Zenith’s Latest Defy is a Star Studded Sports Watch with an Unlikely El Primero Movement

Last year, Zenith went a little chronograph crazy. By my count, we wrote about eleven different flavors of El Primero in 2021 between various new releases, limited editions, and super high frequency art pieces. Don’t get me wrong: the El Primero is great, but last year’s releases could have you thinking that Zenith, a brand I love all out of proportion, had forgotten that they do in fact make watches that aren’t chronographs. The recent release of the “Revival” version of the A3642 was heartening for me because it signaled that Zenith hadn’t forgotten anything at all, and with the newly announced Defy Skyline you could almost convince this longtime Zenith fan that 2022 might be the Year of the Defy. Dare to dream. 


For Zenith, the Defy line has always been an opportunity to showcase the latest in horological technology, whether in the arena of robust case manufacturing (early Defys in the 70s used rubber shock absorbers to protect their movements, a novel and effective idea at the time), chronometry (the souped up El Primero 9004 movements found in Defy 21 chronographs), or materials tech (so much ceramic). The new Skyline continues in this vein with a movement ripped from last year’s Chronomaster Sport, their next generation chronograph with a 1/10th second timer. You’d be correct to ask yourself what relationship the movement in the Chronomaster Sport (the El Primero 3600) has to this new watch, which is very clearly not a chronograph at all. What Zenith has done here is effectively remove the chronograph works from the 3600, repurposing the movement for use in a simple time and date layout while maintaining the 36,000 VpH frequency and the enhanced timekeeping that comes with it. 

Interestingly, this is not the first time Zenith has taken the chronograph out of the El Primero: Zenith collectors and enthusiasts will remember with varying degrees of fondness the Zenith Espada from 2012, which has the rare distinction of being a time and date watch while actually saying “El Primero” on the dial. Unlike the Espada, which was based on the previous decade’s version of the El Primero movement, the new generation El Primero 3600 calibers run the seconds hand directly off the escapement rather than through the gear train, which is what gives you the ability to time events to 1/10th of a second “naturally” (3,600 seconds in an hour and 36,000 VpH is some straightforward math), as well as the incredibly cool effect of seeing the chrono seconds hand make a full rotation around the dial every 10 seconds.

Which means – you guessed it – that small seconds hand at 9:00 whips around its tiny register at the same rate as the chronograph seconds hand on the Chronomaster Sport. The new movement is officially dubbed the El Primero 3620, and takes the architecture of the 3600 and adapts it for a simple time and date execution, but with a neat trick always visible with that extra quick seconds hand. Is it useful to have a small seconds hand that makes a full rotation around its subdial every 10 seconds, instead of every 60? I mean, probably not. But it’s a reminder of the chronometry at work inside, and a bit of a flex for Zenith, which is as much a part of the Defy’s long history as anything else. 

The aesthetic of this watch is sure to generate a lot of conversation within the watch community, and the Zenith community more specifically. Its 41mm stainless steel case is meant to be reminiscent of the octagonal shape of the newly reissued A3642, and the bezel is 12 sided, giving the whole watch a contemporary, highly angular look and feel. The dial is made up of a series of engraved four-pointed stars, which Zenith says is a reimagining of their “double Z” logo from the 1960s. Silver, blue, and black variants are available at launch, all with a sunburst pattern and faceted, applied hour markers that have been coated in luminescent material. The Defy Skyline ships on a stainless steel bracelet and also includes a rubber strap that can be easily swapped using Zenith’s quick-change strap system. 

The retail price of the Defy Skyline is $8,400. Keep your eyes peeled to these pages for a full review in the coming weeks. 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.