Zenith is a brand that I feel often does not get as much attention as it deserves. The Le Locle-based watchmaker has formidable technical expertise, particularly with its El Primero movements. Zenith has recently introduced the latest watches utilizing the brand’s top-of-the-line El Primero caliber. The Defy 21 Chroma II is available in two colors — black (ref. 49.9013.9004/21.R952) and matte white (ref. 49.9014.9004/01.R953) — both in ceramic. These are limited editions of 500 pieces in each colorway for a total of 1,000 watches. The Defy 21 Chroma’s first iteration was introduced at LVMH Watch Week last year and stood out with its white ceramic case and bold color accents. The Chroma II builds on that.

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II black

The specs

Let’s start with the key specifications. Both watches have 44mm cases housing the El Primero 9004 chronograph movement. A certified chronometer, this impressive Zenith caliber has two escapements. One handles the watch’s timekeeping, beating at 36,000vph (or 5Hz). The other handles the chronograph function, which beats at a remarkable 360,000vph (or 50Hz), which provides 1/100th-of-a-second measurements. The power reserve is 50 hours for the watch and 50 minutes for the chronograph function. This shortened reserve for the chronograph function makes sense, given the remarkable beat frequency.

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II back

At the center are the hours and minute hands, with a small seconds register at 9 o’clock. The 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph has a central hand with a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and a 60-second counter at 6 o’clock. In addition, there is a power reserve indicator for the chronograph function at 12 o’clock. Both Defy 21 Chroma II references have a 10 ATM water resistance rating and come on rubber straps with titanium double-folding clasps, making them a sporty option. The strap has subtle rainbow stitching. 

Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II black and white versions

The design

Immediately, you notice the open dial work on both versions of the Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II. It features raised chronograph counters matching the color of each reference’s case, underneath which you can see the movement in all its glory. Each bridge is finished in a different metallic shade, adding to a sense of three-dimensionality. The sapphire crystal on the case back also allows a view of the movement in action if looking at it head-on isn’t enough. You can see the independent regulating sections as well as the gear trains.

The white ceramic version features brighter color accents than the black, with shades of pink and multiple blues on display. The case has a refracted rainbow over the open dial, the ends of the hands, and the movement, which Zenith says is a transitioning gradient of colors spanning the entire visible color spectrum. The black version is earthier, with a range of primary-color-based tones creating (in my eyes) a bolder, more aggressive look. 

Initial impressions

I’m not usually one for open-worked dials, but the technical capability on display here is impressive. These would be watches that would grab people’s attention for sure. If you also appreciate Zenith’s brand history, having one of these in a collection could make a lot of sense. Chronograph aficionados will appreciate the movement on display, and I’m looking forward to seeing these watches operate in real life or through videos online. 

Final thoughts

The recommended retail price for both references is €16,800, which makes sense given the sheer amount of technical work that has gone into these designs. What do you think, Fratelli? Would you get one of these limited-edition pieces from Zenith? As always, share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. For more information on the new Zenith Defy 21 Chroma II, check out the brand’s website.

Watch specifications

Defy 21 Chroma II
49.9013.9004/21.R952 (black) / 49.9014.9004/01.R953 (white)
Open-worked with black or white sub-dials, applied indices, and multicolor Super-LumiNova
Case Material
Black or white matte ceramic
Case Dimensions
44mm (diameter) × 50.5mm (lug-to-lug) × 14.5mm (thickness)
Case Back
Matching ceramic with sapphire exhibition window
Zenith El Primero 9004 — self-winding chronograph with two escapements, 36,000vph (5Hz) frequency for main time and 360,000vph (50Hz) for chronograph, 50-hour power reserve for main time and 50 minutes for chronograph, 53 jewels
Water Resistance
10 ATM (100m)
Matching rubber with rainbow stitching and titanium folding clasp
Time (hours, minutes, small seconds) and chronograph (30-minute and 1-second registers and 1/100-second central hand), chronograph power reserve indicator
Special Note(s)
Each version limited to 500 pieces