Zenith Introduces the Defy Skyline Skeleton Watch
For high-frequency movements, chronographs are frequently the watch of choice because of their stopwatch feature, which is ideal for making use of the accurate timing capabilities that come along with greater operating rates. Many straightforward three-handed watches with high-frequency movements are available, but when Zenith introduced the first Defy Skyline during LVMH Watch Week last year, it caught some collectors off guard since it seemed to symbolize an odd paradox. On the one hand, it was a watch that utilized a high-beat El Primero movement, the same movement used in Zenith’s renowned chronographs that can measure times to the nearest tenth of a second. On the other hand, it also had a straightforward time-and-date layout and was devoid of even a seconds hand set in the center. Despite having a relatively complex movement, the watch’s display was deceptively straightforward, and aside from having a small-seconds hand that moved quickly, it didn’t really appear as though it featured a particularly unique high-frequency caliber. The new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton watch has a highly open-worked dial that displays a reworked version of the company’s high-beat El Primero 3620 movement, in contrast to the original Skyline model’s goal of concealing the complexity of its movement.
Crafted from stainless steel and measuring 41mm in diameter, the outer case of the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton appears to have been carried over from the inaugural model that was unveiled last year, and it features an angular and faceted case with integrated lugs and a fixed twelve-sided bezel. Although a stainless steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet and angular bezel is a popular style of timepiece that a lot of brands are producing right now, Zenith’s Skyline series actually draws its inspiration from the brand’s original Defy watches that first made an appearance in 1969. That said, the Skyline range is very much a modernized version of this original design ethos, and in addition to having a significantly more contemporary aesthetic, the case of the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton also benefits from a number of modern updates such as a flat sapphire crystal protecting the dial and a screw-on display case back to showcase its high-frequency automatic movement. A signed crown at the 3 o’clock location offers access to the movement, and it screws down to the case in order to help create 100 meters of water resistance.
Like most skeletonized watches, the visual party piece of the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is its open-worked dial and skeletonized high-beat movement. Available in either black or blue, the colorways aren’t just limited to the dials, and the open-worked movements themselves also feature bridges that are finished in a matching hue of blue or black for a highly cohesive overall aesthetic. The cutouts in the dial offer a symmetrical appearance that forms the shape of a four-pointed star, while the chapter ring surrounding the dial contains applied baton markers that offer a fairly legible display, despite the fairly busy visual aesthetic of the watch. At the 6 o’clock location is a small-second hand that makes one full rotation every ten seconds (rather than every minute), and at the center of the dial are a pair of skeletonized hour and minute hands that are responsible for displaying the time. Additionally, both of the centrally-mounted hands, along with each one of the hour markers are finished with Super-LumiNova C1 for added legibility in the dark.
Aside from having a skeletonized dial, the two other most significant updates to accompany the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton are the repositioning of its running second’s hand and the removal of its date display. On the inaugural Skyline model, the running seconds register was at 9 o’clock, while the date window sat opposite it at the 3 o’clock location. On the new Defy Skyline Skeleton, the running second’s hand has been moved to the 6 o’clock location for a more symmetrical layout, while the date complication has been removed entirely in order to offer an unobstructed view of its open-worked movement. Calendar mechanisms typically sit directly under the dial, and when left in place, they can often defeat much of the intended effect created by a skeletonized display. By omitting the various components of the calendar complication (such as the date wheel itself, which occupies a fairly significant amount of visible space), the Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is able to offer a significantly better view of the most visually interesting areas of its high-frequency movement.
While aesthetics are certainly a key part of the equation, the primary purpose of skeletonization in watchmaking is to show off the internal movement. With that in mind, there isn’t much point in showing off the mundane, and if you are going to bother making a skeletonized watch in the first place, it ideally should be one that is powered by a rather interesting caliber. In this area, the Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton doesn’t disappoint, and fully visible through both the open-worked dial and sapphire case back window is the El Primero 3620 SK automatic movement. Running at a frequency of 36,000vph (5 Hz) and offering users a power reserve of approximately 60 hours, the El Primero 3620 features a silicon escape wheel and it drives the 1/10th of a second-hand directly from its escapement, which allows it to naturally display partial seconds. The El Primero 3620 SK is more-or-less a stripped-down and skeletonized version of the high-frequency caliber used to power Zenith’s famous tenth-of-a-second chronograph watches, and despite the fact that it is essentially just a time-only movement, its rapidly moving seconds hand still allows it to measure a tenth of a second — even if that functionality is relegated to a small hand at the 6 o’clock location.
Similar to the original Skyline model, the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton comes with both a stainless steel bracelet and a textured rubber strap that matches the color of its dial and movement. The bracelet offers an angular H-link design with brushed surfaces and polished chamfers along its sides that echo the facets on its case. Meanwhile, the included rubber strap gives the watch a significantly more sporty overall appearance, and it features a stainless steel folding buckle that joins the two ends together on the bottom of the wrist. Most importantly, swapping between the two options is a quick and tool-free process that involves nothing more than pressing the two small buttons on the underside of the integrated lugs, pulling out the current strap or bracelet, and then plugging the other one back in its place. Given that the Defy Skyline Skeleton features integrated lugs, you are more-or-less stuck with a proprietary strap attachment system, and the fact that Zenith includes both options with the watch is a nice touch that provides it with two different personalities right out of the box.