Hot off the production line and hitting the shops is the new Defy Classic Carbon from Zenith. I had got wind of this piece a little while ago, but noticed this week in one of my local retailers so decided to take a closer look.

Zenith is one of the more interesting Swiss brands having a fairly long history (1865 since you ask), and a fair few innovations to it’s name. One of the more prominent – the famous El Primero calibre from 1969, being one – if the not the first automatic chronograph movements. In recent times Zenith have also experimented and produced a variety of casing materials and skeletal dial designs. This current offering builds on these.

This watch boasts a case and bracelet made of carbon fibre (or carbon polymer composite to be precise). As can be seen the finish is brushed, with fairly prominent variegation, ranging from black to dark and lighter grey dependent on the light. The result is a deliberate design aesthetic presumably, as carbon can be made and finished in a variety of ways. Having several carbon framed bikes that have not been painted, I can attest to this. Some are, well, just satin black with feint and orderly striations, whilst others are more mottled – like this watch. To be frank, whether one likes this finish on a watch is super personal as the overall effect is more camouflage-like. Personally I would have preferred that side to be a bit more toned down, but I guess the idea is for the piece to exaggerate the carbon and appear pretty outdoorsy and sporty in both looks and of course weenie weight.

Getting down to business, the watch case is 41 mm wide and 10.75 mm thick and I suppose is of quite a typical Zenith tonneau shape, with the chamfered lugs flowing seamlessly into the case. In between the lugs is a somewhat brutally angled infill.  Sapphire crystal is used atop and for the exhibition back. Water-resistance is to 10 ATM. The bracelet here is also full carbon which apparently is a first! A double titanium clasp secures. A rubber strap option is also available (with a folding buckle), for those with more frugal pockets.

The skeleton dial comprises essentially of 5 tuning-fork shaped supports in the rough shape of a star, and is of carbon, as are the main hands. The latter – and the hour markers, are ruthenium plated (grey hue) and coated with Super-Luminova SLN C3. The sweep hand is also dark grey with a lumed tip. There is a minute and seconds track at the dial periphery. The watch also boasts a date window, and in case you miss it, is actually at 6 o’clock! Naturally some of the movement can be spied, including one prominent ruby at 5 o’clock.

The power source is from the tried and tested automatic Elite 670 SK. This has 187 components and 27 jewels. The VPH is 28,000 and winding reserve is some 50 hours. Other modern points to note are that a silicon escape-wheel and lever are now employed, and the rotor in black is also skeletonised in the shape of the Zenith star. It would appear that access into the watch is via almost the whole case back via four slot-headed screws.

What are my conclusions. Well, for sure the materials and design are both innovative and futuristic – in watch terms. The piece is of a sensible size, comfortable to wear and should be pretty robust – despite it’s leaf-like 65 gram weight. The mechanics should also provide accuracy and durability, along with some anti-magnetic properties and probably reduced servicing needs. All this from a top-quality manufacture. However, the major considerations are really to do with practicality and aesthetics. Regarding the former, there is no doubt that the use of a skeleton dial does reduce clarity somewhat as it is “busy”. Also, the frankly measly and recessed date is just too small and although on these images it looks clear, in reality I really had to peer closely and straight on to read it. Just remember, it is at 6 and not at 3 or 4.30!  As to the latter, well you either like the “in your face” mottled carbon look or not. As mentioned before, I would have preferred a more subtle finish and maybe even a little more heft to avoid it feeling just a little plasticky – but I accept that would somewhat contradict the use of mainly carbon! Finally price. With the full carbon at some £16,300 you certainly pay for it, and bearing in mind that this material is really not that special these days, it does seem very pricy. More so when you consider that the rubber strap version is only £9,000!

Frankly, this watch was not that easy to review as much of the appeal (or not) came down to looks – the dial and the carbon finish. However, it is clever, and if you want and like the ” Mad Max” dystopian  look, with quality/comfort/individuality, then go for it!

Rating: 3.5/5

Text/Images: The Writer

Thanks to Ernest Jones of Manchester, UK.