Watch of the Week: Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Blue

Courtesy Zenith

One of the biggest watch launches of 2017 was the introduction of the brushed titanium and ceramicized aluminum models of the Defy El Primero 21, a radical reinvention of the company’s classic chronograph.

Of course, the El Primero has always been at the forefront of innovation: when it made its debut in 1969, it broke records by ticking at 5Hz (or 36.000 beats per minute). Today’s El Primero 21 beats at 50Hz, and measures up to 1/100th of a second, and does so with a central second hand, which is a pretty big deal when it comes to chronographs.

In January, Zenith set new standards for style as well, introducing seven iterations of the Defy El Primero 21. These versions come in such variations as midnight black ceramic, brushed titanium, diamonds and rose gold with rubber, leather or metal bracelets, and closed or cutaway dials.

One of the things that make the Defy El Primero 21 so innovative (and alluring) is that the technology is integral to the futuristic look of the watch. Take for example the Defy El Primero 21 Blue with a titanium strap. The cutaway dial has a crisp, industrial design which showcases the fact that the watch chronograph escapement is wholly separate from the timekeeping one.

The open worked dial of the Defy El Primero 21 also provides the perfect backdrop for the defining details of the original timepiece: a star-tipped sweep-seconds hand, big luminescent baton-type hands, and facetted hour-markers.              

This marvelous mechanism is housed in a 44 mm case made of grade 5 titanium and has three, high-tech strap options: black rubber bonded with blue alligator leather; blue rubber; or ultralight titanium. These bracelets are all outfitted with a titanium double folding clasp.

While its striking use of color makes the Defy El Primero 21 Blue stand out from the rest of the collection, it shares much of the same ultramodern El Primero 9004 movement. This caliber has two balance springs made of carbon nanotubes and twin chain architecture, with one escapement dedicated to the time function and the other to the chronograph.

Other common characteristics include a 50-hour power reserve with an indicator at 12 o’clock, a domed sapphire crystal and sapphire case back, small seconds at 9 o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 60-second register at 6 o’clock, and a chapter ring marked off from 1 to 100 to count the aforementioned high beat accuracy.

The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Blue is priced at $11,200 to $12,200. The watches are available now at Zenith boutiques or through select retailers. zenith-watches.com