Thanks to Chamath (@champsg @watchadvice www.watchadvice.com) for letting me borrow his Ultraviolet Zenith. The generosity of the watch community never ceases to amaze and to experience this piece over the last month has been incredible.
You’ve been sensible all week. You’ve endured meetings, workshops, team building exercises. Everyone dresses the same, looks the same, speaks the same. You get home on a Friday evening and take off your suit or dress, flick off your shoes and relax. The weekend is here. It’s time to have fun, let your hair down. You put your sensible, classic, work friendly timepiece on the dresser and live a little. Let go of the professional persona for 48 hours and when guilty pleasures are a little less guilty, what watch is on your wrist?
Introducing the Zenith Defy 21 Ultraviolet Chronograph
For those of you who know me, watches that grab my attention tend to be those of the elegant variety. However, every now and then a watch like this pops up and a little voice says, hey, why don’t we indulge in the power watch lifestyle and before you know it you begin to convince yourself that a purple skeleton dial, geometrically styled, 44mm bead blasted titanium case with a 1/100th chronograph mechanism is something that you would really enjoy.
Most famous for the historical El Primero, Zenith has evolved into delivering a number of cutting edge, futuristic timepieces and the Ultraviolet happens to be my favourite. The striking purple dial is a conscious choice by the brand to proudly offer a high frequency chronograph collection in the colour of the highest frequency light waves that the human eye can recognise. The skeletonised dial does well to display key parts of the movement that compliment the vibrant sections of purple against a trio of grey sub-dials. The concept is impressive in the opposite way to that of a classic timepiece developed over generations, a true marvel for anyone who appreciates the mechanical watch and that’s before you even turn it over. The caseback features a rotor in the same Ultraviolet colour formed into the 5 pointed star of the brand’s motif. A purple blue matching silicon escapement and balance bridge ensures the colour theme remains strong on the rear of the watch, shining against the main plates and bridges which are finished in a lustrous grey metallic.
At every angle the watch is fun, exciting and feels like a cheeky middle finger to everyone else in the room. The Defy21 is bound to be a love it or hate it collection and if you can buy into the idea of a watch that does not apologise for commanding a presence, it’s an absolute pleasure to wear. Picking up the Defy chrono day after day, it does not lose its X factor. Next to a steel sport watch or classic dress watch the Ultraviolet looks space age and I love it for that. I so badly wanted to tell myself that there is no way I could ever wear a 44mm wide by 50mm lug to lug timepiece, but with a spectacular fit on the wrist due to the light titanium case, lugless design and superb strap deployant combo, even my 17cm wrist could handle the Ultraviolet with comfort.
There are many watches in the “no fucks given” category that are made to fulfil the single purpose of standing out, but the Ultraviolet brings it all together in a way that feels respectful to watchmaking. Yes, the large case and electric purple accents draw you in but the dual mechanism calibre shows substance to back the style. The core movement of the Defy chronograph maintains the regular timing function of hours, minutes and seconds while the integrated 1/100th mechanism sparks into life when the pushers are actioned. While 1/100th of a second is probably overkill for anything you may time on your chronograph, seeing the watch operate is mesmeric and grasps your attention longer than any regular chronograph. A cicada like hum from the secondary escapement adds to the charm and the chronograph specific power reserve does not last long, draining right before your eyes but who really cares? Each crisp click of the pusher deals out a serving of dopamine and it’ll invite you to wind it up again and again.
Quirks & Personality Traits
When I say noisy, I really mean it. You can hear the Ultraviolet chrono over typing on the keyboard and just about feel it resonate through your wrist. I love it. It’s not the slightest bit irritating and doubles down on its unapologetic nature. The quirks don’t end there, the rotor while arguably one of the most efficient I’ve experienced is just as loud. Not only can you hear the bearings going to work as the rotor completes each revolution, it is so generously weighted that the Ultraviolet wobbles like jelly on a plate. It may seem like an oversight by the manufacture and something that would be intrusive to the wearing experience but I couldn’t help but laugh as the watch jostled on my wrist.
Mechanical marvel, proudly purple and eternally endearing, the Ultraviolet manages to excite you day 1 and keep its charm. From the first time I saw it and for the month that followed it never felt any less exciting. Attention grabbing features aside, the underlying finish of all the components are of that you would expect from Zenith. The printing on the sub-dials are crisp, the high polished facets on the hour markers and hands are sharp and the movement looks spectacular with its sparkle, even if there are no traditional techniques applied.
Somethings got to give right? Well, for the reasons that makes it so great, it could also prove to be an obstacle to justify. The Ultraviolet commands a RRP of $20,200 AUD and that is a price point with lots of competition new and used. I want to be clear, the asking price is more than fair for this watch, however there are many one watch collection contenders under $20k. I would love to add an Ultraviolet to my collection however, with my budget (or lack thereof) it makes the argument for this power watch not quite strong enough. I think it comes down to how much do you see yourself wearing this watch and if it is indeed a weekend watch, how much are you willing to invest in a piece that will spend most of its time on the sideline? If you can commit to a fun watch for $20,200 AUD, the Ultraviolet will not let you down!
Perhaps the secondary market will be kind to me and make a purchase more feasible. Despite all its charm and how much I enjoy it, I’ll have to admire it from a far… For now.