This year Zenith is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the legendary El Primero. This chronograph became known for its high frequency of 36.000 Vph/5Hz, which meant that it could measure up to 1/10th of a second. The movement was so exceptional that it was even adopted by brands such as Rolex, Ebel, Concord and Daniel Roth for the use in their watches, either in its original configuration or slightly modified.
Over the years many varieties of this movement were developed, and Zenith has even been able to increase the frequency of the chronograph. They accomplished this by using two escapements; one dedicated to the time-keeping, while the other supports the chronograph. The benefit of this is that it has allowed Zenith to incorporate an escapement with a frequency of 360.000 VpH/50Hz for the chronograph. This makes it possible to measure with a precision of 1/100th of a second. Such an escapement consumes a tremendous amount of power, so Zenith used two mainspring barrels, one dedicated to the chronograph and one for the regular timekeeping.
When this movement debuted in the Defy El Primero 21 in 2017, it made quite an entrance, but now, two years later, Zenith has up their game with the Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon. To mark the 50th anniversary of the El Primero movement, they have replaced the regular escapements for two tourbillons. Most spectacular is that they haven’t changed the speed of them. That means that one tourbillon continuously runs at 5Hz, while the other one stands still. When you engage the chronograph, the second tourbillon starts running at 50Hz, which is an incredible speed for such a complication and an unbelievable sight to see!
Zenith houses its Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon in a case made out of carbon fibre. This is a clever choice for multiple reasons. First of all, it keeps the weight of the watch comfortably low, while its diameter is a generous 46mm. Next to that does it add to the high-tech look of the watch without becoming the center of it. That role is still for the movement, as it should be with a calibre of such pedigree. While highly complex is the Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon no poser, it is meant to be on the wrist, and can easily cope with an active lifestyle. Its water resistance is 100 meters, which is quite impressive since most people don’t tend to take their non-diver chronographs near the water, let alone one with a complex tourbillon movement.
With the Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon does Zenith not only pay tribute to the past of this iconic calibre but also gives a clear signal that they are not going to rest on their laurels when it comes to taking it into the future.