The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Carbon

If one watch embodies the future of Zenith, the Defy El Primero 21 Carbon is that watch.

This rendition, produced in a fully carbon fibre case, offers a stealthy and sleek new look for the El Primero 21 line. Crafted to be 44mm, the watch features not only a full carbon fibre case, but carbon fibre chronograph pushers and crown as well. The exposed El Primero Calibre 9004 is finished in black to continue with the stealthy look of the rest of the watch. Adding to the visual intrigue is the use of a domed sapphire crystal which fits in nicely to make the watch stand out (in a good way) even more.


From a technical standpoint, this watch is very, very cool. For the Cal. 9004, one escapement of this movement has the capacity to beat at an absolutely insane 50Hz (360,000 V/H). The main chronograph hand doesn’t rotate once every 60 seconds as most chronographs do, but in this case serves as a 1/100th of a second foudroyant hand. The other measuring tools for the chronograph include a standard 60 seconds counter at the 6th hour marker and a half hour counter at the 3rd hour marker. At the 9th hour marker is a subsidiary seconds counter for the main time-telling section of the watch. The watch normally beats at 5Hz (36,000 V/H), but when the chronograph function is engaged that figure multiplies tenfold to a shocking 50Hz in order to measure 1/100th’s of a second.


In a very odd way, this watch reminds me a bit of Zenith’s Academy Christophe Colomb watches. It’s a much more modern-looking design and it’s missing lots of the components that help to justify the high price tag that Christophe Cololomb models command, but to say that a watch that’s just shy of 19,000 USD reminds me of that very exclusive Zenith line is very high praise. The domed sapphire; the carbon fibre case; somewhat exposed movement; uncommon subdial at 6 o’clock; the slight intrusion of red, purple, and blue colouring from accents and parts of the movement… it all just works. Add to that a 1/100th of a second foudroyant hand and this watch just gets more and more interesting. Also shown on the watch is a power-reserve at 12 o’clock that is split into showing the standard power reserve as well as how much power is needed to keep the chronograph running.


This watch is definitely interesting to look at, but that general interest transforms into an overall feeling of excitement once the chronograph has started. Seeing the 1/100th seconds hand fly around the dial gives watch lovers and those who have “no idea what [they’re] looking at” a similar sense of wonder and childlike awe. It’s a great release from Zenith that offers a take on a complication that helps us to remember why we love watches to begin with.


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