Last week, Zenith CEO, Julian Tornare, presented the new Defy 21 Land Rover Edition timepiece at Watches of Switzerland’s flagship boutique in the heart of SoHo.
Located at 60 Greene Street, Watches of Switzerland has an expansive one-of-a-kind retail store with 25-foot ceilings spread out across 5,000 square feet on two floors with its own Death & Co. cocktail bar and lounge in the lower level. The space is tailor-made for luxurious events and product launches. In front of the store, the original cobblestone paved street and historic cast-iron facade — juxtaposed by a completely modern interior design — provided a perfect stage for the Land Rover to debut its new Defender 90 which is steeped in history yet is thoroughly contemporary. Naturally, right alongside it was the new Land Rover Edition that comes the historic La Chaux-de Fonds watchmaker’s most avant-garde collection: the Defy.
“At Watches of Switzerland we are always looking for opportunities to bring first-to-market product and unique experiences to our clientele,” said David Hurley, EVP Watches of Switzerland Group. “Partnering with Zenith to host the launch of their exciting new Land Rover Defender collaboration was an ideal way for us to give our watch enthusiasts customers a fun and exciting platform to engage with these iconic brands.”
The Defy 21 Land Rover Edition is presented in a 44 mm diameter microbead-blasted matte gray titanium case, made in collaboration with Gerry McGovern, the Chief Creative Officer of Land Rover, and featuring special design elements that give a nod to the new Land Rover Defender 90.
First, there’s a linear power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock which closely resembles the fuel gauge on the Land Rover’s instrument cluster, which in my opinion is the coolest tie-in. The watch’s gauge represents up to 50-hours of maximum reserve when fully wound.
Then there are the matte case and dial finishes that share a similar texture and richness with the exterior paint job of the SUV. The center seconds hand is coated with a matte white finish while the hour and minute hands and the three subdial hands all have faceted, polished steel surfaces, akin to the Land Rover’s polished accents, inside and out.
The ring around the crown, the contrast stitching on the strap, the luminescent material on the three subdial hands, and the graduated 1-100 scale on the outer ring all use the exact same orange hue as seen inside the new Land Rover Defender 90.
Even the seat material provided inspiration for the textile strap, which has a similar pattern and is backed by rubber to enhance durability. The strap utilizes a matte gray titanium folding clasp, embossed with a prominent version of Zenith’s star emblem. There’s also a second all rubber strap with a raised checkered pattern in gray that’s included as part of the limited edition set.
Finally, through the clear caseback, you can see the 5-spoke oscillating weight in the exact shape of the Land Rover’s wheels, with one of the spokes engraved with the official Land Rover logo. A subtle branding cue that keeps the words “Land Rover” off the dial but lets you know about the collaboration when you take the piece off to enjoy it or to share with others. Around the perimeter of the exhibition caseback “Land Rover” is again underscored with an engraving, as is the exact numbered edition out of 250.
What’s driving the hours, minutes, small seconds, and chronograph displays is no ordinary mechanical watch movement. El Primero automatic caliber 9004 is a technological tour-de-force (introduced in 2017) that not only oscillates at the legendary 5Hz frequency made famous by Zenith — it also has a second regulator system beating at 50Hz that’s dedicated strictly to the chronograph. This second ultra-high beat rate allows the chronograph to measure elapsed times with the incredible accuracy of 1/100th of a second.
This means that when activated via the flat pusher at 2 o’clock, the chronograph hand sweeps the entire dial in an impressive time of just 1-second. And with a graduated scale showing 1-100, you simply read where the hand stops to determine the fraction of a second. Since the central hand is dedicated to a fraction of a second, the counter at 6 o’clock is where you read off the chronograph seconds. A 30-minute chronograph counter is located at 3 o’clock.
Mr. Tornare told Professional Watches that a small number of Land Rover Editions (Ref. 97.9000.9004/01.R787) are reserved for Watches of Switzerland SoHo and Hudson Yards as well as for Land Rover VIP clients, and the rest of the allocation will be divided among the different markets around the world. Needless to say, there won’t be many of these available in each market.
The Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition has a water-resistance rating of 100 meters and the movement has been chronometer-certified by Time Lab.
Co-branding automobiles with timepieces is something that’s been done for many years — although companies don’t always do a great job. Following a partnership with Range Rover that started four years ago Zenith makes a pretty strong statement by tying in Land Rover — especially considering the Defender’s particularly high demand and low availability, both pre-owned and new.
The retail price is $13,600 and they are available now at Watches of Switzerland and select authorized Zenith dealers.