Once again, LVMH Watch Week hit me a lot faster than I expected. Following a great 2022 for the brand, Zenith shows its hand and is looking strong. It’s no secret that I am a fan of the big Z from Le Locle and feel its strength in the watch world is still underplayed. It is actually a complete coincidence that, only two days ago, I wrote a story on the brand’s efforts from 2022, and the wheels have already started rolling for 2023.

I feel that Zenith has a well-thought-out portfolio for the first big event of the year, with the Defy series showing us a newfound breadth. From sleek 36mm Defy Skylines to a current-catalog Revival piece and the brash Defy Extreme Glacier, a one-brand watch collection is both possible and will cover most bases. From elegant steel formality to big sports pieces, the identity bestowed by the Zenith star is strong in all references.

Zenith shows their hand

Defy Extreme Glacier

Let’s start with the boldest presence in the room and another tempting edition of the Defy Extreme series. At first, the Defy Extreme might appear to play the game with a rulebook set by the big Hublots, but there is a marked difference. Even in this crisp, modernist, arctic guise, its spirit is still related to the storied El Primero. And like any Defy Extreme, the buzz of the chronograph is a big deal. There is nothing as eye-catching as the central chronograph hand sweeping around the dial once per second, courtesy of the El Primero caliber 9004. As we know from the Defy El Primero 21 and Extreme series, this is made possible through two regulating organs within the movement, one beating at 360,000vph for the chronograph and the other at 36,000vph for the time. But with the Defy Extreme Glacier (CHF 25,900), the case construction itself is as novel as it is befitting the arctic theme.

Zenith shows their hand

The brushed and polished sandwich titanium case gets a big monochrome makeover, and the lack of color sharpens your senses. The dodecagonal mid-bezel and pusher surrounds are handcrafted from chalcedony, a glacier-frost-blue crystalline stone. The laborious process and natural material also mean that the stone color and structure in each of the 50 watches will vary slightly. Satin white sapphire discs serve as a background to the overlapping El Primero registers, and the semi-skeletonized dial takes on a more tech-intricate look this time. As a 45mm sports watch, Zenith has managed to make the Defy Extreme wear comfortably for its size. Furthermore, the angular Defy case language has an overarching architectural quality that I find refreshingly charming.

Defy Skyline 36mm

As was obvious in my story earlier this week, I did have a soft spot for the Defy Skyline that came out last year. Nevertheless, 41mm still felt a bit large. This, however, will hit the sweet spot for many, and unlike 5–6 years ago, it won’t be a ladies-only model. I would absolutely rock the deep blue version at CHF 8,400 myself, while my style-conscious Italian wife will no doubt be enamored by the brighter pastel pink and green versions. Each Defy Skyline variant has a metallic base to its dial color, the satin brushing making an image of rays emanating from the storied Zenith star.

If you feel the soft vertical brushing of the dodecagonal bezel is too demure, go for gems at CHF 11,900. The 52-diamond-set bezel is tantalizing with the deep navy dial, but it is particularly dazzling surrounding the pistachio pastel. If I were to buy this as an exorbitant gift for my wife’s upcoming round-numbered birthday, I would be borrowing it for that after-work cocktail party, you can count on it.

Defy Skyline Boutique Edition

This is the year of the Defy Skyline. And if you want your 41mm sports watch with a touch of glamour, this boutique edition is the ticket. There’s a gold-dimpled slate-gray dial inside that angular case. Gold-plated broad hands and chunky indices make it a glittery charm. Mechanical forte is duly marked by the spinning 1/10th-second hand. This treat is always there to cheer you up, reminding you of El Primero’s history. With a 100m depth rating, this is a great everyday sports watch but with the added pizzazz of precious metal. Even in the standard Skyline, the intrinsic detail of rhodium-plated hour markers and case bevels make it an eye-catcher. But here, the allure of rose gold against the gray dial is invariably tempting at CHF 8,900. In 2023, I’ve got Zenith up there with the top Swiss, including brands with a coronet on the dial.

Defy Skyline Skeleton

Yes, we have seen versions of the Zenith Defy in skeletonized guise before. But this is a great twist to the Skyline. The angular tonneau case of the Defy has always lent itself to the mecha-futurist look of an open dial. The classic placement of the 1/10th-second register at 6 o’clock brings perfect symmetry to the open dial. And this is a dial that changes the entire watch. The Skyline’s feature star-dimpled dial gives way to the polished yet industrial metal juxtaposition of grays and deep blue.

The four-pointed Skyline star is echoed in the mandala pattern of the semi-open dial, and do you know what? My feeling is that CHF 10,900 is a rather reasonable price for such an accomplished piece of modernism. Yes, the quirky whizzing 1/10th-second hand is in place at 6 o’clock, courtesy of the El Primero 3620 SK. And should you be of a more monochrome persuasion, the black-dialed version is equally tempting as the blue. Both come in a 41mm case on the accomplished and beveled H-link bracelet. And yes, of course, it’s integrated, sir; this is 2023. For more in-depth coverage of the new Defy Skyline Skeleton check out our story here.

Dear Fratelli, I’d say that’s a pretty broad range to kick off 2023 for the big Z. Let us know your favorites in the comments below, and there might even be more revealed later.

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