Watch Alert: Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix”

Extreme E was the brainchild of Alejandro Agag and is an international racing series which races electric desert racers in various locations to highlight the risks of cliate change. The series is carried around the world in its own ship the RMS St. Helena which saves on the carbon costs of airfreight. It features teams owned by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton and to complete its 21st century credentials the driver pairs must consist of one male and one female driver. What does this have to do with watches? Zenith.

Zenith is the official timekeeper of the Extreme E series and to celebrate the second year of Extreme E competition they have released the Zenith Defy Extreme E “Island X Prix”. It is based on the Defy Extreme Carbon and it contains parts reclaimed from the racing series. It’s an arresting look for a watch with claimed environmental credentials. Is it any good though?

Design & Watch Specifications

Aggressively modern, orange highlights with all the carbon you’ll ever need

Forged carbon and titanium, 45mm diameter 15mm thickness and 51mm lug to lug, 200m water resistant, 20mm lug width, quick release straps, sapphire crystal and case back.

As you might expect from a watch with carbon in the name there is a lot of long strand carbon “forged” carbon fibre here. Zenith have opted for a deliberately brutal and industrial look. The case is forged carbon, the pushers are carbon, the crown is carbon. There’s a lot of carbon. And if that wasn’t enough they’ve gone full titanium for the bezel. It looks great though and the use of hex bolts (get your allen keys out boys…) adds to the look. There is a rejection of soft curves. They are replaced by facets and angles that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie. This is excess to excess and it works. It works very well.

Scottish Watches and TOCKR Watches

The dial is open and lets the owner look into the heart of the movement. The El Primero chronograph has three sub-dials with orange markings and apparently simple silver hands. The hour and minute hands follow the simple pattern of the sub registers with strongly angled design. The rehaut also features orange markings and all of this compliments the orange and black strap. This watch also won’t disappoint anyone who wants to look at the back of a movement. This is visible through a sapphire caseback. The customary star rotor is there but it’s a shame this is hidden by the Extreme E text.

Movement

Zenith El Primero 9004 twin escapement chronograph, 36,00 vph and 360,000 vph for the chronograph.

The current El Primero is the king of chronographs. The ability to time 1/100ths of a second using an automatic movement is something that was surely gifted to Zenith by an alien civilization (okay Zenith, where’s the warp drive?) There are three registers; a running seconds at 9, a 60 second counter a 6 and a 30 minute counter at 3 o’clock. They’ve even snuck a power reserve in at 12 o’clock. All this magic also comes with a 50-hour power reserve.

Price & Availability

$27,100 20 piece limited edition

Concluding Thoughts

I must admit I am not a great fan of the Defy watches. Too often they seem quite bland and with a confused design language which is often fussy and contrived. This is not one of those watches.

Anyone who thinks that watch design shouldn’t have advanced past something Breguet would recognise probably won’t like this: Good. Zenith have fully committed to the inspiration of the Dakar-style racer. Soft curves are replaced by angular and faceted structures. Slashes have been cut into the crown and hexagonal and dodecahedral forms are present and fully appropriate. It’s not that often that a brand truly commits to a modern industrial design and Zenith are to be applauded for it. This is the kind of chic that goes with a frisson of excitement and visible air conditioning.

The question is that, just like Extreme E, will this watch save the world from an environmental crisis? No, of course not. If it helps Extreme E with its mission challenge, entertain and inform then that’s enough. Good one Zenith, me likey.