A completely revolutionary concept has been recently introduced in the horology market. Advancing the sprung balance principle concept that had been an unaltered staple of the industry since its introduction in January 1675. Let’s take a closer look at the potentially industry-shifting and most precise mechanical watch ever made, courtesy of Zenith and dubbed the “Defy Lab”.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

It’s not even the first time Zenith is responsible for a “game-changing” technical advancement. They were also responsible for the introduction of the Swiss watch industry’s first automatic chronograph, in the form of their highly imitated and adopted “El Primero” caliber movement, introduced back in 1969. Since then it has been adopted and placed behind the casing of many other haute horlogerie brands, such as “Rolex Daytona” (until it was replaced by their in-house Rolex 4130 movement) or to this date still cased inside many TAG Heuer watches (although renamed as their “Caliber 36”).


Zenith in-house El Primero caliber mechanical movement * Image courtesy of: Zenith

For the last 152 years Zenith has been in the horology industry and currently has over 40 in-house mechanical movements in production at their facilities. Making them one of the most knowledgeable brands in the watch business, well known to those directly involved in the Swiss watch industry. Even if the less informed public at large doesn’t give Zenith the praise and credit they rightfully deserve.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

And their novel, potential industry-shifting “Zenith Defy Lab” watch is just one more major undeniable accomplishment in regards to their expertise in horology. Not that they have anything to prove, but it seems they can’t restrain themselves from pushing the boundaries of what is possible.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

So, what have they truly accomplished with this timepiece? Let’s try to provide proper context to better comprehend the innovations presented in the “Zenith Defy Lab”. Since 1675 the basis of the “sprung balance” which is the coupling of the balance with the hairspring that Christiaan Huygens presented at the “French Royal Academy of Sciences” had remained unrivaled.


Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

The main innovation resides on replacing the sprung balance with the use of a new oscillator that forms a monolithic whole and is made of monocrystalline silicon, which has details finer than a thread of human hair. And sense the components don’t come into contact, there is no friction or wear, eliminating the need for any oil to lubrify.


Image courtesy of: Zenith


Image courtesy of: Zenith

To establish a comparison bear in mind that the COSC “chronometer” certification requires a daily average rate between -4 seconds to +6 seconds; that’s a range of up to 10 seconds; while the Zenith only claims to need a significantly less 0.3 seconds! And while most mechanical watches begin to lose accuracy after 24 hours operation; the “Zenith Defy” maintains the same degree of precision for 95% of its power reserve. Let’s recall that a main weakness of the current balance-and-spring assemblies is due to its susceptibility to: temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields; all of which “Zenith Defy” is insensitive too!


Image courtesy of: Zenith


Image courtesy of: Zenith

The 44mm case is made of a novel composite material designated as “aeronith”, which is in essence an aluminum foam; Zenith describes it as a melted aluminium poured into a mold, following a procedure originally developed by Hublot that transforms it into an open metal foam.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

Afterwards the voids in the foam are filled with an extremely light polymer, which results in a material: 2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than solid aluminum and 10% lighter than carbon fiber. Quite a unique timepiece all around, be it this novel “aeronith” case material or its inner working movements. Water-resistance on this timepiece can reach up 50 meters (164 feet).


Image courtesy of: Zenith

Time is exhibited on an openworked skeletonized dial with rhodium-plated or 18k rose gold, matching up to each version of faceted hour index markers, followed by smaller printed minute index markers. Certain elements seen in the interior vary in color, along each of these limited edition watches, only 10 manufactured in total, “Zenith Defy” industry defying watch.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

So, with all these accomplishments in essence reinventing the Huygens principle with a novel mechanical system; the “Zenith Defy” has been granted triple certification! It is a “Tête de Vipere” (viper’s head emblem awarded) chronometer certified by the Observatory of Besancon, on behalf of the ‘International Bureau of Weights and Measures’. A feat linked to its thermal behavior that has broaden the spectrum of the ISO-3159 standard with variations of around 0.3 seconds per day and per degree Celsius of deviation, which is twice as good as current recommendations. Plus its ISO-764 magnetic criteria has exceed standards by 18 times, which means it can withstand 88,000 Amperes per meter of 1,100 Gauss. The “Zenith Defy Lab” was a winner at the “Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Genève”.



Video courtesy of: Zenith

Zenith Defy Lab

This “Zenith Defy Lab” (Ref#: 27.9000.342/78.R582) is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, caliber ZO 342 with a Zenith Oscillator, 18 jewels, 148 components, 14 ¼ lines and operates at 108,00 vph (15Hz). This frequency rate signifies an impressive nearly 10 times higher degree of accuracy, with the aforementioned daily rate precise to within just 0.3 seconds! Power Reserve on this timepiece can last up to 60 hours, when fully wound.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

Mounted to the watch are various colored rubber straps with an alligator leather coating, while secured to the wrist by a titanium double folding clasp. This is a limited edition of only 10 manufactured pieces, which are all slightly different versions that come in a dignified collector’s gift box and they’re all already pre-sold! For more up to date information visit the official Zenith website here.


Image courtesy of: Zenith

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Written by Mauro Az