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Zenith - Defy El Primero 21

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21 like 21st century. With the new hundredths of a second El Primero chronograph movement, Zenith remarks its important place in watchmaking innovation, in our days like in the past.

In 1969 Zenith made its outstanding contribution to the chronograph history with the El Primero (meaning ‘the first’ in Esperanto): an integrated automatic column-wheel mechanism beating at the high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour (5Hz) enabling it to reach chronometer-certified tenth of a second precision.

In the 21st century, Zenith shifts up to ultra-high accuracy with the Defy El Primero 21 which displays hundredths of a second by means of a central hand and beats at a frequency of 50 Hz, making it ten times faster and more accurate than its predecessor.



A 32 mm diameter compared with 30 mm for its ancestor; 7.9 mm thick rather than the original 6.50 mm; 203 components as opposed to 278 in 1969. More complex mechanical functions performed by a smaller number of parts: just as in the automotive and aeronautical industries, the Defy El Primero 21 was designed to ensure simplified assembly and adjustment serving to achieve the finest level of performance and certification.

The El Primero 3019 phc released in 1969


A visual and audible signature of the new Defy El Primero 21, the central chronograph hand performs a full turn of the dial in one second.

To avoid any risk that the chronograph interferes with the smooth running of the watch, the Defy El Primero 21 is equipped with two independent "gear boxes": one for the time and the other for the chronograph. Each has its own transmission and escapement system and there is no coupling clutch.


The escapement for the watch beats at 36,000 vibrations per hour (5 Hz), while the escapement for the chronograph  at 360,000 vibrations per hour (50 Hz).

The COSC-certified automatic watch movement has a 50-hour power reserve, matched by a 50-minute autonomy for the hundredth of a second chronograph.

The new in-house made movement is  equipped with its own patented balance-springs made of Carbon-Matrix Carbon Nanotube composite. The exceptional physical and mechanical properties of this balance-springs with its graphene matrix render it insensitive to temperature and to the influence of magnetic fields, well beyond the known 15,000 Gauss standard, thereby guaranteeing peerless precision in all conditions of use.



Alongside its integrated construction, its double-chain architecture and the remarkable chronometric performance of its new balance-springs, the El Primero 21 movement features a patented chronograph-reset control mechanism composed of three heart pieces and an exclusive starter mechanism, ensuring simultaneous resetting of the seconds as well as tenths and hundredths of a second.

This new-generation twin-barrel El Primero drives central hours and minutes functions, small seconds at 9 o’clock, a 100th of a second central chronograph hand sweeping around a scale on the circumference, a 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, seconds and tenths of a second at 6 o’clock, and a percentage indication of the chronograph power-reserve at 12 o’clock.


Performed via a crown with two positions (for winding and time-setting), manual winding works in both directions: clockwise for the chronograph, counterclockwise for the watch. 25 turns of the crown are enough to obtain a 100% charge of the chronograph barrel. An oscillating weight with a star-shaped openworked oscillating weight handles one-way automatic winding of the watch function.

The design is clearly inspired by the original El Primero models.

One of the El Primero models from the 1970s which inspired the design of the new Defy El Primero 21


Water resistant to 100 metres / 330 feet, the 44 mm x 14.50 mm case features short lugs and is equipped with a fluted crown and rectangular chronograph pushers. The transparent sapphire crystal case-back displays the movement.


The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 comes in three variations: in titanium with a silver-toned dial and black counters (ref. 95.9001.9004/01.R582), in titanium with an openworked dial (ref. 95.9000.9004/78.R582) and in a black ceramicised aluminium with openworked dial (ref. 24.9000.9004/78.R582) with prices of Swiss Francs 9,900, Swiss Francs 10,900 and Swiss Francs 11,900 respectively.




All dials maintain typical elements of the El Primero like the star-tipped sweep-seconds hand, large luminescent baton-type hands and faceted hour-markers.

The black rubber strap with black alligator leather coating is secured by a double-blade folding clasp. zenith-watches.com


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