How you perceive a watch design can be an interesting thing: you see an advertisement of a certain timepiece in your favorite magazine, and you get all excited thinking perhaps, “This watch is awesome! I want to get it!”. So, you lustfully traipse down to your authorized retailer and prepare to exercise your well-worn credit card. The sales person opens the case, hands you the watch, and…instant deflation. In the metal, the watch didn’t hit you the same way. Or maybe it did; the quality is there, the elements you loved in the ad still grab you, but you put it on your wrist to find that it just doesn’t look good “on you” personally.
The same situation can also occur exactly in reverse. Case in point: the Zenith Defy and Zenith Xtreme watches. Now, I’d always admired Zenith and their interesting history, been fascinated with their legendary manufacture El Primero chronograph movement, and always considered their classic pieces like the Chronomaster GT Moonphase watch to be exceptionally beautiful and in the ranks of “all time great” timepieces – at any price point. So, when the Defy and (particularly) the Defy Xtreme watch collections debuted, I found myself struggling to suppress the gag reflex. ”What in the world?” I thought. Surely this great brand didn’t have to stoop to producing such gimmicky-looking monstrosities, I opined.
I’m happy to say that my hastily-created (and rather harsh) opinion has softened since then. The difference? The all important chance to actually see and handle the watches in person. Having the chance to see a sampling of models in both collections recently, I can say that they were quite impressive, even attractive in their way, particularly the somewhat more conservative Defy lineup. And as for the Defy Xtreme collection… well, while I might not go so far as to say that one of these is in my collecting future, I did gain a new respect for them, and think they are a highly viable option for the guy who enjoys extremely large sports watches. The piece which really won me over was Zenith’s Chrono Aero El Primero watch, which I think looks great. The multi-colored 30-minute totalizer on the dial of this piece reminds me of a particular version of the Zenith “Rainbow” El Primero, one of the now-discontinued Zenith chronograph variants that dedicated Zenith watch enthusiasts still talk about.