In mechanical engineering, a compliant mechanism is flexible and transfers force through elastic body deformation. A compliant mechanism is either monolithic or jointless. Its main advantage: Because there is just one part, neither assembly, nor lubrication, nor regulation are required. This, basically, is what LVMH’s Science Institute CEO Guy Sémon and his team just did with the traditional sprung balance: Zenith has finally revealed the long-awaited Defy Lab, a new watch with a revolutionary new oscillator, designed as a compliant mechanism. The oscillator is etched from a wafer of silicon and combines the functions of the balance, balance spring, and lever in one single piece. It eliminates contact, friction, wear, slack, lubrication, assembly and dispersions and, according to Zenith, offers an “almost 10 times higher… degree of accuracy.” Its mean daily rate “is precise to within just 0.3 seconds.” On top of that, the new oscillator is supposed to maintain the same degree of precision for 95% of its power reserve and is “insensitive to temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields.” It vibrates back and forth, almost like a hummingbird (see clip below).
With the Defy Lab, Zenith also introduces a completely revamped movement, called the ZO 342. This caliber measures 32.8 mm in diameter and is 8.13 mm thick; the 0.5-mm-thin oscillator can be seen at work beneath the openworked dial and measures 30 mm in diameter.
The new design combines a high frequency of 15 Hz (108,000 vibrations per hour) with low amplitude (+/- 6 degrees versus around 300 degrees for a standard balance wheel) and offers a power reserve of 60 hours, thanks to an increased efficiency. The movement is certified by the Besançon Observatory, on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, and can withstand magnetic fields up to 88,000 Amperes per meter, or 1,100 Gauss.
The first 10 watches (Ref. 9000.342/78.R582) featuring this movement are pre-sold (priced at CHF 29,900) and feature a case made from Aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminum composite material (2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than standard aluminum, and 10 percent lighter than carbon fiber).
Zenith has already announced that it will launch new models fitted with this oscillator in the following months, and will now start serial production of the oscillator (with potentially lower prices), for brands both inside and outside the LVMH group.
Watch the Defy Lab in action: