2017 is the year when the legendary 1969 chronograph icon, the Zenith El Primero, is revolutionized. The latest and the most significant evolution of the original, the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 houses a completely new movement concept built around a 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph, featuring two separate regulation systems with balance springs made of a new patented material known as Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube that is both insensitive to temperature changes and magnetic fields. The timekeeping balance wheel beats at 5Hz, the same as the standard El Primero, while the second escapement that controls the 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph runs at an astounding 50Hz. The latter also has a 50-minute power reserve that is isolated from the timekeeping part of the movement.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21

Why is this 44mm chronograph important? According to Zenith CEO Julien Tornare, “The Defy El Primero is really the symbol of what Zenith will be in the future: the home for true functional innovation in precision-timing.”

The chronograph second hand is almost anxiety-inducing, as it’s hard to believe that a watch hand can move so fast. Hit the chrono start pusher and immediately the dedicated balance wheel springs to life and vibrates at a blistering speed of 360,000 vibrations (50Hz) an hour, meaning that the escapement locks and unlocks 100 times per second. It is an amazing sight to behold. And, while it’s true that Zenith is not the first brand to create a wristwatch with a 1/100th-of-a-second chronograph (that honor belongs to Zenith’s LVMH Group sister brand TAG Heuer and its Mikrograph) the Defy is the first watch to make the price of this complication accessible at $11,600.

Defying convention never looked so good.

Zenith Defy El Primero 21
Zenith Defy El Primero 21