Zenith’s new Defy Lab uses a new oscillator to replace the traditional sprung balance first used in 1657 by Christiaan Huygens. The result is an incredibly precise (to within 0.3 seconds) mechanical timepiece that can remain accurate far beyond 24 hours of operation. Zenith has already announced that it will launch new models fitted with this oscillator in the following months, and will now start serial production of the oscillator (with potentially lower prices), for brands both inside and outside the LVMH group.
Here are 10 things you need to know about this radical new movement.
1. The oscillator forms a monolithic whole and is made of monocrystalline silicon (with details finer than a human hair). So the 30 or so components of a standard regulating organ including the balance, balance spring, and lever are now replaced by a single element measuring just 0.5 mm thick. No lubrication is required since there is no more contact between the traditional parts of an escapement. No more friction or wear.
2. The watch now beats at 15 Hertz, with an amplitude of +/- 6 degrees, and comes with an almost 60-hour power reserve – more than 10 percent of the El Primero – despite a three times higher frequency.
3. This higher frequency ensures more precision. The watch’s mean daily rate is precise to within just 0.3 seconds. . (By way of example, one of the criteria for COSC “chronometer” certification is the average daily rate on the first ten days of testing: from -4 seconds to +6 seconds, meaning up to 10 seconds per day).
4. The timepiece remains accurate far beyond 24 hours of operation (the moment when mechanical watches begin to lose their energy and thus their accuracy). This new oscillator maintains the same degree of precision for 95 percent of its power reserve.
5. This radical new oscillator is 0.5 mm thin and debuts in Caliber ZO 342, which measures 32.8 mm in diameter and is 8.13 mm thick. The oscillator can be seen at work beneath the open-worked dial and measures 30 mm in diameter.
6. It is impervious to temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields; all bug bears in the current balance-and-spring assemblies that are subject to deformation and/or dilatation, thereby leading to diminished precision.
7. Triple certification, including chronometer certification awarded by Besançon Observatory, on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. With regard to thermal behavior, the spectrum of the ISO-3159 standard has been broadened: variations of around 0.3 seconds per day and per degree Celsius of deviation are certified, which is twice as good as the recommended figure.
8. The case (44 mm in diameter) is made from Aeronith, an aluminum composite material which is 2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than aluminum and 10% lighter than carbon fiber.
9. The watch meets the ISO-764 magnetic criteria, exceeding them by 18 times (for the completed watch), meaning it can withstand 88,000 Amperes per meter or 1,100 Gauss.
10. The first ten Zenith Defy Lab watches (10 different versions, each is different) were sold for $30,112 (CHF29,000) in an collector’s gift box. All of them were spoken for even before the watches were unveiled in public.