Our journey through time, as featured by Zenith, continues. When we last left off, we were engaged in brutal dogfights above the English countryside with the new vintage inspired Zenith Pilot’s watches (read up right here about with Zenith’s Pilot Type 20 Adventure ).
I don’t know about you, but I find air campaigns exhausting, and yearn for a future where watchmaking technology is focused less on winning at war but with wowing with incredible tech. So let’s hop back on the Zenith time machine and take a trip to the future, where nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and space age materials combine to create a watch like none other.
When it was introduced a few years ago by Zenith as a sort of proof of concept in the Defy Lab series, the Zenith Oscillator seemed like something out of science fiction. It not only looked like nothing else we’d seen in watchmaking, but, we were told, was capable of keeping time to a standard heretofore unheard of for a mechanical timepiece.
Now, it finally begins to trickle down to (still expensive) consumer products, and it’s genuinely exciting to wonder where this technology will go, and how quickly it will begin to become even more common given the wide reach of Zenith’s parent company, the LVMH group.
For the uninitiated, the Oscillator essentially replaces the traditional escapementEscapement The escapement is a mechanism in a mechanical watch movement that regulates the release of energy from the mainspring and keeps the watch ticking at a steady rate. The escapement is made up of two main components: the escape wheel and the pallet fork. The escapement is responsible for the ticking sound of the watch, and it ensures that the watch runs at a consistent rate. As the escape wheel rotates forward, it locks and unlocks with the pallet fork, allowing a small amount of energy from the mainspring to be released. This causes the balance wheel to oscillate and the watch to 'tick'. [Learn More] found in just about any mechanical timepiece ever designed. It’s basically a large piece of silicon that has been milled to exacting degrees (assisted by, no joke, space age artificial intelligence that tells Zenith’s watchmaker’s exactly how the thing should be shaped and sized for maximum reliability and accuracy).
And, because Zenith understands the power of showmanship, it’s visible through the dial. It visually calls to mind a live downed electrical wire as it convulses at what surely must be (but isn’t) an out of control speed.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I understand the technical wizardry that went in to creating this, but I think it’s enough to understand that this represents a rare actual breakthrough in watchmaking.
The watch that houses this movement, the Defy Inventor, is part of a long line of future forward Zenith Defys that make use of unusual and funky case shapes and Zenith’s best tech at the time. It’s a very natural line to throw the Oscillator into.
The watch is made of titanium and the bezel is brushed with something Zenith is calling “Aeronith,” but I think that’s just a cover story, because these watch cases were clearly found buried on a planet millions of light years from earth, left by a long forgotten civilization that has since taken up residence in the 8th dimension.
The watch is pretty big at 44mm across, but, come on, you’re not buying a watch with the craziest movement in a generation to be discreet. This is a statement piece and a conversation starter – the time for a hidden oscillator in a small dress watch will come, but we’re not there yet.
Zenith operates in an interesting space in the watch world. They produce some truly high end horology, but their bread and butter, which I think can be argued pretty easily to be the El Primero, is quite accessible to the masses. Being in so many markets at once can make a brand schizophrenic, but I think Zenith handles it in the best way, pushing the boundaries where they can and acting as a sort of receptacle within LVMH for the trickling down of extremely high tech gadgetry.
Personally, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the technology in this year’s Defy winds up next
These will be available as of July 2019 and retail at USD 17,800.00
Article by Zach Kazan, Photography by Jan de Griff