2018 Zenith DEFY El Primero 21 FULL CERAMIC Chronograph 1/100th 44mm 499000900478M900 Watch Review

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The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 ranked among the most exciting watch launches of Baselworld 2017. With a new full ceramic case, a full black ceramic bracelet to match, and the critically-acclaimed caliber 9004 El Primero, this is the Zenith sports watch that watch buyers have demanded. Zenith watches are built to last and engineered to please; the black ceramic element ensures that this scratch resistant watch remains pleasing for years to come.

For 2018, full ceramic emerges as the flagship offering in the Defy El Primero 21 collection. Priced at a reasonable $15,100 U.S. when new, the watch becomes even more compelling when pre-owned.

Black ceramic effectively is as scratch resistant as a sapphire crystal, and watch collectors can expect comparable durability from the case, bezel, clasp, and bracelet of this new Zenith offering. For good measure, Zenith has finished the components with the same satin and polished surfaces seen on the standard titanium Defy El Primero.

A black ceramic bracelet matches the case. It includes a double deployant clasp with trigger release. The bracelet is fully integrated with the form of the case for a Gerald Genta-esque full-watch form. Accessory straps and deployant clasps are available for those with a taste for strap options.

An open dial – shades of Hublot, true, but it’s warranted – reveals the heart of the Zenith caliber 9004. Technically an El Primero, this movement includes the automatic winding, 50-hour power reserve, and 36,000 vibration per hour beat rate of Zenith’s classic chronograph. But alongside, an independent chronograph operates with a 50-minute power reserve, a 360,000 VpH esapement, its own balance wheel, and a power reserve indicator; the 1/100th of a second foudroyante hand dazzles onlookers.

Additional details of the Zenith caliber 9004 include efficient unidirectional winding and a hacking (stop seconds) function; neither feature is present on a traditional El Primero chronograph. Zenith certifies each caliber 9004 as a COSC recognized Swiss chronometer. The 53-jewel movement is protected with 100-meters of water resistance.

Both power reserves can be wound manually, but the chronograph function must be wound manually with the crown. Truth be told, there’s more than a small measure of Guy Semon and TAG Heuer’s haute-de-gamme Calibre 360 in this Zenith chronograph, but the infusion of LVMH corporate wealth must be judged a success.

Zenith’s open dial reveals the skeletonized caliber 9004, its bridges, plates, and both frenetic balance wheels. The unlubricated silicon escapement of the primary drivetrain (time) glistens in iridescent blue and purple; the mainspring barrel for the chronograph sits prominently at 12 o’clock. Although super luniminova luninant paint is employed, it is of the faint black variety; this is a watch best suited to the light of day.

The Zenith DEFY El Primero 21 Chronograph features a 44mm black ceramic case surrounding a skeletonized dial on a matching full black ceramic bracelet. Functions include hours, minutes, small-seconds, power reserve indicator and chronograph.

For complete details, watch the full review!

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Watch Aficionado says:

Zenith DOublematic, traveller alarm multicity, and previous academy range are the watches to get. It’s a shame LVMH are not placing zenith between tag and Hublot..While NATAF (yes NATAF) and Dufour place zenith on a high pedestal

Craig Sekowski says:

Interesting watch, but one I’m not going to give much time to… pun intended. Have a great Holiday.

Christopher Gustafson says:

I think this is the watch Voldemort wears 🙂 This is an unusual and beautiful watch, and amazing theater. Great review!

Swiss Watch Craze says:

Good job Tim. Beautiful timepiece. Just wondering, could this watch handle daily wear!

Faizan Tahsin says:

Plz what is the price for this watch plx ?

Alvin Aw says:

This is the best amount Zenith new range line-up. What a beautiful timepiece!

greg B says:

That seconds hand is really going definitely a first for me

RedAtticus says:

Great watch, build quality to Zenith standards, but god, do they need to shed the LVMH design language!…….

A385 case needs an an iconic A385 dial!!…….Zenith will never have their iconic piece if they let LVMH position them in between two brands which frankly do not get ANY respect from either watch enthusiasts, watch fans, investors or even the common man!!

Dominik Schneider says:

Nice but simply to large, fat and loud… 40mm in diameters, 12mm thickness and silent as an Electrolux ultra silencer would make me thinking over it…

Agentxphile says:

I have this on a rubber strap, and Im wearing it ten times more than my black ceramic 10day gmt panerai. I love the noise it makes when its running the chrono. Plus you never hear it once the chrono is off.

Wolf says:

Hi Tim, if you compare this Defy to a 42mm AP Offshore, which one wears bigger?

Alison Smith says:

Oh no it’s a defy. Enough said. Will Zenith never learn.

ahpadt says:

I looked at one of these in a shop a while ago and I found the crown very heavy. While impressive, it’s a loud movement. Didnt tickle my fancy despite having a fascinating dial.

Piotr Koba says:

I was not into this watch until I saw it in person, I think it is amazing. The chronograph is so loud it could work as an alarm. BTW Tim, did you get your hands on the panda dial version of this? I wonder how it looks in the flesh, but it is one of my favourite zeniths overall.

David Datura says:

Another very interesting Zenith chronograph. But I read in the comments it’s a rather loud, unrefined movement. Which is a little off putting. Still fascinated by a 1/100th of a second timer on an analogue mechanical watch though.

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