Zenith’s Defy Skyline Watch Collection Just Got Some Sick Additions

You can (gasp) buy this watch in store

January 11, 2023 12:38 pm
The Zenith Defy Skyline 36 in Blue
The Zenith Defy Skyline 36 in Blue

No one in their right mind would take issue with the assessment that Zenith has been having a hell of a last few years: from note-for-note reissues of beloved El Primero models to incredible hi-beat, high-tech wonders of strikingly contemporary design, the Swiss maison has been cranking out hits like some kind of horological cross between Taylor Swift and Pixar. 

While many firms seem rooted in a seemingly endless cycle of vintage revivals, Zenith has struck a more nuanced balance between honoring its history — and that of the important El Primero — while taking steps to ensure that it’s also a company that embraces the present and designs for the future. To wit: the Chronomaster Sport, a chronograph competing for market share with Rolex’s Cosmograph Daytona, is frequency sold out, while the new Defy Skyline is a luxury sports watch that takes aim at classics like Audemar Piguet’s Royal Oak and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus. But, unlike those two megahits — this one is actually available at retail. 

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One quibble I had with the original iterations of the Defy Skyline at 41mm was the dimensions; the watch is a tremendous design feat that I immediately fell for, but on fairly average-sized 7” wrist, I found it, frankly, a bit chunky, and not as comfortable as I’d hoped. I immediately remarked that a slightly smaller version — both in diameter, and hopefully, in case height — would go a long way toward increasing comfort. (While a 12mm height doesn’t bother me on many dive watches, given the architecture of the original Skyline’s case and integrated bracelet, I found myself craving something thinner.) 

Well folks, the denizens of horological Olympus have answered their humble servant’s prayers: May I introduce to you the new Defy Skyline 36, currently available in a metallic deep blue (the same blue as its larger 41mm counterpart) as well as two new green and pink pastel tones, each of which features a metallic base that is polished and then satin brushed. At 36mm, these Skylines fit the bill for someone who loves the collection’s silhouette but found the original case dimensions a bit uncomfortable — though there’s one caveat: The awesome El Primero 3620 movement that powers the 41mm version and provides its incredible 1/10th-second sub-seconds dial is not present on this watch. Rather, the 36mm features the Elite 670 automatic manufacture movement, which provides central seconds as well as a date window at 3 o’clock.

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If you’re not familiar with the El Primero 3600 family, it provides a seconds hand — either central chronograph seconds on watches like the Chronomaster Sport, or, in the case of the Defy Skyline 41, in sub-seconds form — that measures 1/10th-seconds intervals. On the Skyline 41 in particular, the sub-seconds hand makes one full revolution around the dial every 10 seconds. (Unconventional? Surely. Particularly useful on a time-only watch? Not terribly.) The Elite 670 provides conventional central seconds with a 60-second period, which, to me, is just fine. I can only imagine it’ll be just fine with most other consumers, as well. 

Of course, the Skyline 36 is marketed as a unisex piece given its size — hence the inclusion of the pastel colors. But if the beautiful, deep blue color is anything to go by, this watch is indeed perfect for both men and women, and I anticipate more colors added as the years go on. (Perhaps including the 41mm version’s black, silver, etc?) Catering particularly to female clients — though such a watch will presumably be appreciated by anyone who likes a bit of bling in their life — there are also diamond-set versions of the new 36: Choose this option, and you get 52 VVS-cut stones inset into the bezel. 

In other news, there’s a new, larger Skyline that’s sure to grab your attention, regardless of your size preference in this groundbreaking collection: The new Defy Skyline Skeleton takes last year’s familiar 41mm silhouette and does away with a traditional dial such that the automatic El Primero Calibre 3620 SK is visible beneath. Constituting the face is a series of cutouts that take the form of a four-pointed star — itself a callback to the “double-Z” Zenith logo from the brand’s 1960s heyday. Atop this structure are more traditional lumed, applied baton hour markers and a set of lumed sword hands. In this case, the sub-seconds indication does indeed feature a 1/10th-second complication. Dope!

The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton
The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton

Available in blue or black with matching movement main plates, bridges, and star-shaped oscillating weight, the Skyline Skeleton is a highly considered design: With a mix of satin-brushed, matte, and polished surfaces as well as a unique, 12-pointed faceted bezel, it’s also fully water resistant to 100m, making it perfect for hard use despite its haute horlogerie bona fides. And being of the “luxury sports watch” persuasion, it of course comes paired to a beautiful, matching stainless steel bracelet. With a satin-brushed surface, chamfered and polished edges and a smart quick-change system, this bracelet is ideal for everyday wear — though if you’re the type who prefers a rubber strap, it comes supplied with one of those, as well. 

A skeletonized dial; a beautifully sculpted case; a historically important movement with a unique feature — what more could one want from such a release? Priced at $10,500, it’s also — relatively speaking, anyway — quite the (trigger warning: dreaded, overused term imminent) value proposition when considered alongside other, similar watches from the likes of Piaget, AP, and Bulgari. 

We’ve had our eye trained on the Defy Skyline collection since its announcement in 2022. A bold line that perfectly bridges the refined aspects of “luxury sports watches” with more traditional tool watch traits, Skyline is quickly coming into its own, offering a wide variety of sizes, complications, colors, and designs for different wearers. And it’s clear from this early crop of 2023 releases that the Le Locle-based brand has no plans of slowing down any time soon. 

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