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Postmodern Appeal; Zenith Carves A Contemporary Path For 2023

Over the past few years, Zenith has been at the forefront of the vintage timepiece trend, optimistically revisiting several of its heritage styles and consistently celebrating its pioneering high-frequency El Primero movement. 

Now, the Swiss watch manufacturer has approached its latest releases from a more post-modern perspective. Adopting a healthy dose of scepticism, Zenith works to revisit and redefine the classic Pilot watch, forgoing a vintage aesthetic in favour of a more contemporary take. Meanwhile, the Defy Revival — a self-referential mainstay in the Zenith lineup — blends heritage with a sense of moodiness that befits current times. 

Herewith, all the Zenith new releases of 2023.

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Rather than adopting a purely vintage aesthetic, Zenith derives inspiration for the Pilot Automatic from aviation as a whole, with a few subtle self-referential details thrown into the mix. The necessary qualities of durability and legibility are retained, while a black opaline dial takes centre stage. Designed to mimic the look of corrugated metal sheets that make up the fuselage of many older aircraft, the dial features generously sized Super-LumiNova-filled Arabic numerals in a contemporary font. The 40mm case is crafted from either stainless steel or black ceramic — the former boasts vertically satin-brushed surfaces with polished chamfers, while the latter is completely microblasted for an understated matte finish.

At 6 o’clock, the hour marker is replaced with a vertical line that sits above the date window; a touch that recalls the artificial horizon instrument in planes. Utilised on the Pilot Automatic, it allows the wearer to instantly understand the orientation of the watch and ascertain the time with ease.

The El Primero 3620 calibre keeps the Zenith Pilot Automatic powered, with the high-frequency movement visible through the sapphire caseback. The timepiece is presented on a black cordura-effect rubber strap. Both versions come with an additional strap; the black ceramic iteration is accompanied by a khaki cordura-effect rubber strap while the steel timepiece comes with an elegant brown leather strap.

It wouldn’t be a Zenith release without a chronograph. The Pilot Big Date Flyback is equipped with the El Primero 3652 calibre, a new iteration of the El Primero 3600 calibre that was specially conceived for the Pilot. Like the Pilot Automatic, the Pilot Big Date Flyback is available in stainless steel and black ceramic versions — both in a 42.5mm case — with each taking on a distinct aesthetic.

The stainless steel Pilot Big Date Flyback references the ‘Rainbow Flyback’, a colourful piece from 1997. The chronograph’s minutes subdial is adorned in alternating colours to distinguish between the five-minute marks, while the central chronograph seconds hand and chronograph minutes hand take form in bright orange. Meanwhile, the black ceramic version forgoes colour to cultivate a utilitarian appearance; with luminescent white markers contrasting against an opaline black corrugated dial.

Touted as a “modern creation in a vintage silhouette,” the Defy Revival Shadow reconciles Zenith’s instantly recognisable angular case and ladder bracelet with a muted, modern aesthetic. For the first time, the 37mm case and ladder bracelet are crafted from titanium, which is microblasted for a matte finish with enhances the material’s deep grey tones. The effect is complemented by a matte black dial, resulting in a timepiece that represents a complete departure from the vibrant dial colours and striking gradient effects characteristic of the Defy Revival line. The Zenith Defy Revival Shadow is powered by the Elite 670 calibre, which is visible through the sapphire caseback.

The new Defy Skyline and Defy Skyline Skeleton take on the same bold and rugged aesthetic introduced last year. Zenith ups the ante in terms of edginess by rendering both timepieces in black ceramic; a material that’s harder than traditionally used metals and alloys. Both models have a 41mm case; the Defy Skyline Ceramic features a black galvanic dial with a sunray finish that shimmers as the light hits. The dial is defined by an all-over geometric pattern composed of the Zenith four-pointed star.

Meanwhile, the Defy Skyline Skeleton Ceramic is underscored by a large, blacked-out central four-pointed star which reveals the black bridges and main plate of the skeletonised movement underneath. A subtle contrast of black and grey tones adds visual depth to the dial.

Both the Defy Skyline and Defy Skyline Skeleton are powered by the El Primero 3620 calibre, an automatic high-frequency movement that provides a 1/10th of a second indicator and guarantees 60 hours of power reserve.

Words by AR Staff


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