Zenith Defy Inventor Review

by Chamath Gamage
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Zenith’s reputation for developing groundbreaking technology and movements in their watches have once again been redeemed with the release of the Zenith Defy Inventor. Back in 1969, Zenith first released the El Primero self-winding chronograph movement. To this day after slight tweaks, it is still being used in their El Primero line of watches. The El Primero movement is regarded as one of the finest movements in the watchmaking industry, succeeding in having a high frequency while putting out a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. 

In 2017, Zenith once again manufactured a timepiece that would be revolutionary for not only the brand but the watch industry as a whole. The Defy Lab contains what Zenith claims as the world’s most accurate mechanical movement. Operating at 15Hz, the movement in the Defy Lab is much faster than most mechanical watches in the industry, including the brands very own El Primero movement, which operates at roughly 5Hz. 

What made the Defy Lab so special was the proprietary “Zenith Oscillator” developed Guy Semon from LMVH. The Zenith Oscillator in a nutshell, takes into consideration real-world scenarios, which includes environmental and temperature changes, vibration and also shocks. The Zenith Defy Lab, however, was limited to a run of 10 “piece unique” watches, which meant that the general public would find it hard to acquire these impressive timepieces. 

Fast forward to Baselworld 2019, where Zenith released the Defy Inventor. This model, which we have been fortunate enough to review is the latest step from the original Defy Lab model. With production not being limited anymore, this piece is sure to be well liked by the public.

At first glance, the Zenith Defy Inventor draws you in with a variety of features showcased on the watch face. The 44mm Titanium case is accompanied by the stand out feature on the watch face; the Aeronith Bezel. Using an exclusive highly technical process, the Aeronith material is the lightest aluminium composite in the world. Coming in at roughly three times lighter than aluminium, its made with an open-pore aluminium foam and then stiffened with a polymer. What all this technical stuff really means is that besides being incredibly light, it also gives off the appearance of bare naked aluminium material. 

The Zenith Defy Lab had used Aeronith for the entire casing as well as the bezel, but how it’s implemented on the Defy Inventor feels and looks better. Against the titanium casing backdrop, the Aeronith bezel gives off a very appealing shine, which when rotated under light really is something to see. Zenith has used just the right amount of Aeronith on the Defy Inventor to make it stand out in appearance, without detracting the beautiful open-work dial.

Speaking of the open-work dial, this is really where the true beauty of the Zenith Defy Inventor lies. The first thing you notice about the open-work dial is the stylised propellor, which has five “blades” that is emblematic of the Zenith’s iconic star logo. The “blades” themselves have been hollowed out so that more of the movement underneath can be seen as well. Sometimes open-work dials can be overwhelming, especially when trying to read the time. Not with the Zenith Defy inventor, however. The hour markers along with the hour, minute and second hands are rhodium-plated, which against the blue backdrop, stand out nicely to make readability quite easy. 

Behind the blue open-work propellor, we see the heart of the Zenith Defy Inventor in its purity. This really is a sight to behold in a modern-day timepiece. When I had the chance to wear it about, I couldn’t stop myself from continuously looking at the dial in admiration. Then again, I’ve always been a fan of open-work dials and being able to see the movement in action. This, as we know, is no ordinary movement. The oscillator covers the entire face of the of open-work dial and beats at an incredibly high frequency, resulting in a shaking/vibrating like appearance of the oscillator. 

This incredibly high frequency of 18Hz instead of the usual 4Hz (standard mechanical movements) coupled with a power reserve of approximately 50 hours is all thanks to Zeniths industry disruptive technology; the Zenith Oscillator. The Zenith Oscillator has its own regulating system and is part of the Calibre 9100 movement used in the Defy Inventor. The use of this oscillator has effectively replaced the traditional sprung balance found in standard mechanical watches for the last three and half centuries! Zenith’s proprietary oscillator is the result of their unprecedented scientific approach for the quest of performance. The Zenith Oscillator is made of monocrystalline silicon that is ultra-thin at 0.5mm. The use of this element on the Calibre 9100 movement has made it possible to reduce the number of components found on a standard regulating organ by about 30 parts! 

This really is a significant improvement on standard mechanical movements that use balance wheels, as with fewer parts means less wear and tear. The Calibre 9100 movement provides increased reliability and accuracy, which is thanks to its 18Hz frequency. 

What 18Hz translates to is roughly 129, 600 BPH. To put this into perspective, a standard 4Hz movement only produces 28, 800 BPH. This makes the Calibre 9100 regulate approximately 4.5 times faster than a traditional 4Hz movement! To put it into layman’s terms, the faster a watch regulates, the more it can “beat” per minute. With more beats per minute, the fewer errors that can occur and the accuracy of the movement increases.

Currently, the Calibre 9100 movement with its Zenith Oscillator can only tell the time and has no date or chronograph functions. But this is only the start for the adventurous brand, and will no doubt be looking to innovate further and push the boundaries of mechanical movements with the Zenith Oscillator. The case-back of the watch is tastefully done as well. The open case-back allows you to see the star-shaped (Zenith’s logo) rotor coloured in blue, to match the colour of the stylised propellor on the front face. 

At roughly 14.5mm thick, you can certainly feel the piece on your wrist. More so when the rotor is in action, you can quite easily feel it, along with the sound when it’s circulating. On the wrist, what really stands out on this piece from a distance is the combined effect of the Aeronith bezel and the blue propeller blades on the open-work dial. The blue on this piece is further enhanced with the deployment strap which has matching blue alligator lining on the outside with rubber inner lining. As this piece is a luxury timepiece, it can be matched very nicely with suits and jackets while also being flexible enough to be worn to smart-casual events. Regardless of the outfit, this timepiece will more than hold its own thanks to its stunning appearance. 

The Zenith Defy Inventor is one of the more affordable timepieces that offer a high-frequency movement and comes with the brands proprietary Zenith Oscillator. Much like what El Primero movement did for the brand, the Zenith Oscillator is just the start, and we are excited to see what Zenith releases in the next few years. 

Zenith Defy Inventor Specification :

Model Reference: 95.9001.9100/78.R584
Case Diameter: 44mm
Dial: Blue Openworked. 
Case-back: Transparent Sapphire Crystal
Movement: Calibre 9100
Power Reserve: Min. 50 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes and central seconds (stop second mechanism)
Water Resistance: 5 ATM

Australian Retail Pricing : $26,200.00

Availability : Available now

Local Authorised Dealers :

  • Brisbane – The Hour Glass
  • Melbourne – Monards ( Collins Street and Crown Casino) ,Gregory Jewellers and The Hour Glass
  • Sydney – Hardy Brothers, Swiss Concept and The Hour Glass
  • Perth – Barbagallo Watch

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