Zenith turns the page on a new chapter in the history of the Swiss watch industry with the introduction of a new oscillating system it touts as “the first and only mechanical watch embodying both an evolution and an improvement of the sprung balance principle presented in January 1675.” Down the road man years looking back, this development may be viewed on par with Zenith’s 1969 introduction of the Swiss watch industry’s first ever automatic chronograph, the El Primero. How’s that for hyperbole?! For now, such a notion is merely just that but suffice it to say this is certainly a big deal for Zenith and everyone there who has been working on this new innovation.
Let’s take a look now at the result: the Defy Lab watch with its new oscillator.
Manufacture Zenith has been making mechanical watches for 152 years and currently has the capacity to produce around 40 different movements (featuring various shapes and equipped with complications), reflecting its exceptional expertise. Connoisseurs well know the paternity of the Swiss watch industry’s first ever automatic chronograph introduced in 1969 by Zenith. The new Defy Lab is radically different, though arguably just as innovative in its proper context.
- Since 1675, the principle of the coupled balance and hairspring (sprung balance) that Christiaan Huygens presented to the French Royal Academy of Sciences in the form of a clock has remained unchallenged. While it has definitely been improved and is undoubtedly now optimized to the greatest possible extent, it has nonetheless never called into question as such, instead regarded as both timeless and invariable.
- A new oscillator forming a monolithic whole, made of monocrystalline silicon (with details finer than a human hair), replaces the sprung balance. The 30 or so components of a standard regulating organ (which requires assembly, adjustment, timing, testing and lubrication) are thus replaced by a single element measuring just 0.5 mm thick (compared with the usual 5 mm.)
- This breathtaking development beats at the incredible frequency of 15 Hertz, with an amplitude of +/- 6 degrees, and is endowed with an almost 60-hour power reserve – more than 10% more than that of the El Primero – despite a three times higher frequency.
- This frequency endows it with an exceptional – almost 10 times higher – degree of accuracy. Its mean daily rate is precise to within just 0.3 seconds. (By way of example, one of the criteria for COSC “chronometer” certification is the average daily rate on the first ten days of testing: from -4 seconds to +6 seconds, meaning up to 10 seconds per day).
- Moreover, it remains accurate far beyond 24 hours of operation (the moment when mechanical watches begin to lose their energy and thus their accuracy). This new oscillator maintains the same degree of precision for 95% of its power reserve.
- No need for oil: no more contact means no more friction or wear, and thus no need for lubrication.
- Insensitivity to temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields eliminates the key weaknesses of the current balance-and-spring assemblies that are subject to deformation and/or dilatation, thereby leading to diminished precision.
- Triple certification, including chronometer certification displayed by by the viper’s head emblem awarded by Besançon Observatory, on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. With regard to thermal behaviour, the spectrum of the ISO-3159 standard has been broadened: variations of around 0.3 seconds per day and per degree Celsius of deviation are certified, which is twice as good as the recommended figure. Finally, the watch meets the ISO-764 magnetic criteria, exceeding them by 18 times (for the completed watch), meaning it can withstand 88,000 Amperes per meter or 1,100 Gauss.
- This mechanism opens up whole new vistas and enters a new dimension, representing no less than a reinvention of the Huygens principle with another mechanical system.
- The first ten ZENITH Defy Lab watches (10 different versions, each is different) are sold in an exceptional collector’s gift box. All are already pre-sold. Not surprisingly!
10 unique pieces will be made:
case, 44mm x 14.5mm, Aeronith composite aluminum polymer foam, water resistant to 5 atmospheres/50 meters. Movement, Zenith caliber ZO 342, with silicon Zenith Oscillator. 14 1/4 lignes (about 32.15mm) x 8.13mm, self-winding, with 60-hour power reserve; frequency, 108,000 vph.
Exterior of the Defy Lab – also repping some innovation of its own!
- First watch with a case (44 mm in diameter) made from Aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminum composite material.
- This new material resembling an extremely solid metal foam was developed using an exclusive high-tech process and features a density of just 1.6 kg/dm3, which is 2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than aluminum and 10% lighter than carbon fibre.
- Boy does it look cool!!!