On Another Wavelength: Zenith Launches its First Violet Chronograph Movement with the Defy 21 Ultraviolet (Updated with Live Photos)

Editor’s note: Zenith, like most of the Swiss watch manufacturers, is gradually reopening its watchmaking facilities. Due to time lost to COVID-19, travel restrictions, and lockdowns, it is currently almost impossible to get production watches for a hands-on or to see prototypes in real-life. Zenith has still managed to provide journalists access to pre-production samples whenever possible. The watches photographed and shown here do not reflect the final production quality and can differ from those that are going to be manufactured in regular production.  

Pardon any “purple prose” you may encounter in this article, as it may well be a reaction to the big news that Zenith has launched its first automatic chronograph movement in violet. The Defy 21 Ultraviolet (Ref. 97.9001.9004/80.R922) takes its inspiration from the human eye’s ability to perceive colors as “visible light frequencies.” Ultraviolet, as the Swiss watch manufacturer describes, is the color with the highest frequency, so it only made sense for the brand to pair this intense color with its high-frequency chronograph caliber.

Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet Caseback
Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet (Ref. 97.9001.9004/80.R922) with titanium case.

Violet is the color of light at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, between blue and invisible ultraviolet. It is one of the seven colors that Isaac Newton labeled when dividing the spectrum of visible light in 1672. Violet light has a wavelength between approximately 380 and 450 nanometers. The color’s name is derived from the violet flower.


The Defy 21 Ultraviolet features Zenith’s El Primero 9004 automatic movement, with a violet-colored finish (obtained through a PVD coating), whose integrated chronograph measures elapsed times up to 1/100th of a second thanks to the movement’s ultra-fast frequency of 50 Hz. 

Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet Movement
The movement is equipped with two escapements, one for the watch (beating at 36,000 vph or 5Hz), and a second one for the chronograph (beating ten times as fast).

The open dial features rhodium-plated, faceted hands and hour markers coated with Super-Luminova, with the chronograph power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock; hours and minutes in the center; small seconds at 9 o’clock; 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, and 60-second counter at 6 o’clock. 

The visually and mechanically striking creation features three grey chronograph registers with a matching flange ring, visible through the dial, housed in a 44-mm-diameter, faceted titanium case with a water-resistance of 100 meters.

The Defy 21 Ultraviolet’s movement is the highest-frequency chronograph in regular production. The white-tipped central chronograph hand makes a complete revolution above its dial in one second. 

The Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet comes on (of course) a violet textile strap with a micro-blasted titanium double folding clasp. The watch has been certified as a chronometer (ISO 3159) by the Timelab Laboratory of Horology and Microengineering in Geneva (which tests each watch during 17 consecutive days). It is priced at $13,100, and available from August 2020.

Hands-On Pictures:


Model: Defy 21 Ultraviolet
Reference number:97.9001.9004/80.R922
Functions:Hours, minutes, seconds, 1/100th-second chronograph, small seconds at 9 o’clock, central chronograph hand, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 60-second counter at 6 o’clock, power-reserve indication at 12 o’clock
Movement:El Primero 9004, automatic, skeletonized, with violet PVD finishing, 50-hour power reserve
Case:Titanium, water resistant to 100 meters
Bracelet and clasp:Violet textile strap with double folding clasp
Dimensions:Diameter = 44 mm

For more on the Defy 21 Ultraviolet, click here

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