Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Chronograph
Full disclosure; I’m a pretty big fan of Zenith, so I was a little concerned when the buzz in the bars and cigar clubs of Basel was that the new Defy El Primero 21 Chrono was a departure from the status quo. Industry people who’d visited Zenith’s booth, complete with old time barber and shoe shine people (sadly there was no time for me to get a beard trim), were talking of this new look El Primero (Interesting fact, El Primero means “first” in Esperanto, the language beloved of academics and spoken by no one) . Overwhelmingly they were saying positive things, but still, I was worried. The way you get worried when an old friend tells you they’re getting married after knowing the girl for three months, or that they’ve joined a self help group that sounds suspiciously like a cult.
Unlike my friends, who might well marry a psychopath, or give all their money to The Unified Lodge of Spiritual Wellbeing, Mr Biver does not make mistakes, and as such I should have had a little more faith in the people at Zenith.
The watch has touches of the original 1969 model, primarily its signature blue and grey tinted counters, but they’re subtle. I think it’s best to think of this watch as a spin-off rather than a sequel. It is to the original El Primero range what Creed was to Rocky, rather than Rocky II, or Rocky III, or IV, or etc, etc. So as such I’m going to talk about it as a watch in its own right, as something new.
The brushed titanium or ceramicised aluminium case, depending on the model, comes in at an unabashed 44mm diameter, making this a great size for the larger wrist or a statement piece for the more slender wrist, and it houses the El Primero 9004 automatic movement. Although the dial presents you with a wealth of information; 1/100th of a second chronograph, chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock, hours and minutes in the centre, small seconds at 9 o’clock, central chronograph hand, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, and a 60-second counter at 6 o’clock, you can still see clearly through to the mesmerising “open heart” movement.
For me it’s a watch that manages to be paradoxically modern while retaining features of classic haute horology. It’s undeniably sporty while still being elegant. A hundredth of a second chronograph is an absolute feat of watchmaking yet Zenith have not neglected the fact that these horological masterpieces still have to be attractive.
The case-back is sapphire crystal and for the duration of my stay in the Zenith booth I probably spent as long looking at the back as I did the front. Its star shaped rotor makes me think of a wild West sheriff’s badge in a steam punk graphic novel.
The balance spring of this watch is made of carbon-matrix carbon nanotube composite which is a material that is as clever as it sounds, being immune to both magnetic fields, and extreme temperature ranges.
This is a watch that rather than shake my admiration of Zenith has in fact added to it substantially. A push for innovation coupled with confident and faultless styling is all that one can need from a watch brand, and the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Chronograph has that in spades.
*Just IMHO but the best film of the franchise is undeniably Rocky III. Mr T is the most underrated thespian of his generation
Movement El Primero 9004, Automatic
Calibre 14¼“` (Diameter: 32.80 mm)
Movement thickness 7.9 mm
Frequency 36,000 VpH (5 Hz)
Power-reserve min. 50 hours
Finishes Oscillating weight with “Côtes de Genève” motif
1/100th of a second Chronograph:
Chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock
Hours and minutes in the centre
Small seconds at 9 o’clock
– Central chronograph hand
– 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock
– 60-second counter at 6 o’clock
CASE, DIAL & HANDS
Diameter 44 mm
Dial-opening diameter 35.5 mm
Thickness 14.50 mm
Crystal Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Case-back Transparent sapphire crystal
Material Brushed titanium or Ceramicised aluminium
Water-resistance 10 ATM
Dial Openworked with two different-coloured counters or silver-toned with black counters
Dial Openworked or silver-toned with three black counters (comme en FR)
Hour-markers Rhodium-plated or ruthenium-plated, faceted and coated with SuperLuminova SLN C1
Hands Rhodium-plated or ruthenium-plated, faceted and coated with SuperLuminova SLN C1
STRAP & BUCKLE
Bracelet :27.00.2322.582 (Black rubber with black alligator leather coating)
Buckle: 27.95.0022.930 (Titanium double folding clasp)