Today in LeLocle, Switzerland, we are with Zenith Watch Manufacture as the brand unveils a revolutionary new timepiece that could well be the world’s most accurate mechanical watch. The Defy Lab watch offers two world premier innovations. One is the new one-piece 15 Hertz Oscillator that may be the single most important invention since 1675 in the watch industry. The new single-piece oscillator replaces the sprung balance found in mechanical watches today and based on the spiral balance first developed by Christiaan Huygens almost 350 years ago and that is still the basic principle — although highly evolved and developed –behind mechanical watches. The second world premier is Aeronith, an ultra-light aluminium composit material used for the case. Right now, we are with Zenith for this ground-breaking news, so we are presenting herein just the basic facts. Upon our return, we will bring you a full behind-the-scenes look and review of the product.
The triple-certified in-house regulator, referred to as the Zenith-Oscillator, used in the new Zenith Defy Lab watches was developed by the Research and Development department of the LVMH Watch Division. It is a single monolithic piece (as opposed to the balance and hairspring assembly in mechanical watches) made of monocrystalline silicon that is finer than a human hair. While the traditional spring and balance system consists of about 30 or more components and needs assembly, adjusting, testing and lubrication, the new single element needs none of that — freeing it of couplings, linkages, friction and more. Additionally, this oscillator is thinner and is impervious to magnetic fields and to extreme temperature changes. Because the oscillator beats at 15 hertz — yes we did say 15 hertz — it may be the most precise mechanical watch to date.
The Defy Lab watch and the Zenith-oscillator were formally unveiled just minutes ago at the brand’s manufacture in LeLocle by Jean-Claude Biver, President of the LVMH Watch Division, as well as Julien Tornare, CEO of Zenith and Guy Sémon, CEO of the R&D Institute, LVMH Watch Division. Biver — in his typical wild story-telling way — wowed retailers and journalists with a fantastical story of learning how Huygens had invented the pendulum clock in 1657, and of visiting Huygens’ grave, zapping him to life with a magical watch, restoring him to his days as a scientist, and picking his brains just long enough to get his take on how a spiral balance should be made today. Futuristic sci-fi stories aside, the new Zenith-Oscillator may well change the future of watchmaking with its monolithic design that has so many advantages over the sprung balance.
Three Things to Know about the Zenith-Oscillator and the Zenith Defy Lab Certifications:
- An incredible development, the monolithic oscillator beats at a frequency of 15 Hertz (108,000 vibrations per hour), which is three times higher than the renowned El Primero movement. It has h an amplitude of +/- 6 degrees, and offers almost 60 hours of power reserve – more than 10% more than that of the El Primero. It needs no oil and is impervious to temperature changes, gravity and magnetic fields, the typical elements that weaken balance-and-spring assemblies and precision in most watches.
2. This high frequency endows the watch with almost 10 times more accuracy. Its mean daily rate is precise to within just 0.3 seconds. (To compare, one of the criteria for COSC “chronometer” certification is the average daily rate on the first ten days of testing must be from -4 seconds to +6 seconds, translating to up to 10 seconds per day). It also maintains the same degree of precision for 95 percent of its power reserve.
3. The watch carries a triple certification that includes a chronometer certification (displayed by the viper’s head emblem) as awarded by the Besancon Observatory, on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. The watch not only meets, but also exceeds by 18 times the ISO-764 magnetic criteria so that it can withstand 88,000 Amperes per meter, or 1,100 Gauss. The watch also excels in thermal resistance, offering twice the recommended number (variations of 0.3 seconds per day per Celsius degree of deviation are certified) than the ISO-3159 standard.
3 Things to Know About the case, movement, production of the Zenith Defy Lab
1. The 44mm case of the Zenith Defy Lab is made from Aeronith, which, Zenith says, is the world’s lightest aluminium composite material. The incredibly hard metal was developed using a secret high-tech process and has a density of 1.6 kg/dm3, which is 2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than Aluminium and 10% lighter than carbon fiber composites. Sister-brand, Hublot, helped develop the corrosion-resistant material, a blend of aluminium foam and polymer.
2. The new oscillator is introduced in a completely revamped 148-part movement for the Defy Lab. The Z0 342 caliber measures 32.8mm in diameter and is 8.13mm thick. The 0.5mm thin Zenith Oscillator is visible beneath the dial.
3. Just 10 Zenith Defy watches have thus far been produced. Each of the 10 watches is a different color, and is sold in collector’s box for 29,900 Swiss Francs. All are already pre-sold. However, the plan is to implement the new Zenith-Oscillator into serial production in other timepieces in the brand’s lineup and to make the pricing highly attractive and certainly at least two-thirds less expensive (if not more than two-thirds less) than the Defy Lab with Aeronith case.
A Bit about Zenith El Primero:
Throughout this article, we refer to the Zenith El Primero movement. For those who may be unfamiliar: Zenith is the pioneering brand that brought to fruition in 1969 the Swiss watch industry’s first-ever automatic chronograph capable of measuring tenths of a second thanks to the 5Hz oscillating frequency. That El Primero movement has become legendary in watchmaking and continues to be built today.
Remember, right now we are in Switzerland with Zenith, so we will bring many more details and original photos about how this watch works and the new concept upon our return.
DEFY LAB Technical Details
10 unique pieces (each different in coloration)
ZENITH OSCILLATOR (CALIBRE ZO 342)
Monolithic regulating organ (Zenith Oscillator) made out of Silicon
Diameter: 32.80 mm
Movement thickness: 8.13 mm
Frequency: 108,000 VpH (15 Hz)
Power-reserve: approx. 60 hours
Finishing: Oscillating weight adorned with “Côtes de Genève” motif
Hours, minutes and central seconds
CASE, DIAL & HANDS
Diameter: 44 mm
Opening diameter: 35.5 mm
Thickness: 14.5 mm
Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Case-back: Transparent sapphire crystal
Water-resistance: 5 ATM
Hour-markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with black varnish
Hands: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with black varnish
STRAP & BUCKLE
Black rubber with alligator leather coating
Titanium double folding clasp