Well, well, well… What do we have here? A proper dedicated dive watch in the Zenith lineup, that’s what! The Le Locle-based brand hasn’t made one of these for decades, but it seems the team has pulled out all the stops with the Defy Extreme Diver. Alongside it comes the new (although somewhat predictable) Defy Skyline Chronograph. Judging by these Watches and Wonders 2024 releases, Zenith looks intent on thoroughly filling out the Defy line. Let’s take a look at the new stars in the Zenith universe.

I suppose it’s better to begin with the watch that we (or at least I) saw coming, the Defy Skyline Chronograph. After all, Zenith is famous for chronographs, so it only seemed logical that the El Primero 3600 caliber would find its way into the popular Defy Skyline sooner than later. Sure, I may have gotten some hints from the Zenith boutique in Osaka about this… Nevertheless, I know I’m not alone in having envisioned it anyway. But that’s enough about my questionable psychic abilities. What characteristics carry over from the other Defy Skyline models, and what details are new?

The new Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph

The Defy Skyline Chronograph utilizes the same aesthetic platform as the three-hand Defy Skyline. This includes an octagonal case, a dodecagonal bezel, and an integrated H-link bracelet, all in stainless steel with brushed top surfaces and polished bevels. Looking at the dial, we find the Defy Skyline’s typical star motif, sunray finishing, and faceted baton indices with white lume. These dials also come in the standard black, blue, and silver options. The hour and minute hands in the center remain unchanged and feature a rhodium plating (black and blue dials) or a ruthenium one (silver dial) to match the indices.

Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph silver dial

Now we get to the differences. Instead of a 41mm diameter, these models are slightly larger at 42mm across. There’s no word on the length or thickness yet, but I’ll update these measurements as soon as possible. Additionally, as this is a chronograph, the dial makes room for three sub-dials instead of one, and the color-matched date indicator moves from 3 to between 4 and 5 o’clock.

Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph black dial

The sunray-finished sub-dials all display circular graining and markings up to 60, with running seconds at 9 o’clock, elapsed minutes at 6, and elapsed seconds at 3. Of course, this means that the central chronograph hand doesn’t measure elapsed seconds but 10ths of a second instead. Thanks to the 5Hz beat rate and escape-wheel-driven central hand, this is now a signature feature of many Zenith chronographs. The central hand points to the 1/10th-of-a-second scale on the perimeter, which mirrors the bezel’s dodecagonal shape. That outer scale is clear enough, but with the additional divisions on the dial giving it a busier, wavy look, I can’t help but feel a little seasick. However, I do like that the three chronograph hands all have red highlights, visually linking them together.

The Zenith El Primero 3600 movement inside

As mentioned, the Defy Skyline Chronograph utilizes Zenith’s in-house caliber 3600 for precise elapsed timing to 1/10th of a second. An upgrade from Zenith’s previous El Primero 400, this movement also provides a hacking function (as any modern caliber should). Furthermore, it extends the power reserve by 10 hours to 60. This is rather impressive considering the 36,000vph frequency and single barrel. Importantly, Zenith completely re-engineered the El Primero when designing this 35-jewel movement. This included adjusting the profile of every gear tooth and adding a silicon escapement to reduce friction and energy loss wherever possible. Thankfully, the column wheel stayed, providing not only crispy chrono action but also a nice blued highlight beneath the star-shaped rotor.

Flanking the star-studded crown are elongated pentagonal chronograph pushers. They’re a great match with the shape of the case sides, which are pentagonal too. The crown, by the way, is of the screw-down variety, helping to provide water resistance to 100 meters. Around the back of the watch, we find a sapphire display window encircled by a stainless steel ring with four screws. You may also notice the convenient quick-release levers on the end links of the bracelet. While this bracelet is comfortable and nicely constructed, unfortunately, it has a nonadjustable butterfly clasp and no half-links. These may make it hard to find a perfect fit, so the quick-release levers and extra strap might come in quite handy.

Final details and pricing of the Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph

Yes, just like its three-hand counterparts, the Defy Skyline Chronograph comes with an additional custom-patterned rubber strap. While the blue and black dial-matching straps are nice, the contrasting green one on the silver-dial model looks ace. These straps are all equipped with a stainless steel folding clasp. Some may prefer a no-nonsense pin buckle, and for practicality’s sake, I probably would too. Nevertheless, I understand why Zenith provides a folding clasp. Quite simply, many consumers see it as more luxurious, and when spending CHF 12,900 / €13,900 on the Zenith Defy Skyline Chronograph, that perception matters.

Admittedly, I’m not crazy about the dodecagonal 1/10th-of-a-second scale and unnecessary minute subdivisions. However, putting aside personal niggles, I think this is a nice, logical release from Zenith. Is it worth CHF 4,000 / €4,500 more than the three-hand Defy Skyline? Well, such a question can only have a subjective answer. That said, it’s more attractively priced than, for instance, the CHF 17,900 / €19,400 Defy Extreme chronograph. It also provides a functionally simpler and cleaner-looking alternative to the CHF 13,900 / €15,100 Defy 21. For those who don’t need or want timing accuracy to 1/100th of a second but would still like a modern Defy chronograph, this could be a big hit.

The Zenith Defy Extreme Diver: defying expectations

Who saw this one coming? I certainly didn’t. A dedicated three-hand dive watch from Zenith? Jeez, it’s been good while since we’ve seen one of those! Sure, some of the Nataf-era Defy “Classic” models had a dive bezel, such as the Chrono Aero that Jorg featured here. But that watch was basically a monstrified version of the 1990s Rainbow Flyback Chronograph commissioned (and canceled) by the French Air Force. Going back a bit further to 1988–1996, Zenith offered the 300m-water-resistant El Primero De Luca. One could argue that this unidirectional-bezel-bearing chronograph was a dive watch, but it was also a chronograph with a tachymeter scale. As one of our kind readers pointed out, there was an ETA-powered three-hand De Luca as well that eventually made way for the Rainbow Elite.

Zenith Rainbow Elite ” Mango” ref. 02.0471.400/74 — Image: Tourneau

As far as I’m aware, the 200m-rated Rainbow Elite was the last of its three-hand, water-going breed. It was discontinued by the very early 2000s, so it has been a good two decades since we’ve seen a new Zenith dive watch. Well, that changes now with the simultaneous release of the Defy Extreme Diver and Defy Revival A3648. You can head over to Jorg’s article to get all the deets on the spectacular-looking Revival model. Here, we’ll look at the thoroughly modern Extreme version. Unlike the Defy Extreme chronographs, this watch is not 45mm wide. Instead, it has a more reasonable 42.5mm diameter. Measuring 15.5mm thick but executed in titanium, it should provide a bold but ergonomically manageable stance on the wrist.

A modern evolution of a classic Defy diver

The Defy Extreme Diver takes its inspiration from the very Defy A3648 that Zenith has just revived (in the center above). Like the El Primero A386 and original Defy A3642, and Defy Plongeur A3648 debuted in 1969. Coincidentally or not, it was water resistant to an impressive 600 meters, equaling 1,969 feet (well, technically, 1,968.5 feet, but what’s a measly six inches?). As you can see, the Extreme Diver shares its general octagonal form, slim dive bezel, and orange minute track. It even shares the 600m depth rating. But it also bears a tremendous resemblance to the Defy Skyline Chronograph through its star-patterned dial, elongated crown guards, and case/bracelet shapes.

The applied luminous hour markers and hands, though, are significantly bolder than on any Defy Extreme we’ve seen previously. They also light up with a sweet-looking combo of green- and blue-glowing Super-LumiNova. The blue lume on the minute hand matches that of the triangle on the bezel for easy distinguishability underwater. What truly sets this watch on fire, though, is the orange lume for the numerals and five-minute marks on the all-ceramic bezel. Three colors of lume on one watch? Sign me up! Notably, the stars on the dial are bigger than on the Defy Skyline models. The dial’s sunburst finish also radiates from the Zenith logo at 12, and the date takes its usual position at 3 o’clock. Still, Zenith has placed a lume pip next to it, following the ISO 6425 standard for professional diver’s watches.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver case profile

The delight is in the details

Looking at the case from the side, I must admit that I love the geometry of it all. From the long, heptagonal crown guards and pentagonal flanks to the dodecagonal ring around the crystal and star-like knurling on the crown, this is a veritable feast of shapes. The bold facets along the case edges accentuate that character, and the spaced knurling around the dive bezel looks incredibly easy to grip. And can we talk about how Zenith implemented the included fabric strap? Check out those titanium adapters! They are necessary due to the small lug spacing, but the angle is superb. It should go a long way in ensuring that the case doesn’t hover above the wrist any more than necessary. Not only that, but the adapters also look like they were there all along rather than some awkward afterthought.

Turning the case around to the 9 o’clock side, we find a polished helium release valve for those who will use this watch as intended. I’m not one of those people, but I do think it looks nifty surrounded by the deeply brushed flank. We can also see the three-dimensionality of the dial with its applied indices and orange minute track. I don’t mind the latter’s dodecagonal shape here. With no unnecessary markings circling the inside, it has a much less nausea-inducing look than with the Defy Skyline Chronograph. Furthermore, I love the saturated orange hue, matching the accents on all three hands.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver case back

The movement running the show

Inside the Defy Extreme Diver, we find a Zenith El Primero 3620. Yes, this is a non-chronograph “Null Primero” caliber. For better or worse, though, Zenith has taken to using the El Primero name for all of its 36,000vph movements. Also, astute readers will recognize that this caliber number matches the one inside the standard Defy Skyline. You know, the model with the wildly spinning 1/10th-of-a-second hand at 9 o’clock. Importantly, the Defy Extreme Diver does away with that novelty in favor of standard central seconds, and the 3620 caliber gets one extra jewel in the process. It still provides a 60-hour power reserve and all the aforementioned benefits of Zenith’s caliber 3600, just without the chronograph function. Looking at the image above, you’ll notice that this watch also has quick-release buttons to make changing straps easy.

Final details and pricing

Both the black and blue Zenith Defy Extreme Divers will come with a titanium H-link bracelet, an 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. Zenith has priced the watch at CHF 10,900 / €11,800. That’s certainly not pocket change for most, and it’s out of budget for me too. But it is CHF 1,500 / €1,300 less than an orange-bezel titanium Omega Ploprof 1200M. Of course, that’s not an entirely fair comparison. The Ploprof has double the water resistance and a Master Chronometer-certified movement. But it does indicate what’s par for the course when shopping for luxury extreme divers (no pun intended). But for the more budget-conscious Fratelli, there’s also the new Alpina Seastrong Diver Extreme Automatic with a similar aesthetic to this Zenith for one-sixth of the price.

Zenith Defy Extreme Diver blue dial

So, what do we think of Zenith’s foray back into the world of dive watches? Were you a bit more clairvoyant than me, and did you see this watch coming? Now that it’s here, how do you think Zenith did with the execution? I like that the brand has attempted to round out its catalog a bit. I’m also excited to see the Defy Extreme Diver in the metal and find out how the 42.5 × 15.5mm case sits on the wrist. Admittedly, I’m less excited about the Defy Skyline Chronograph, but that one may be more to your taste. In any case, check them out on the Zenith website, and sound off in the comments below!