Hands-On – Zenith Defy El Primero 21 – From a 10th to a 100th of a Second (Video, Specs & Price)

again in 1969, Zenith brought a motion that might later end up an icon, being both one of the first automatic chronograph actions, and being the 20 th century’s king of precision, beating at 5Hz and being precise to a 10th of a 2d. Its call: the El Primero. At Baselworld, the Le Locle-based manufacture has given this fast-beating engine a twenty first century appeal: 50Hz frequency, precision to 100th of a 2nd, modern-day look, open-worked motion. here is the Zenith Defy El Primero 21… and it’s fast, very speedy.

The story of the Zenith El Primero has nearly emerge as legend. while we talk about icons in watchmaking, most of the time we talk over with watches as an entire. The El Primero is one of the few iconic actions. It became launched in 1969, as one of the very first (if now not the first) automatic chronograph moves, and already confirmed impressive structure – completely included chronograph with relevant rotor and column-wheel, a ways from a last-minute patch-up task. however what made it so special, even in today’s manufacturing, changed into its excessive-frequency, beating now not at 3Hz or 4Hz, like maximum different chronographs, however at 5Hz / 36,000vph – which means it become in a position to signify the tenth of a 2d. nevertheless, for Zenith, this was definitely way too 20th century and the manufacture determined that for Baselworld 2017, the icon needed to enter into the 21st century, with greater than simply an update. And now, you in all likelihood guessed why it is known as the Zenith Defy El Primero 21.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21 – From 5Hz to 50Hz

5hz… some thing that watchnerds recognize to be greater than just a variety of. 5hz way more accuracy and the capacity to time events with a higher precision. 5Hz means 10 beats consistent with second (don’t forget: 1Hz is one oscillation, so honestly 2 beats) and that permits you to degree to the 10th of a 2d, and now not to the sixth of a 2nd as with a 3Hz watch or to the eighth of a 2nd as with a 4Hz watch. except the better precision, a measurement to the tenth of a 2d is sincerely greater coherent with our perception of time. the opposite brought-cost of the 5Hz frequency is the potential to reap a higher chronometry (on paper, the faster a regulator beats, the greater precise it can be) and the top notch-smooth run of the second one hand.

With the Zenith Defy El Primero 21, it’s now not simply small enhancements that have been made however a big technical fulfillment. The 50Hz frequency isn’t always new in watchmaking, yet it has specifically be visible on idea watches or excessive-give up pieces (think TAG Heuer Mikrograph as an example…) right here, Zenith brings the extremely-excessive-beat to some other level, decently priced (under $10k) and intended to be produced on a large scale. Technically, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 beats 10 times more in line with 2d, offers an indication 10 instances more specific (now to the one hundredth of a 2nd) and might makes its second hand run quicker too… In quick, watch this video and you’ll apprehend the belief of rapid and clean.

In terms of display, Zenith needed to adapt the El Primero to this new idea of the superb-rapid valuable hand (which revolves around the dial once in line with 2d). The original 1969 El Primero (as well as most of its modern-day iterations) makes use of a tri-subcounter show, with important 2nd hand, 12-hour counter at 6, 30-minute counter at three and small second at 9. at the Zenith Defy El Primero 21, we have a 100th of a 2d hand at the crucial axis, but the 2nd counter continues to be needed. consequently, the new display encompass a 30-minute counter nevertheless at 3, a 60-2nd counter at 6 and a small second nonetheless positioned at 9. Now comes the query of the mechanics in the back of this ultra-rapid display.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21 – twin-balance structure

folks that recognise a piece approximately watchmaking recognise that having an eye jogging constantly with a 50Hz frequency might be quite tricky (massive electricity consumption, components so that it will wear extraordinarily rapid…) that is why, like maximum of the chronographs the usage of a ultra-excessive-frequency, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 is primarily based on a twin-stability architecture. As such, the timekeeping a part of the watch (the indication of the hours, minutes and seconds) is regulated by way of the usual 5Hz / 36,000vph of the El Primero. this means that the watch maintains its 50h energy reserve and its ability to be chronometer certified by the COSC. the base motion itself remains alternatively equal to the 1969 model, with automatic winding with imperative rotor.

but, the chronograph part is now managed by way of a 2nd stability, this time walking at 50Hz / 360,000vph. consider this watch as equipped with two unbiased “tools bins”: one for the time and the other for the chronograph. each has its personal transmission and escapement device and there’s no coupling snatch. In truth, the new Defy El Primero 21 has two barrels, and the winding crown now works in both instructions: clockwise for the chronograph, counterclockwise for the watch. 25 turns of the crown are enough to reap a 100% price of the chronograph barrel. The rotor, with a star-fashioned openworked oscillating weight, handles the only-way automatic winding of the watch characteristic. because of the high-frequency, electricity intake is ten times higher than within the original movement and therefore, there’s best a 50-minute autonomy for the hundredth of a 2nd chronograph (however for the chronograph only, as the watch will still run). The final power of the chronograph phase is indicated by using a gauge at 12 at the dial.

the second novelty comes from the fabric used for the balance-springs. due to strolling at any such high-frequency, preferred materials can’t be used here. The stability-springs are manufactured from Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube composite (new patented material), greater immune to wear and insensitive to temperature and the have an impact on of magnetic fields (past 15,000 Gauss). whilst the escapement controlling timekeeping is classically placed at the dial aspect of the movement, the second one and smaller regulating organ is located on the movement facet, and as a result easily seen through the caseback of each versions.

The strength of this new Defy El Primero 21 isn’t specifically in its frequency or its architecture (already visible inside the beyond) however in reality on the industrialization method. In truth, now not only has Zenith made this generation accessible , but it has additionally conceived the movement with mass-manufacturing in thoughts. even as extra complex mechanical features are finished, a smaller number of elements are worried inside the movement – from 278 for a wellknown El Primero four hundred to best 203 in the case of the Zenith Defy El Primero 21. The movement is also thicker, however not that plenty – 7.9 mm thick as opposed to the unique 6.50 mm.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21 – A modernized appearance

that is where you can really see the Biver-have an effect on (J.C. Biver become lately appointed intervening time-CEO of the brand). neglect approximately the 38mm case with faceted lugs and the Sixties look of the El Primero. It’s now not only the motion that’s getting into the twenty first century, however also the appearance of the watch. The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 is primarily based on a monobloc 44mm case (barely tonneau-fashioned) with a incredibly raised round bezel and included lugs with straps blending rubber and leather – all of this is quite reminiscent of recent Hublot and TAG Heuer watches. yet, the DNA of the logo isn’t lost and we are able to nevertheless recognize the Zenith aptitude in this watch. One factor to word is the actual comfort of the Zenith Defy El Primero 21: light because of the grade five titanium or ceramicised-aluminium case, massive however pretty wearable even on small wrists, way to nicely-fashioned straps.

The dials also are within the vein of the Zenith production, whether or not we have a look at the trendy model with silver and black dial – wherein we can without problems recognize the fashion of Zenith, with the classical indexes, fingers and fonts and barely overlapping sub-dials – or at the skeletonized versions, something that has been used by the brand for a few years already – this version even dares to pick up of the colors – blue and anthracite grey – of the mythical 1969 chronograph.


This new Zenith Defy El Primero 21 represents a new technology for the Le Locle-based logo, which has been something of a sound asleep beauty for a few years now. There’s a tremendous technical ability hidden in the back of the bricks of this manufacture and this new watch proves that hi-tech can be blended with an inexpensive fee, as this 50Hz watch may be bought for USD 10,600 (non-skeletonized / titanium model), USD 11,six hundred (skeletonized / titanium model) or USD 12,six hundred (skeletonized / black ceramicised-aluminium model). the overall current style however will stay a depend of personal flavor. www.zenith-watches.com.

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