Hands-On With The Zenith Defy Classic
I like to keep things simple. I know there’s a skeletonized dial version of the Zenith Defy Classic, yet I prefer the reference with this beautiful blue dial. It doesn’t distract that much from the beautiful case design and its combination of brushed and polished finishing.
Zenith is that sympathetic brand from Le Locle, where Berti and I went to a few years ago to have a look inside the manufacture. You can find our report here (with lots of images). Ever since (and before), a Zenith is high on my list, but I always only considered to buy one of the El Primero models. Like the colourful Rainbow Flyback Chronograph from the 1990s. Does this new Defy Classic change my wishes for a Zenith? Let’s have a look.
Zenith Defy Classic
Available in a number of configurations, like a titanium bracelet, a rubber strap with alligator leather coating or a full rubber strap. Then, there’s the skeletonized version available with the same bracelet/strap combinations. Although I like the skeletonized dial of this Zenith Defy Classic, it lacks a bit of personality somehow. It reminds me a bit too much of certain TAG Heuer and Hublot watches, they just look similar to me. I guess that’s a bit of that JC Biver flavour added.
So let’s concentrate on the blue dial version for now: the Zenith Defy Classic on a rubber strap with alligator leather coating. The diameter of this watch is 41mm, which is a good size for a watch that is between a sports watch and a dress (or at least casual looking) watch. I was happy to see that Zenit managed to keep it relatively thin at just 10.75mm.
Although a lot is happening on the blue dial of the Zenith Defy Classic, it is still clean and readable. As you can see in the picture though, everything has been done in a ‘big’ way. Large rhodium-plated hands, coated with Super-LumiNova and big applied faceted hour-markers, also applied with Super-LumiNova. A big Zenith star at 12 o’clock and Zenith printed just below. Also quite large, just like ‘Defy’. The spacing used for the model name is quite interesting. Not disturbing whatsoever, but one does notice. The little star at the short tip of the hand is also interesting, making it two stars that are present on the blue dial. On 3 o’clock there’s the date window, showing a white date disc with the date in contrasting colour. There was a time that I would have prefered the date disc in the same colour as the dial, but these days I don’t anymore, to be honest. I like the contrast of the white disc and the blue dial, so it is easier for me to read.
Although the Defy was introduced in 1969, the Zenith Defy Classic in this article shows a stronger resemblance to a later era, more 1970s. When I saw this watch in Basel during our meeting with Zenith, I recall telling my colleague Berti that the watch reminded me of the IWC Ingenieur 3227 that I previously owned. Mainly based on case design, which shows some Gérald Genta contours. Not only that, also the playful brushed finished case and polished facets of case and bezel are almost Royal Oak-ish. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I admire those watches quite a bit so that also explains my enthusiasm towards this Zenith Defy Classic. The version with titanium bracelet even resembles a bit more with the IWC Ingenieur, a very good-looking combination. By putting it on the blue rubber strap, it gets a bit more of an own character in my opinion. Less Genta, more Zenith Defy. I love Zenith’s decision not to put a crown-guard on the Defy case, it would have ruined the nice design of the watch.
The case is, as written above, made of titanium. The 41mm sized case wears therefor very light on the wrist, especially in combination with the rubber strap (and folding buckle).
Elite 670SK Movement
Inside the Zenith Defy Classic is – of course – a manufacture movement, from their famous Elite calibres. In this case, the Zenith Elite calibre 670SK movement. The SK refers to skeletonised, which the movement is. The Elite 670SK movement has a silicon pallet-lever and escape-wheel, which you can admire because the movement has been open-worked. This automatic movement has 187 components and ticks at 28,800vph (~ 4Hz). It has a power reserve of at least 48 hours.
Sure, it isn’t the famous El Primero movement, but since we are talking three hands here, the Elite movement serves the watch pretty well. The Elite movement is, just like the El Primero, designed and developed in-house, as is the production.
The Zenith Defy Classic in this article, reference 95.9000.670/51.R584, is the most basic version of the collection. However, I would say it is also the coolest version, as less is more these days. At least in my book. I sense that I am a bit done with the crazy stuff and long for more down-to-Earth stuff, watches you can actually wear and won’t get boring over time. I don’t think I am alone with this, to be honest, but that the craziness is just a bit behind us. If you want to go crazy, you can still opt for the skeleton dial version of the Zenith Defy Classic. Or, here comes the Biver, one of the collaboration Defy models with rapper Swiss Beatz who likes to chill in his Beemer and listen to Ether. It kinds of beats me (no pun intended) why you would want to have a watch named after a rapper (or whatever celebrity). Anyway, let’s stick to the Defy Classic.
The version we have here will retail for CHF5900 Swiss Francs. With the titanium bracelet, it will retail for CHF6900 Swiss Francs. The Zenith Defy Classic with skeletonised dial will retail for CHF6500 Swiss Francs, that’s on the rubber strap of course. The version with titanium bracelet comes at CHF7500 Swiss Francs.
Admitted, it is more than the pre-owned Zenith El Primero Rainbow Flyback that I liked so much about two decades ago, and still do. However, for a new watch with in-house developed and manufactured movement, I feel that CHF5900 Swiss Francs for the version in this article is a good proposition. Zenith is one of those manufacturers that literally have nothing to hide when you are there on a visit. They show all the steps, how things are done. As you could read I am no fan of all the ‘awkward’ stuff they do with rappers and – not sure if they still do – with bikers and so on. It is Biver’s way to target a new (and younger) audience, which is fine. But it is not for me, nor is it intended to be. I am just happy that Zenith also still makes the cool things, like this clean and simple Zenith Defy Classic. As long as they do, I am happy.
For more information, visit the official Zenith website.