Zenith introduced two new models worth discussing this year for different reasons. The brand’s Defy Skyline Chronograph was a logical next step for the series. It even felt like the watch had been part of the collection for some time. It just seems like a natural progression for the Defy Skyline. The second big new introduction was the Zenith Defy Extreme Diver. Fans of the brand have been questioning whether we would see a return of a Zenith dive watch. That question was answered this year with this new duo. As it turns out, the Zenith Defy Extreme Diver is surprisingly less extreme than we expected — in a good way! It’s time for a closer look.

As a fan of Zenith, I am always most interested in the brand’s classics and modern interpretations of them. They speak to my heart the most, and I think the same is true for many watch fans. This year, the Le Locle-based brand introduced the colorful Defy Revival A3648 for people who love their Zenith classics. I adored that release and hope to get a chance to take the watch for a proper spin soon. That said, with its bright orange elements, that watch may not be for everyone. I think it’s a cool and fitting display of the brand’s style from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s why the Zenith stood out from many of its competitors.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver black and blue dials

The story of the Zenith Defy Extreme Diver

That specific watch was also the inspiration for the new series of Zenith Defy Extreme Divers. The brand made the logical but equally smart decision to integrate its new series of dive watches into the Defy Extreme line. Up until now, we have seen several Defy Extreme chronographs. It’s an impressive line of watches, but at 45mm wide, they are serious in size and watchmaking chops. When the first images of the new Extreme Diver surfaced, I was apprehensive because I had expected it to be similar in size. But glancing at the press release revealed a more modest 42.5mm case size. That’s when my slight apprehension was replaced with a growing curiosity.

While Zenith has a history with dive watches, as Brandon perfectly explained, it has never been the brand’s bread and butter. Zenith is primarily known as a brand that creates some of the best chronographs in history. As a result, the introduction of a diver is always a big thing. The dive watches in the Sub Sea series produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s stand out in the brand’s rich portfolio. The reintroduced A3648 is just one of them. Other examples are the colorful A3637 and A3639 models, which include the illustrious “Big Lemon.” A favorite of mine is the A3630, which I would have also loved to see return.

Combining the influences from the past and the present

But Zenith decided differently. And seeing the new Defy Extreme Diver next to the Revival A3648 and the Defy Extreme timepieces, the choice makes total sense. The designers were able to combine the influences from the past into the modern Defy Extreme canvas. Their clever approach has led to modern dive watches with a perfect visual balance. Brandon explained that both models’ design influences are easy to recognize.

The Defy Extreme Diver takes the influences from the classic A3648 with its octagonal form, slim dive bezel, and orange minute track. Additionally, the watches are connected to the Defy Extreme chronographs and, specifically, the Defy Skyline range thanks to their star-patterned dial, elongated crown guards, and case/bracelet shapes. Thankfully, though, it does not feel like a design construct. The shapes and angles of both the classic and modern influences merge wonderfully.

The specs of the Defy Extreme Diver

Let’s discuss the specs of the two new divers briefly. Both watches feature a titanium case that is 42.5mm in diameter and 15.5mm thick. They also boast a 600m depth rating, just like the A3648 back in the day and this year’s Defy Revival edition. The brushed titanium case looks modern and crisp, and the case sides were especially joyous to see. I love the technical looks, especially the crown side, as it looks impressively technical and machine-like. The other side is relatively simple, with “just” a helium escape valve. But both sides make the Defy Extreme Diver look like a proper tool watch. Besides that, I was happy to see a dive watch that does not fit the traditional mold of roundish dive watches we know all too well.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver black dial

Brandon already brilliantly described all the things that make this new angular case such a fascinating design exercise. There are so many different shapes and intricate little details that work together really well. Looking at the watch up close, it’s almost a miracle that they do not generate an instant visual overkill. My favorite element is the dodecagonal ring because it hints back to the design of the A3648.

But it is also more pronounced than on the retro diver and, therefore, defines the look more. Another standout element is the spaced knurling around the dive bezel, which is wonderful for gripping and turning the bezel. Speaking of which, the sound of the bezel is a delight. It has wonderful clear and crisp clicks that are a testament to its great quality.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver black dial close-up

Two different dial colors with a clever star pattern

The Defy Extreme Diver is available with a black or blue dial with orange and white accents. I prefer the dark blue dial as it has a depth and vibrancy that the black version does not. Regarding the star pattern, Zenith has applied the same principle that Audemars Piguet uses for its tapisserie dials. AP enlarges the pattern for the Royal Oak Offshore line, which is what Zenith has done for these divers. Granted, it’s an acquired taste to see these big four-point stars. But there is something visually clever about the larger pattern.

In spots where the star pattern needs to make space for text, it gets room to breathe. Consequently, it seems there are irregularities in the pattern, though there aren’t. But it does create a cool effect that I love. The oversized applied luminous hour markers and hands contrast them. Another one of those lovely details is the white outline of the markers at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, which hints at the white outline of the date window at 3 o’clock. Just look at those large hands with their big luminous surfaces. The Zenith design team went all out on this one without going overboard.

The Zenith El Primero 3620 SC

As Brandon explained, Zenith decided to use its El Primero 3620 caliber for the new divers. It operates at 36,000vph and has a 60-hour power reserve. The movement is one of the brand’s non-chronograph El Primero movements and is also used for the Defy Skyline series. This is the no-frills center-seconds/date version of the movement that is nicely finished with the familiar star-shaped rotor as the visual focal point. On the case back, you will also see the centrally placed quick-release buttons that make changing straps easy. Recently, we gave Zenith a tough time for its bracelets and clasps used for the Chronomaster Sport, but for the Defy, the quick-release system is top-notch. It is among the best in the industry. A solid construction with one simple button makes using it incredibly easy, and other brands could learn from Zenith in that department.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver black dial pocket shot

The Zenith Defy Extreme Diver on the wrist

We had both the black and blue versions available on the FKM rubber straps with a Kevlar texture and folding clasp. While the included bracelet might be the practical choice for many, and the double-pass strap is the visually striking option with the added titanium adapters, the rubber strap is probably the most comfortable option. This strap truly is wonderful. It is super flexible, making it a delight to wear while balancing the watch perfectly on the wrist. The Kevlar texture is also rather special. The rugged looks suit the overall design nicely and give the watch even more character.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver black dial on wrist

This translates into a watch that is surprisingly wearable despite its rather chunky profile. The 42.5mm case fits nicely on a variety of wrist sizes. Multiple Fratello team members with different wrist sizes tried the watch on, and they agreed that it is a great size and super easy to wear thanks to the titanium construction. Of course, the bracelet option will make the watch look more present, so different rules apply there. However, on the rubber strap, there is a visual friendliness to the size and the design that impressed me greatly.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver blue dial close-up

Final thoughts on the new Zenith Defy Extreme Diver

In terms of overall feel, the watch presents itself like a modern Zenith diver rather than a vintage-inspired one That’s exactly how it should be. If you are a Zenith fan, you will understand the visual hints to the past, but they are not elemental in appreciating the design. At best, they make you appreciate the design even more. Now, I admit that when I first saw the press images, I was not greatly impressed by these new divers. They seemed like a logical step but not necessarily one that blew me away. But after reading about the design inspiration and understanding the integration of vintage and current Zenith elements, I was intrigued.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver blue dial

In real life, these watches are far better than the press release or stock images or would have had me think. Then again, I should have expected as much. First and foremost, I love Zenith for its design philosophy. While not every release is directly up my alley, we can always find a blueprint of great design that is cleverly thought out and brilliantly executed. And the new Defy Extreme Divers might be the best example within the Defy line. They are impressive watches that fit the Defy line perfectly. At €11,800, these new Zenith Defy Extreme Divers are in line with the prices we know from the Defy line and the competition. In that sense, these two new additions to the Zenith collection make perfect sense. It’s a great return for the Zenith divers that honors the past respectfully in a modern series of watches.

For more information, visit the official Zenith website. In the comments section, let us know your thoughts on the new Zenith Defy Extreme Divers.

Watch specifications

Defy Extreme Diver
95.9601.3620/51.I301 (blue) / 95.9600.3620/21.I300 (black)
Blue or black with orange minute track, sunray brushed finish, starry-sky pattern, applied luminous indices
Case Material
Titanium with ceramic dive bezel
Case Dimensions
42.5 (diameter) × 15.5mm (thickness)
Sapphire with antireflective treatment on both sides
Case Back
Titanium and sapphire crystal
Zenith El Primero 3620 SC: automatic and manual winding, 36,000vph frequency, 27 jewels, 60-hour power reserve, 218 parts
Water Resistance
600m (60 ATM)
Titanium H-link bracelet with butterfly clasp, FKM rubber strap with a Kevlar texture and folding clasp, and a double-pass strap made from recycled fishing nets and equipped with a pin buckle
Time (hours, minutes, seconds), date, 60-minute dive bezel, helium escape valve