2021 Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue Review

by Chamath Gamage
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Pros:

  • Calibre El Primero 9004 and it’s 1/100th of a second Chronograph 
  • Skeletonised Ultrabule dial 
  • Microblasted titanium case 

Cons:

  • Wrist sizes smaller than 6.5ich won’t be able to enjoy the 44mm case size 
  • Some may find it to be too thick on the wrist 
  • Spend countless minutes staring at the 1/100th of second hand in motion

Over All Rating: 8.4/10

  • Value for money – 8.0/10
  • Wearability – 8.0/10
  • Design – 9/10
  • Build Quality – 8.5/10

In June 2020, Zenith introduced the first new “spectrum” of colour for their DEFY 21 chronograph model. The DEFY 21 model was given an ultraviolet finish, which let’s be honest was absolutely stunning! The ultraviolet treatment was given to the majority of the timepiece, the main plate, the rotor on the case back and the colour on the fabric effect strap. Combine this with the subtle matte finish of the micro-blasted titanium case, and what you are left with is a timepiece that is hard to put down. 

Now, Zenith has released this DEFY 21 model in their latest colour scheme, Ultrablue. Never being afraid to create artistic masterpieces in watchmaking, Zenith has introduced this latest colour on the back of what can only be seen as a successful launch to the DEFY 21 Ultravoilet. The colours used in the Ultrablue to produce the standout effect are cool tones of deep indigo and electric blue. The only question is, does the Ultrablue live up to the same hype as the Ultraviolet?

2021 Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue

The colour blue certainly holds a special place for the Swiss Manufacturer. Zenith explains that “It was the backdrop to the starry night sky from which the manufacture’s founder Georges-Favre Jafcot was inspired to name his award-winning calibre and eventually, his brand. In more recent times, it was one of the defining colours of the A386, one of the first watches to be equipped with the legendary El Primero automatic high-frequency chronograph calibre”.

2021 Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue

Design:

The Zenith DEFY 21 Ultrablue uses the same 44mm matte micro-blasted titanium case that the Ultraviolet model has. Using a 44mm case size can be somewhat of a win-lose situation in that it allows for more space within the dial to see and appreciate the different components without being overcrowded. The downside is that 44mm may not fit on everyone’s wrist. The matte finish on the case is carried onto the crown and chronograph pushers as well, which serves to let the dial do all the talking. The 1/100th of second scale on the outer portion of the dial is done in grey to match the matte finish of the case, so it appears to seamlessly all blend in together. 

Zenith has used the perfect balance of openwork dial and closed counters to create not only something that is very aesthetically pleasing to look at, but also easy to read. The issue that I saw with some of the previous DEFY models was that with the full skeleton dial, legibility can be an issue, especially with the counters being open-worked as well. With the DEFY 21 Ultrablue, in pictures, the hour markers may blend in with the skeleton dial, however, in person, this is not the case. The rhodium-plated markers along with the hour and minute hands, give off a great shine, especially when the watch is rotated at different angles. This certainly improves the readability of time on the dial. 

2021 Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue

The closed chronograph counters are finished in grey as well which matches the bezel/case and provides a contrasting effect against the blue main plate in the background. The counters are a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, a 60-second counter at 6 o’clock, and a constant second counter at 9 o’clock position. The readability of the sub-counters is easy thanks to the white markings on the counters themselves. There is also a power reserve indicator for the chronograph located at the 12 o’clock position. This is also quite easy to read as the background of the indicator along with the blue main plate contrasts well against the white indicator hand and markings. 

The blue main plate is the talking point of this piece and while it certainly does stand out and is a beautiful finish to the dial, it’s a little more subdued when compared to the DEFY 21 Ultraviolet. This could be because I saw the Ultraviolet model first and the standard was set high. The blue on the main plate could be a little bit brighter so that it shines as the Ultraviolet does against the grey tones of the watch. This doesn’t mean however that the blue doesn’t stand out. At different angles and especially under the light, it is still quite amazing to look at. Under dim light conditions, it is somewhat subdued but when wearing the watch outside you can easily see the blue on the dial. 

Defy 21 Ultraviolet and Ultrablue

Movement:

Zenith has used their El Primero 9004 automatic movement on the DEFY 21 Ultrablue. The El Primero 9004 movement produces a frequency of 5hz (36, 000 Vph) and gives out a minimum power reserve of approximately 50 hours. As with the DEFY 21 models, the movement allows for twin barrels/two escapements, one specifically for the chronograph and the other for the main time. The chronograph escapement runs at a frequency of 360, 000 VpH, or 50 Hz. The beauty of this piece is that the case back is open, where you cannot only see the movement, but also the beautiful oscillating weight. The oscillating weight has been given a special blue with satined finishings, which makes for a remarkable view when in action!

Calibre 9004

How it wears:

Straight off the bat, I had to nitpick, there would be two things, first would be the colour. As mentioned previously, I was hoping this blue to be more electric like the Ultraviolet, except its one shade away from being that, however in saying that the skeletonised dial plays with light beautifully. So much so that I had a hard time taking my eyes off the watch. 

Defy 21 Ultrablue on a 6.5 inch (16.5cm) wrist

Secondly would be the size, I would have loved it to be a couple of mm less in size but then again there is a lot happening with the calibre 9004 movement and that extra bit of mm is required to fit this movement in. One thing that is working well is the lug to lug distance, being just 48mm means even though the case size is 44mm, Ultrablue sits just perfect on my 6.5inch wrist. This watch has a thickness of 14.5mm and for some, this may be too thick on the wrist. 

Defy 21 Ultrablue on a 6.5 inch (16.5cm) wrist

Black rubber with ultra-blue “Cordura effect” strap is super comfortable on the wrist and had no issues after a longer period of wear. It’s worth noting that this watch weighs about 115 grams (including the strap). In my opinion, I think this strap and the contrasting micro-blasted titanium double folding clasp brings the whole watch to life. However, if one feels that this blue strap won’t go with everyday wear, you can order all black separately, and I feel this will make the watch easier to wear every day. Using the watch on a day-to-day basis is very easy for a skeletonised dial.

The crown is easy to use as there is no date function, just one pull is required to set the time. Chronograph pushers are of solid build and with just one push of the 2 o’clock pusher, it sets off the 1/100th of a chronograph. This is where the beauty of the watch lies, seeing that 1/100th of a second-hand move at the speed of one full rotation per second is mesmerising!!! During the time I had this watch for review, I found myself running the chronograph (50 odd minutes at a time) and just staring at the second-hand move. Just a word of caution though, don’t run the chronograph if you want to get some work done!!! 

One thing you will immediately notice once the chronograph starts is the noise it creates. It’s certainly not a noise that will annoy you, but rather something you will appreciate, something that you have to see and hear in person! As mentioned earlier, this watch has twin barrels – one to power the timekeeping and the other for the 1/100th of a second chronograph. To wind the chronograph barrel, turn the crown clockwise, and to wind the timekeeping barrel wind the crown counter-clockwise. When you wind the chronograph barrel you will notice the power reserve indicator filling up at the 12 o’clock position. 

Defy 21 Ultrablue on a 6.5 inch (16.5cm) wrist

Turning over the watch, I got to enjoy the beautiful El Primero 9004 automatic movement in action through the open case back. The ultra-blue oscillating weight pops against the micro-blasted titanium case, it is just as beautiful as the dial. The rotor moves freely meaning, with a single slight shake, you can see the rotor move just like the 1/100th of a second hand. 

Let’s talk about the price, Ultrablue retails at 19,400 AUD, and for that price, I think its fairly well priced for what’s on offer. With twin barrels and a 1/100th of a second chronograph, there is nothing like this on the market, certainly making this watch super unique.

Defy 21 Ultrablue on a 6.5 inch (16.5cm) wrist

Reference: 97.9001.9004/81.R946

Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue Specification:

  • Case: 44 mm (22mm Lug width, lug-lug 48mm and thickness of 14.5mm)
  • Case Material: Micro-Blasted Titanium
  • Dial: Ultra Blue
  • Crystal: Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating inside
  • Water resistance: 100 meters
  • Movement: El Primero 9004, (2 escapements – one for the timekeeping and 1/100th second chronograph)
  • Power reserve: minimum of 50 hours for the timekeeping and approx 55minutes for the chronograph
  • Strap: Black rubber with ultra-blue “Cordura effect”. Microblasted titanium double folding clasp.

Australian Retail Pricing: $19,400.00 AUD or 13,400CHF

Availability: Available End of March 2021

Enquire at local Authorised dealers:

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

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