It was only a matter of time before we saw more from the DEFY Extreme. Zenith launched the new model back at Watches & Wonders in April of this year. Since then, the DEFY Extreme has quietly sat in the brand’s catalog, waiting its turn for the limited edition treatment. Zenith has introduced an interesting iterative update in the DEFY Extreme Desert, alongside a series of exclusive photographs by the acclaimed nature photographer Kourosh Keynejad.

First, the makeover Zenith gave the DEFY Extreme Desert is subtle by the brand’s own bold standard. If I’d had to guess what the first iterative update/limited edition may have looked like, I think I’d have guessed a ceramic or forged carbon case. I mean, that’s the route that Zenith took for the DEFY Skeleton and the DEFY El Primero, but not this time. It decided that the DEFY Extreme was going to be something totally different.

Zenith DEFY Extreme Desert

Inspired by the desert

Inspired by the wild and barren desert landscapes captured in Kourosh Keynejad’s work, the DEFY Extreme Desert uses a material that I’ve never-before-seen used in watchmaking — or indeed heard of before. Every day is a school day! Falcon’s eye is a blue-grey opaque macrocrystalline quartz gemstone. It gets its name from the bird-of-prey that found a home accompanying desert nomads for centuries. It’s a stunning mineral and one that perfectly complements the sandy, desert-like tones Zenith employed on the dial. The crown guards/pusher protectors and the dodecagonal bezel feature this beautifully exotic material.

…a mirage of an oasis in the scorching desert heat…

The falcon’s eye has a lovely, warm, almost rusty hue with random fibrous structures in its raw format. When polished, it takes on a slightly different character. Zenith describes it as “a mirage of an oasis in the scorching desert heat.” I’m not sure I totally get the same vibes, but nonetheless, the aesthetic is striking, and I like it a lot. With falcon’s eye being a natural crystalline structure, each piece has a completely unique pattern, meaning each of the 50 watches will essentially be unique.

D+Falcon's eye parts

Following the DEFY Extreme blueprint

The DEFY Extreme Desert retains its signature open-worked dial, revealing the El Primero 21 movement below. The warm, tinted sapphire crystal complements the beige luminescent markers and hands and applied chronograph counters rings. I’m really hoping we don’t get the Fauxtina Brigade out in force here. Given the watch’s inspiration, would any other color have made more sense? No, no, it would not. The beige lume is a color choice, nothing more.

…the stuff dreams were made of…

Two additional straps complete the DEFY Extreme Desert. Aside from the matching, brushed titanium bracelet, Zenith includes a beige rubber strap and a durable black Velcro strap. Owners can easily swap them out using Zenith’s quick-change mechanism. I’ve noticed more and more brands starting to invest in proprietary quick-change systems. This is only a good thing. Changing straps quickly on the fly without worrying about scratching lugs and pinging out spring-bars is the stuff dreams were made of 5-10 years ago. Now it’s slowly becoming a reality.


A photographic collaboration

To accompany the DEFY Extreme Desert edition launch, Zenith commissioned the British-born photographer Kourosh Keynejad to capture an exclusive set of images inspired by the new watch. The project comprises nine images in three triptychs: “Wind Carved Canyons”, “Deserted Dunes,” and “Starry Nights”. Kourosh captured the images across the North American deserts: The Great Basin, The Mojave, The Sonoran, and The Chihuahuan deserts.

…you’ll have the opportunity to purchase the original for your wall.

Over the coming weeks and months, Zenith and Kourish will display the photographs during a traveling exhibition tour. It begins at the Foire Internationale d’art Contemporain, in Paris. After this, it will make its way to Dubai and Tokyo towards the end of the year. The original photographs will be available to purchase during the exhibitions. So, if you’re particularly moved by any of the images, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase the original for your wall.

Where does the DEFY Extreme go from here?

This latest creation is available on the Zenith website for €21,600 perfectly in line with other models in the lineup. I really quite like the Zenith DEFY Extreme Desert. In particular, I love the use of the falcon’s eye, a mineral I hadn’t heard of before. Still, it adds a subtle and nuanced new character to the watch. When Zenith first introduced the new collection, I wasn’t totally sold on the need for a more rugged version of the DEFY El Primero. It felt like a natural evolution from the standard DEFY 21 model similar to AP’s evolution of the Royal Oak to the Offshore. Still, it didn’t quite grab me in the same way. That said, with the new Desert model, I’m starting to see the possible opportunities for the Extreme’s future. I’m certainly interested to see what else Zenith has in store for us moving forward.

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