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An Inside Look at the Zenith DEFY Skyline

Zenith, whose long history stretches way back to 1865, is just the right kind of under-the-radar brand we love. The brand, who creates classically designed yet playful and louche watches with just the right dash of technology we’ve come to expect from modern timepieces, has been on quite a roll the last few years with a slew of new models—and watch movements—that both challenge and reinforce what we have come to expect from the storied brand from Le Locle, Switzerland.

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“After a successful launch that was Chronomaster Sport in 2021 and Chronomaster Original, and additions to Chronomaster Revival line—also in 2021—we wanted to give some attention to the DEFY line. Building on the introduction of DEFY Extreme last year, it was time to reinterpret some other creations within the DEFY range as well,” says Julien Tornare, Global CEO for Zenith, when we recently discussed the latest models, whose reinterpretation comes in the form of two new DEFY models.

The limited-to-250 pieces DEFY Revival A3642, a modern take on their classic coffre-fort or “bank vault” model from 1969, and its flipside, the all-new DEFY Skyline, which takes the long view of the classic Zenith watches from the late-60s—unique octagonal case geometry, classic El Primero movement—and updates the modern silhouette to include an ingenious steel bracelet that can be easily, and without any tools, swapped out with a rubber strap with a starry, sky pattern in shades that complement the dials offered in blue, black or silver.

Photo/Zenith

When asked how much the rich history of Zenith played into the new models, Tornare replied, “A lot. Zenith’s heritage and history always play a role in our launches. We try to take inspiration from the past without repeating it and with an innovative touch. DEFY Skyline is a perfect example: a watch for the present and future that takes inspiration for its design characteristics from a special model from 1969.”

From the star-studded dial with its sunburst finish embellished with an aligned pattern consisting of engraved four-pointed stars to the star-shaped rotor and screw-down crown, the Skyline uses repeating motifs of stars across its design in the spirit of  founder Georges-Favre Jacot, who named his company after the highest point in the night sky: Zenith.

But really, as a watch lover, it’s the new movement, the El Primero 3620 caliber, that completes the package. When asked how important it was to use the new 3620 in the DEFY Skyline, Tornare told me, “It was essential. We really wanted to have this 1/10th of a second function permanently running. In order to achieve this goal, we had to develop a new movement with the 1/10th of a second but without a chronograph. Let’s remember that El Primero offers us high frequency—which is very much a part of the DNA of the line and also of Zenith. Finally, this allows us to stand out from competition. Amongst the three hands watches in the market there are a lot of choices and with the 1/10th of a second running non-stop, we offer high frequency and allows us to differentiate our watches from the competition.”

Photo/Zenith

We spoke with Astronomer Scott Bolton, the principal investigator of Juno, NASA’s mission to explore Jupiter, about the connection between watches and the stars. “The essence of time is a measure of change. For centuries, astronomers have observed the motion of the stars and planet—the penultimate example of the passage of time: universal, constant, reliable and precise qualities replicated in only the finest of innovative watches.” The perfect alignment indeed.