Swiss luxury horologer Zenith makes history with its novel Defy El Primero 21 watch that ticks with a hundredths of a second, in-house movement. Presented at Baselworld 2017, the timepiece boasts innovative design and capabilities that grow out of Zenith’s legacy of precision. Ticking in a new century of breakthroughs, the Defy El Primero 21 carries the same genes as the El Primero of 1969, the inaugural chronograph in the Zenith’s iconic collection.The first El Primero held an integrated automatic column-wheel mechanism, whose high frequency of 36,000 vibrations an hour beat a chronometer-certified precision of tenths of a second.
Coming from a watchmaker with over 2,000 chronometry awards, the novel Defy El Primero 21 pays tribute as much as it completely eclipses its predecessor. Taking a hint from the ever-evolving automotive and aeronautical industries, the new watch features fewer parts but more complex mechanical functions than its antecedent. It houses an all-new, performance-enhanced El Primero calibre that powers a central chronograph hand to draw a full circle of the dial in one second – a feat that has earned a chronometer certification by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, COSC. This potent calibre – which ensures 50-hour power reserve and 50-minute autonomy – also drives a frequency of head-spinning 360,000 vibrations an hour – 10 times higher than the first El Primero. Only the oscillation retains the now legendary 36,000 vibrations an hour of the 1969 edition.
The movement also flaunts a patented chronometer-reset control mechanism that enables the simultaneous resetting of the seconds, the tenths and the hundredths of a second. To prevent any risk of the groundbreaking chronograph interfering with the smooth performance of the watch, the Defy El Primero 21 has two independent “gear boxes” – one for the time and the other for the chronometer – with their own transmissions and escapement systems.
This twin configuration unites the seamless hour and minutes functions; a small seconds display at 9 o’clock; a 30-minute counter opposite it, a seconds and tenths of a second measure at 6 o’clock; a percentage indication of the chronograph power reserve at 12 o’clock; and of course the central chronograph hand racing around the circumference. All those operate on an openwork dial, enclosed in a 44mm-diameter case in grade 5 titanium that harks back to the early-day El Primero models.
The last big changes seen are within the larger overall width and length on the hour markers and hands; the presence of two horizontal subdials rather than the traditional three vertical ones; and the absence of the date indicator. These changes seem to be for assistance in diving likewise as for creating a more carefree and youthful “summer” look.
A crown swerves the manual winding operation in two directions – clockwise for the chronograph (only 25 turns obtain a 10 percent charge) and counterclockwise for the watch. Complementing the watch’s novel capabilities are the patented in-house manufactured balance-springs that are made of LVMH-developed material – carbon-matrix carbon nanotube. This world-premiering composite renders the watch insensitive to temperature and magnetic fields far beyond the 15,000 Gauss standard, securing an unrivaled precision in any condition. Representing the new generation of Zenith pocket watch grand prix 1900 Replica chronographs, the Defy El Primero 21 possess unprecedented design and functionality.