Editors Pick Watches

Watch of the Week: Zenith Defy Lab

Zenith Defy Lab

In transforming one of the most delicate parts of a watch, Zenith may have just changed the game for the entire watchmaking world…

As much as every watchmaker loves to say how revolutionary their new movements or components are, there hasn’t really been much actual progress since the late, great George Daniels invented his co-axial escapement. There have been advancements for sure, but nothing exactly Earth-shattering. Now however that may have changed.

Zenith Defy Lab

The balance wheel is the most fragile part of any watch yet also the most vital. It’s the element that actually moves to keep the time before that energy is transferred to the escapement. There have been plenty of attempts to improve the traditional hairspring – mainly by using silicon – but none (or at least very, very few) to replace it.

Zenith Defy Lab

Caliber ZO 342

The Zenith Defy Lab may have just changed the game. At the core of the watch is the Caliber ZO 342 which contains a new single-piece oscillator, a silicon replacement for the 30-part traditional balance wheel. It might not seem like much, but the improvements are genuinely revolutionary.

Zenith Defy Lab

For one, it cuts down on assembly times and lubrication, cutting out one of the fiddliest parts of any watch. Secondly, by having a single piece (not to mention in shock and magnetic resistant silicon) it makes it far more stable. Finally, it creates what Zenith are calling the most accurate watch ever made.

The average watch beats around 28,000 times an hour. There are higher of course – Grand Seiko’s famous 36,000 hi-beat for one – but even they can’t quite match the Defy Lab. Here the heart beats 108,000 times per hour.

Zenith Defy Lab

Normally this would pretty much destroy the movement; the wear and tear would be extraordinary on the balance spring. Thanks to the single-piece oscillator though, there’s still room for improvement in future pieces.

Because a game-changing new movement isn’t enough of an impact for Zenith, the calibre ZO 342 is also wrapped in a composite called Aeronith. If you’re wondering why the grey metal case looks like foam that’s because it essentially is, albeit made from aluminium.

Zenith Defy Lab

It’s 1.7 times lighter than normal aluminium which is already incredibly light and aesthetically makes almost as much of a statement as the bright colours. We say colours, as each of the launch pieces will have a different hue. Either way, you don’t need to know the intricacies of the movement to know this is something you’ll never have seen before.

At present this version of the defy is a concept, but most definitely not a one-off. Ten have been made already with another version set for production in 2018. So, mark that in your calendar; it could be a day to remember for the watch world.

More details at: www.zenithwatches.com

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.