One of the world’s most coveted watch brands, Swiss luxury watchmaker Zenith incorporates new technology with ancestral craftsmanship, creating some of the finest watches to ever exist. The company is famous for its classical, highly valuable timepieces from the El Primero chronograph movement made four decades ago that still holds remarkable precision, to inventive new creations like the DEFY Fusee Tourbillon.
For collectors, this Zenith watch is an absolute must-have, considered the most alluring and innovative timepiece the brand has produced since its inception in 1865. When the fusee and chain mechanism was first used by early watchmakers, it was considered the utmost of 15th-century technology, allowing the timepiece to overcome that inevitable reduction in torque that results when the mainspring gradually unwinds. It works by helping to keep the spring’s action on the gear train more even, with the size of the radius building the spiral ever-changing. As the mainspring unwinds, more of the chain begins to wrap around the barrel similar to a bicycle chain. It’s then able to detach itself from the fusee’s conical base which helps to balance out the weakening of the mainspring pull to maintain torque.
This mechanism is still used and celebrated today, combined with a tourbillon to put “precision at the forefront” of the timepiece’s design, as Julien Tornare, Zenith’s CEO remarked at its release, packing “15th-century technology into a 21st-century design.”
Zenith takes the age-old relationship between the chain mechanism and fusee to a whole new dimension with the launch of this jaw-dropping watch.
Rarely Seen Fusee Tourbillon
The reason the Fusee tourbillon is rarely seen is that production is extremely demanding. The skeletonized hand-wound movement is similar to a high-performance sports car – while it takes less than 200 parts to put together a three-hand watch, the chain alone on the DEFY Fusee Tourbillon consists of an incredible 575 individually hand-assembled components.
The Unique Design
Of course, the sleek design of a Zenith watch is what draws many to the brand’s timepieces, and the design of the DEFY Fusee Tourbillon is new for the company, with its balance wheel completing a full turn in 60 seconds while attracting attention with its off-center location at the 6 o’clock position.
The moment you lay eyes on this watch you’ll know it’s something extraordinary. Its spoke design of suspension bridges is enhanced with a bicolor finish while the top surface has a stain finish in black and the polished sides have a contrasting lighter grey rhodium hue. On the top half, it’s easy to admire the unique fusee mechanism with its hundreds of individually hand-assembled parts. It features a bold electric blue treatment, a first for this type of wristwatch, and a red-tipped hand that indicates the 50-hour power reserve tucked between the 4 and 5 o’clock position, especially handy when manually winding. The movement also features an oscillating weight in the shape of a star which honors the El Primero movement.
The idyllic mix of cool avant-garde aesthetics and traditional timekeeping is made all the more impressive with the materials that Zenith chose to use for the model’s two limited editions. The carbon case version features a high-tech 46mm diameter carbon case with a carbon crown and buckle head, while its open dial is threaded with carbon fiber. It’s limited to just 50 units and is equipped with a black rubber strap and titanium folding clasp. The platinum case version comes with a black alligator strap, secured via a folding clasp made of white gold and titanium, limited to only 10 pieces each.
Both the weight difference and looks are significant. The 10-piece platinum edition retails for about $112,400, with its contrasting satin-brushed and polished finishes makes it a bit more conventional, offering perhaps more “timeless” beauty that can be worn for years without tiring.
The black carbon version, retailing for about $87,825, has a shimmering, mottled effect that emanates a contemporary, high-tech air. On the wrist, it’s extremely light and attractive, capitalizing on the long expertise of the brand.
The carbon and platinum versions of the case are both water-resistant to 100 meters. ■