Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton: Open Architecture

by Jamie Tan

A new openworked movement-and-dial combination from Zenith promises to wow seasoned aficionados and newcomers alike.

In just a year following the launch of the Defy Skyline, Zenith has followed up with the Defy Skyline Skeleton. The new timepiece builds on the unique proposition of the inaugural model with a tweaked aesthetic that goes beyond just an openworked dial and movement.

A New Vision Of Time

Zenith is practically synonymous with the El Primero movement and its namesake watches, which remain the only high frequency chronographs in serial production today. This rare expertise in developing and producing high frequency chronographs is no coincidence, as such movements have long been a challenge due to various issues such as higher wear and tear.

The upside, however, concerns accuracy and resolution. A 5Hz chronograph movement isn’t just more shock-resistant, but also capable of measuring elapsed time down to 1/10ths of a second, which is more intuitive than the 1/8- or 1/4-second resolutions of a “typical” chronograph.

The new Defy Skyline Skeleton (left) and 2022’s Defy Skyline (right)

While the El Primero movement’s 1/10-second resolution isn’t its raison d’être, it does make for a compelling reason to use it in chronographs. This made 2022’s Defy Skyline a release that came far out of left field. Although the timepiece was powered by a modern version of the El Primero movement, its only complication was a simple date display at three o’clock.

What was special here was the small seconds sub-dial, which had a hand that made a complete revolution every 10 seconds, complete with a chapter ring that – you guessed it – showed markings in 1/10ths of a second. Such a display had no practical purpose. It did, however, present a novel vision of watchmaking, as well as a new way of marking the time. The semi-foudroyante hand is quite a delight to observe in person too, with its rapid sweep visually alluding to the El Primero movement ticking underneath the dial.

When Less Is More

Like its predecessor, the Defy Skyline Skeleton sports the same small seconds display that makes a revolution every 10 seconds. Zenith has, however, done away with the date indicator and significantly revised the new timepiece’s aesthetics.

The skeletonised El Primero 3620 SK movement, which has a silhouette that parallels the openworked dial

As the watch’s name suggests, most of the work has been done to its dial and movement. For a start, the Defy Skyline Skeleton’s El Primero 3620 SK movement has been openworked, with the mainplate reduced to take the form of a four-pointed star – an allusion to the brand’s “double Z” logo of the 1960s. The dial has been skeletonised in the same pattern, to essentially “stack on” the movement in a visually cohesive manner.

To maintain the visual symmetry created by the dial and movement, Zenith has relocated the small seconds sub-dial to six o’clock, with its markings executed in a style similar to the chapter ring on the watch’s flange. The hand applied indices, in turn, extend outwards seamlessly to the 12-sided bezel. Finally, the same interplay of lines, angles, and facets is mirrored by the case, as alternately brushed and polished surfaces emphasise its angular design.

The overall look of the Defy Skyline Skeleton is thoroughly modern – with a sporty twist – and speaks an architectural design language that’s rarely seen in Zenith’s timepieces. This explores a new dimension of watchmaking for the brand, just as how the semi-foudroyante hand itself pushed the boundaries a year ago.

The Defy Skyline Skeleton is offered in just steel for now, and comes with either a black or blue dial matched by a movement in the same colour. Each timepiece is delivered with both an integrated bracelet and a rubber strap that corresponds to the dial colour.

Images courtesy of Zenith, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

Zenith Defy Skyline: The Journey of Trailblazing Stars

Zenith Defy Revival A3642: Throwing Shapes

Zenith Defy Midnight: Colour Me Good

Zenith Defy Extreme: Harder, Faster, Stronger

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