Pushing new limits, Zenith is keeping us smiling with the first-ever Defy Extreme in carbon fibre. Coming in a large case and using automotive-inspired materials, the brand is giving its El Primero 9004 movement a new futuristic, daring shell: Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon Ref 10.9100.9004/22.I200.
The last years brought from Zenith an interesting combination of heritage and ultra-modern. From various Revivals of well-loved classic pieces to spectacular colours used in ultra-modern approaches. And while I love the new “old” pieces, the spectacularity of the bolides makes my heart jump in excitation.
So is the case of the new Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon – a large and impulsive piece questioning the industry with its new materials, multicoloured elements and audacious movement. And please let me explain why I consider so…
The Defy Extreme is not a new collection, or better said, a new thing for Zenith… More than a decade ago, the Defy Xtreme were some of the most daring pieces with a sporty look and powerful characteristics. Just like now, a statement from the 5 pointed star brand. While I was not a fan of those models ( a bit too much for my taste), the new Defy Extreme possess a design language that I understand and enjoy.
Behold the greatness, understand the lightness
Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon comes in a “large” 45mm case. In quotation marks since 45mm, while it is not as common as it was a few years back, it is still a loved size and, moreover, due to the smart composition, it is offering comfortable, smaller wear. But the watch stands out not through size but weight. Or lack of it…
Due to the carbon fibre sandwich construction with titanium inserts, the watch is incredibly light. The angular case is covered on top with a 12-faces microblasted titanium ring and a round carbon bezel holding a slightly raised sapphire crystal. The back of the case presents another 12 edge element, this time in carbon, fixed with 4 screws.
On the backside we can also observe the brand’s last release system – an excellent and easy to use quick release that allows the wearer to change the strap in less than a minute. Please note the cavities in the caseback to ease the reach for the push strap release button.
The caseback bears various marks engraved including the “200 M” water resist engraved. The large sapphire crystal allows an uninterrupted view of the skeletonised El Primero 9004.
To achieve a maximum weight reduction but also spectacularity, the crown and pushers are also manufactured in carbon. The crown features a blasted titanium core with a beautiful polished Zenith star emboss. Most probably, this core holds the stem going into the movement.
The pushers are fixed and held into place by two large titanium guides. The warm feel of the carbon is nicely evidentiated by the naturally obtained dark grey colour of the titanium.
A multitude of details and depths
Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon is a natural busy dial. It is a chronograph, after all… And when you have to display a lot of information and reveal partly the movement, then you are in trouble. But the cluster of info on the dial is beautifully grouped with colours and constructional elements.
First, the time display is using the central minutes and hour hands (well-chosen modern design with skeletonised body and white SuperLuminova insert), the left subdial for running seconds (also with white indexes and printed numerals) and superb half-floating applied indexes.
I just love how the indexes are stopping in “the air”… The use of a sapphire dial permits not only the view of the internal mechanism but also the creation of these “in-the-air” floating elements. The sapphire dial helps delimit the functions and reveals information.
Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon also display a power reserve indicator on the top side of the dial, The intuitive use of white and red brings the complication into attention when needed. The same spot is used for the applied star, the printed brand name and the El Primero appellative.
The 1/100 chronograph uses a central hand, with 1 second revolution time, and the outer register. As mentioned, every function is colour delimited: the 1/100 second uses a yellowish-green, the 60 seconds subdial at 6 o’clock uses a green colour and the 30 minutes totaliser at 3 o’clock uses blue. In this way, the amalgam of information is well delimited and distributed.
Underneath the crystal dial, one can easily observe the black coloured mainplate that was skeletonised to reveal the escapements (yes, there are two…) and the gears. I am astounded by the good legibility of the watch and the number of details that can be visualised.
The El Primero 9004
The watch does not lose its interestingness when turned. The open view style observed on the front can be found on the back. The Zenith star rotor, coloured in black, employs the eyes’ attention for a while, but soon, the other elements start to make a stand. The first thing that stands out is the presence of two escapements.
The right escapement (in the picture above) with the “larger” balance wheels and coloured escapement’s anchor and wheel is the 5Hz one responsible for the time. The left one, with a much smaller balance wheel and a much shorter balance spring, is the astonishing 360,000 VpH – 50 Hz escapement giving the fabulous 1/100 of a second measuring capability.
It is a direct correlation between the size of the balance wheel, the length of the balance spring and the frequency it operates. A large balance wheel will have bigger inertia (and will be less influenced by external factors). A longer balance spring will have a slower oscillating frequency and enough energy to move the balance wheels’ inertial mass. Following the same reasoning, a small balance wheel will have smaller inertia but can be moved faster by a short spring operating faster. This is where Zenith‘s not magic but expertise comes in… Being able to manufacture in large amount such a complex and precise machine is to respect and enjoy.
Talking about the finishes, the movement does not excel in the haute horlogerie area: mostly machine produced but with extreme tolerances, coloured elements, a bit of brushing, chamfering, polished screw heads and other small details that bring beauty to the extreme mechanics. Plus, if one desires a special piece, one must ask Zenith and be prepared to pay a fabulous sum.
Extreme mechanics, extreme materials, extreme horology
Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon is a good looking watch: beauty and (two) brain(s). The continuous quest and desire to innovate makes Zenith a powerful player. Adding the extreme powerful heritage and daring to work with the latest available materials offers results hard to ignore.
The watch is light, beautiful with unexpected good legibility and it wears great. My 18-18.5cm (7-7.2 inch) wrist had no problem accommodating the 45mm case. The comfort is increased by the angle at which the strap is fixed.
While the CHF 24,900 24.600 EUR / $25,100 / SGD 36,700 price tag is not for everyone, it is not absurd for this marvel.
Zenith Defy Extreme Carbon Technical Specifications
Reference: 10.9100.9004/22.I200 – CHF 24,900
- 1/100th of a second chronograph function.
- Chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock.
- Hours and minutes in the centre.
- Small seconds at 9 o’clock
- Central chronograph hand that makes one turn each second, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 60-second counter at 6 o’clock
- El Primero 9004 automatic
- 1 escapement for the Watch (36,000 VpH – 5 Hz) ; 1 escapement for the Chronograph (360,000 VpH – 50 Hz)
- Power reserve min. 50 hours
- Finishes: Black coloured main plate on movement + Special black coloured oscillating weight with satin finishings
- 45mm diameter
- Material: Carbon & Microblasted Titanium
- Water resistance: 20 ATM
- Tinted sapphire with three black-coloured counters
- Hour markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with ” SuperLuminova SLN C1
- Hands: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with ” SuperLuminova SLN C1
Bracelet & Buckle
- Black Rubber.
- Titanium triple folding clasp with black DLC coating.
- Also comes with a red rubber strap and a black Velcro strap and carbon buckle.