By Jovan Krstevski
Innovation is the bread and butter of technology, and for this, let’s thank Zenith for yet again another mind-boggling innovation that challenges the traditional concept of watchmaking using the principle of the coupled balance and hairspring (sprung balance) presented by Christiaan Huygens to the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1675. The Defy Lab watch is a bold challenge to that principle still governing today’s mechanical watches. We’re excited to be honest and also a bit disappointed since there are only 10 Inaugural Defy Lab watches produced and they’re all pre-sold to collectors at the price of Swiss Francs 29,900 each, high price point but considering the tech, it’s relatively worth it.
So what really makes the Defy Lab so innovative? The simplest answer is the Zenith Oscillator which replaces the traditional sprung balance comprised of 30 or more components of a standard regulating organ. For traditional mechanical watch geeks, the more moving parts there are, the better but for this new tech, all those fascinating components that act as one are fused into just one super fine element – a monolithic organ made of monocrystalline silicon coated with a layer of silicon oxide.
Moreover, the 44 mm x 14.5 mm case is also made of a new hybrid material called the Aeronith which is extremely lightweight and highly resistant to the elements that can affect accuracy (temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields). The high-tech process is proprietary and is the product of the LVMH Watch Division Research & Development Department. It’s also worth noting that the Aeronith is also hygienic thanks to its anti-allergenic property. Honestly, the design of the case is a bit industrial, it could have use chamfered edges instead of seemingly sharp graduated lines. Perhaps the point is to showcase the new material, although amazingly, the whole case looks exceptionally modern particularly the clever crown with some kind of black line separating it from the case.
As for the dial, well it’s a mechanical dial… The open-work display is superb with clean and precise lines and of course Zenith’s emblem is all over it, not that we’re complaining. The hour markers and hands are rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with black varnish which are very pleasant to observe. It’s not surprising for a mechanical dial but what sets the Defy Lab apart is the visible Zenith Oscillator lurking behind the dial.
With all things considered, the Defy Lab showcases a new innovation or one that challenges the traditional concept of sprung balance. This claim is subject to extreme scrutiny and only time will tell if it can truly replace the traditional spring balance concept. The advantages though are superb and poses new challenges for modern certification systems. For one, the Zenith Oscillator sports an accuracy that’s about 10 times higher with a mean daily rate precise to within just 0.3 seconds. Compare this to the COSC’s 10 seconds per day.
Furthermore, The Zeniths’ ZO 342 Calibre is currently unmatched in its design, coming from the company who also pioneered the fast beating 5Hz El Primero automatic chronograph – a Swiss watchmaking breakthrough introduced in 1969. The ZO 342 Calibre on the other hand has an astonishing 15 Hz (108,000 vibrations per hour) frequency which is three times higher than the historical El Primero movement. Amazingly, it also cranks 60 hours of power reserve considering the higher frequency.
The Defy Lab wears on a rubber strap with alligator leather coating secured to the wrist by a titanium double folding clasp and has water resistance of 50m. Honestly, we can’t wait for the serial production of the new breakthrough technology presented in a new original design for the masses. For more info, please visit zenith-watches.com