Zenith Defy Extreme Hands-on Review

by Samuel Kan
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Pros:

  • Love the easy quick change strap system
  • Screw-in crown and 200m water resistance 
  • Sapphire dial and increased legibility 

Cons:

  • Wrist sizes smaller than 6.5ich won’t be able to enjoy the 45mm case size 
  • Some may find it to be too thick on the wrist 
  • Some may find it expensive compared to Defy 21 range

Over All Rating: 8.4/10

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

If there is one phrase I don’t hear enough of, it’s “put the watch on your wrist”, as that is where it’s meant to go, and that is the best place to judge whether a watch suits you or not. Watches are immensely personal, and quite often how it wears and how it looks on your wrist is completely different to how a watch looks on a fancily posed, laid out and propped image on Instagram. Always try the watch on. 

Reference : 95.9100.9004/01.I001 on a 6.5 inch wrist

However, isn’t this the case today? We scroll through images, each getting perhaps a fraction of a second of attention, and even if we do stop to read the text, it’s a quick skim, and then, just as quickly, a comment is left, and without any further thought, we move on to the next shiny new thing. Before touching or even seeing something in person, a judgement call is made. 

Reference : 87.9100.9004/03.I001 on a 6.5 inch wrist

The Zenith Defy Extreme is one such watch where it was dismissed online too quickly because of a number (in this case the diameter), which many deemed too high up and therefore wouldn’t even give it a second glance, and immediately the keyboard assault begins… so what is this number and what caused all the negativity?

Reference : 97.9100.9004/02.I001

Let’s rewind a little bit. About a decade ago, watch sizes were creeping up. Panerai was king and the IWC Big Pilot sizing was considered the norm. Big was beautiful. There were even some watch brands whose sole existence was about being big. Fast forward to 2021, the watch sizing has returned to some sense of normality. No longer do people lust after big diameters of 40something and above (unless its initials are AP or RM, in which case special permission to lust were granted). In an age when even Panerai is exploring sub 40mm case diameters, the mid-40s almost seemed wrong. 

Reference : 97.9100.9004/02.I001

But is it? Don’t wrists come in all shapes and sizes? And what about the all-important lug-to-lug length? That all seemingly went out the window the moment they see the diameter size of 45mm.

Let’s have a look at the design of the watch. It has an integrated bracelet, meaning it has no lugs to speak of. The ends of the case angle down, so it hugs the shape of your wrist and once sized, the whole watch sits comfortably. Depending on how you measure it, the lug-to-lug length on the Defy Extreme is between 48-50mm.

Reference : 97.9100.9004/02.I001 on a 6.5 inch wrist

The full titanium construction adds lightness and comfort. Yes, it does sit quite high, but again, the watch isn’t pretending to be a dress watch. The name should tell you where it stands. Think of it as the Defy El Primero 21 going to the gym, downing cans of protein powder, and this is the result: more defined, angular and purposeful styling. 

Reference : 95.9100.9004/01.I001 on a 6.5 inch wrist

The 12-sided bezel outline harks back to the Defy watches of the 70s. Bulkier pusher protectors and a new screw-in crown offer 200m of water resistance, something that has been lacking from the Zenith range for a long time and, at long last, a welcome addition of the quick interchangeable strap system.

Reference : 97.9100.9004/02.I001

There is a small button on the case back at both 12:00 and 6:00 positions. Simply press it and lift the bracelet and voila, the bracelet is off, ready for you to swap in the included soft rubber strap, complete with a thick and sturdy double folding clasp, or if you’re really off on an extreme adventure, a fabric Velcro strap (which will come in different sizes – make sure you try this one as well, and ask for your size if it’s too big/small), is also included in the box. 

Reference : 97.9100.9004/02.I001

One of the main criticism of the original Defy EP 21 collection was the readability of time. I mean sure, if you use your watch to tell the time, that might an issue. However, Defy Extreme has addressed that with a sapphire crystal dial, thus retaining the skeletonised look for you to admire the movement, but at the same time, all the sub-dials and indices are perfectly legible. 

Reference : 87.9100.9004/03.I001

There are no changes to the revolutionary El Primero 21 chronograph movement, featuring the 1/100th of a second indication and the centre chronograph hand making one full rotation per second. A couple of new movement colour treatments are introduced alongside the ever-popular blue; a black treatment to match the micro-blasted finishing, and gold for the two-tone version. The blue is matched to the standard titanium but gains both brushed and polished finishing, as well as hints of the tri-colour sub dial, made iconic by the model from 1969.

Reference : 87.9100.9004/03.I001

I think Zenith is onto a good thing here. Yes, it is definitely a big watch, and again, trying it on is highly recommended. It’s not the Chronomaster Sport where the appeal is much broader. However, if you like a tough, large watch, something a bit different but at the same time with clear brand design codes, a strong reputation for watchmaking, and the convenience of a quick-change strap system, you could do a lot worse at this price point. 

The watch comes on the titanium bracelet, as well as the additional rubber strap with a double folding buckle, and the fabric velcro strap all included.

Reference : 87.9100.9004/03.I001 on a 6.5inch wrist

Zenith Defy 21 Ultrablue Specification:

  • Case: 45mm (15.4mm Thickness)
  • Case Material: Micro-Blasted Titanium, Polished Rose Gold
  • Dial: Tinted sapphire with Blue/Black/Gold coloured Mainplate on movement
  • Crystal: Sapphire, domed on both sides, anti-reflective coating inside
  • Water resistance: 200 meters
  • Movement: El Primero 9004 Automatic, (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 options: Microblasted Titanium Bracelet, optional rubber and velcro straps

Australian Retail Pricing: $25,900.00 in Titanium, $31,700.00 for Titanium and Rose Gold

Availability: now

Enquire at local Authorised dealers:

  • Brisbane – The Hour Glass, Monards (Gold Coast)
  • 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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