The popularity of last year’s Zenith Defy Skyline was somewhat unexpected, yet wholly unsurprising. An integrated bracelet sports watch with sleek octagonal bezel and unique 1/10th second counter is compelling enough but the level of finishing and accessible price point took the Defy Skyline to the next level. Now, for LVMH Watch Week 2023 we see the new Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton which is both the successor to the Defy Classic Skeleton and a sign of the brand doubling down on the design of last year’s breakout hit.
I was able to go hands-on with the new Defy Skyline Skeleton and was, once again, seriously impressed with the quality of finishing and attention to detail. Just like the standard Defy Skyline, this skeletonized version comes in a 41mm wide steel case that, according to my calipers, is 11mm thick and has a lug-to-lug measurement of just about 45mm with 100m of water resistance. The LVMH watch division understands the potency in the versatility afforded by a good quick strap/bracelet change system and makes it the default for the collection — something that wasn’t true for the outgoing Defy Classic Skeleton.
Seen here is the black dial version though there’s also a blue dial iteration that I suspect will be popular with buyers. This model tinkers with the dial layout of the standard Defy Skyline by rearranging some bits and altogether removing others. Skeletonized dials can get very busy very easily so Zenith got rid of the date window and moved the 1/10th second sub-dial to 6 o’clock. You’ll notice the skeletonized sections of the dial come together to create the vintage four-pointed star motif that was used back in the 1960’s. This dial layout, the perfectly symmetrical skeletonization work, and highly legible hands (rhodium-plated and lumed) all come together to make for a watch that avoids nearly all the pitfalls that can come along with an openworked dial. Kudos to the design team at Zenith.
Turning the case over shows off the automatic 3620 SK movement which is based on the El Primero 3600 1/10th second chronograph. Essentially a slightly reworked and skeletonized version of the 3620 in the Defy Skyline, this caliber operates at 36,000 vph (5 Hz) with the 1/10th second counter driven directly by the escapement. It’s a clever take that utilizes Zenith’s iconic El Primero without actually being a chronograph. The 3620 SK features a stop-seconds mechanism, a 60-hour power reserve, and is adorned with a Zenith-star motif rotor.
Just as with the debut model, the bracelet of the Defy Skyline Skeleton is impressively done. With chamfered and polished edges that seamlessly carry over into the case, the bracelet is excellently finished and very comfortable to wear. While there’s still no micro-adjust, the quick bracelet/strap change system allows for some variety and style options. I love that the watch comes standard with both the bracelet and matching rubber strap — something I’ve long hoped to see proliferate. While the review unit didn’t come with the rubber strap, I did experiment with the quick change system on the bracelet and it is —without hyperbole— top-tier. So easy to use and no-fuss, this should be a case-study for any brand that is looking to upgrade their offerings with a quick change system.
Zenith has been on a roll for the last few years and I’m particularly pleased to see how well the brand has been doing with their non-chronograph offerings. The Defy Skyline Skeleton is sure to please consumers that have been trained to expect “true luxury” coming at much higher price points. Beyond the finishes of the case, bracelet, and dial, the 1/10th second counter is used perfectly so as to be horologically novel without being so in-your-face that it’s a gimmick (this is a fine balancing act that so many brands have failed at in the past). The Zenith Defy Skyline Skeleton is available in blue (Ref. 03.9300.3620/79.I001) or as seen here in black (Ref. 03.9300.3620/78.I001) each with a price of $11,000.
You can learn more at zenith-watches.com.