about it right there in the name, but let’s unpack it a little further. The Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon represents what Zenith describes as the peak of innovation within their dedicated haute horlogerie endeavors. It combines their most advanced, high frequency chronograph movement with two tourbillons, and wraps it all in the Defy Extreme package, a platform the brand introduced last year as an extension of their longstanding Defy line. The Extreme versions of the Defy incorporate the brand’s impressive 1/100th of a second chronograph with futuristic, tech forward cases made of titanium, steel, or sometimes carbon. We sometimes think of Zenith as a brand that’s deeply focused on their heritage, and they produce many wonderful watches with an eye to the past, but these are the flip side of that coin. The Defy Extreme is unapologetically contemporary, and even forward looking. 

What sets these watches apart from the standard Defy Extreme is, of course, the tourbillons. Yes, these watches employ two tourbillons each, which makes sense (well, as much as any of this can “make sense”) when you consider that part of the reason the Extreme is so named is because the chronograph movements in these watches use two gear trains, one for normal timekeeping, and the other for the chronograph. That means separate escapements and balances for the chronograph and general timekeeping functions, and thus two opportunities to deploy a tourbillon. 

Watches with multiple tourbillons are quite rare and an incredibly high end flex, but their use here is perhaps even more special when you consider the pure horological speed on display. Remember, this is a super high frequency chronograph capable of timing events to the 1/100th of a second with a rate clocked at 360,000 VpH. The chronograph’s tourbillon, in turn, rotates once every five seconds. The other tourbillon, for day to day timekeeping, rotates at a more demure and standard 60 second rate. The action on the dial then, must be something to behold with the chronograph engaged and two tourbillons rotating at different speeds and a chrono seconds hand lapping dial once per second. 

Zenith has made an appropriate decision to not house their ultra high end El Primero 9020 caliber in a dress watch case. The Defy Extreme format they’ve gone with is quite similar to previous entries in the line in terms of case architecture (Blake recently covered another Defy Extreme in the form of a Felipe Pantone designed LE right here, and you can see case similarities in the photos). It’s a big, burly sports watch in every way you can imagine, coming in at 45mm and featuring the highly angular aesthetic that has come to define the Defy line in recent years. There are two versions of the Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon, one in titanium with a matching bracelet (and additional rubber strap), the other in carbon fiber with an integrated rubber strap (and an additional Velcro strap). The carbon watch is the more luxe version of the two, as it features prominent rose gold accents, including the 12 sided bezel. Dials on both watches are open worked, displaying the movement from the front, highlighting not just the constant motion inherent with a watch like this, but Zenith’s movement finishing. 

Is the Defy Extreme Double Tourbillon a practical watch? I’d argue that it absolutely is not, particularly given the asking price of $69,000 for the titanium version and $79,000 for the watch in carbon fiber. But, it’s still a whole lot of fun to consider, particularly if you happen to be a fan of the Defy already, like yours truly. For more information, head on over to the Zenith website

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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.