The Manufacture presents the world’s most accurate mechanical watch.
Zenith is writing its future… and the future of Swiss watchmaking.
A new oscillator representing a major innovation in the watch industry since the 1675
invention of the balance and hairspring principle by scientist Christiaan Huygens.
The 21st century Defy Lab achieves exceptional performance making it a master of
mechanical precision powered into a whole new dimension.
Le Locle (Switzerland), Thursday September 14th 2017 – Zenith is writing its future and starting a new chapter in the history of the Swiss watch industry. Manufacture Zenith has been making mechanical watches for 152 years and currently has the capacity to produce around 40 different movements (featuring various shapes and equipped with complications), reflecting its exceptional expertise.
Connoisseurs will scarcely need reminding of the paternity of the Swiss watch industry’s first ever automatic chronograph introduced in 1969, which also featured a function that had not yet been seen nor even imagined at the time. Nobody was capable of measuring tenths of a second, the unit of time naturally stemming from a 5 Hz oscillation frequency. It represented a kind of watchmaking Holy Grail! The El Primero movement is often cited and has indeed become a Swiss watchmaking legend that vividly reflects Zenith’s enduring attachment to innovation and the quest for precision.
Zenith is now renewing ties with innovation and fundamental research by presenting Defy Lab and its new oscillator – an invention that challenges nothing less than the operating principle of mechanical watches invented by Christian Huygens in the 17th century.
The announcement was made at a press conference held at the Manufacture Zenith in Le Locle and hosted by Jean-Claude Biver, President of the Watch Division, along with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare and Guy Sémon, CEO of the Science Institute LVMH. This innovative watch was developed through achieving effective synergies between the skill sets cultivated by the brands composing the group’s Watch Division, an endeavour overseen by Guy Sémon.
A few key points:
Defy Lab is the first and only mechanical watch embodying both an evolution and an improvement of the sprung balance principle presented in January 1675.
Since 1675, the principle of the coupled balance and hairspring (sprung balance) that Christiaan Huygens presented to the French Royal Academy of Sciences in the form of a clock has remained unchallenged. While it has definitely been improved and is undoubtedly now optimised to the greatest possible extent, it has nonetheless never called into question as such, instead regarded as both timeless and invariable.
A new oscillator forming a monolithic whole, made of monocrystalline silicon (with details finer than a human hair), replaces the sprung balance. The 30 or so components of a standard regulating organ (which requires assembly, adjustment, timing, testing
and lubrication) are thus replaced by a single element measuring just 0.5 mm thick (compared with the usual 5 mm.)
This breathtaking development beats at the incredible frequency of 15 Hertz, with an amplitude of +/- 6 degrees, and is endowed with an almost 60-hour power reserve – more than 10% more than that of the El Primero – despite a three times higher frequency.
This frequency endows it with an exceptional – almost 10 times higher – degree of accuracy. Its 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).
Moreover, it 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% of its power reserve.
No need for oil: no more contact means no more friction or wear, and thus no need for lubrication.
Insensitivity to temperature gradients, gravity and magnetic fields eliminates the key weaknesses of the current balance-and-spring assemblies that are subject to deformation and/or dilatation, thereby leading to diminished precision.
Triple certification, including chronometer certification displayed by by the viper’s head emblem awarded by Besançon Observatory, on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. With regard to thermal behaviour, the spectrum of the ISO3159 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. Finally, 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.
This mechanism opens up whole new vistas and enters a new dimension, representing no less than a reinvention of the Huygens principle with another mechanical system.
The first ten ZENITH Defy Lab watches (10 different versions, each is different) are sold in an exceptional collector’s gift box. All are already pre-sold.
Exterior of the Defy Lab:
First watch with a case (44 mm in diameter) made from Aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminium composite material.
This new material resembling an extremely solid metal foam was developed using an exclusive high-tech process and features a density of just 1.6 kg/dm3, which is 2.7 times lighter than titanium, 1.7 times lighter than aluminium and 10% lighter than carbon fibre.
The Defy Lab is a watch bearing the “viper’s head” emblem, meaning it is chronometer-certified by Besançon Observatory on behalf of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.
The Zenith Oscillator is in the process of being certified as non-magnetic and meets high criteria in terms of temperature variations.
With regard to the thermal behaviour the LVMH Group Science Institute had to extend the spectrum of the ISO-3159 standard. Variations of around 0.3 seconds per day and per degree Celsius of deviation, which is twice as good as the standard recommends, are certified. This variance is also measured on the thermal spectrum -7°C to +53°C, whereas the standard is limited to +8°C to +38°C.
The watch obviously meets the magnetic criteria of ISO-764. It even exceeds them by nearly 18 times (the completed watch), that is to say 88,000 Amperes per meter or 1,100 Gauss. And there is no need for an extra inner case to achieve this
An open-pore metal foam, rigidified by a special polymer
The production process for this hybrid material involves cutting-edge technologies and begins with heating aluminium to melting point. Known for its use in naval applications, Alu 6082 has been chosen for its excellent corrosion resistance.
It is poured into a mould where a procedure internally developed by Hublot transforms it into an open-pore metal foam. These interspaces are then filled with an extremely light special polymer resistant to ultra-violet rays and anti-allergenic when in contact with the skin.
The resulting material is cooled and becomes extremely light and highly resistant, endowed with mechanical properties entirely suited to a watch case, while minimising its density and thus its weight. Its machining is as easy as with traditional precious metals.
Mechanical watches enter a whole new era
The material used for the Zenith Oscillator is monocrystalline silicon coated with a layer of silicon oxide. The absence of conventional mechanical couplings in this system eliminates contact, friction, wear, slack, lubrication, assemblies and dispersions.
Less parts, made from pioneering materials and featuring cutting-edge technologies, deliver improved functionality, resulting in the most precise mechanical watch in history. The future of the watch industry is in the making. Like all major innovations, only 10 of these watches have been produced. Serial production is the next goal towards which the in-house teams are already working, notably with a view to creating a different and original design.
The Defy Lab watch is sold in the form of 10 exceptional gift boxes
Already pre-sold to collectors, Defy Lab is introduced in the form of 10 exceptional gift boxes to mark the event. Each of them (each is different) contains:
A personal invitation to attend the launch press conference.
A personal invitation to visit the Manufacture Zenith, for the client to receive his watch, notably including an entirely organised stay and a personalised welcome by Messrs Jean-Claude Biver, Julien Tornare and Guy Sémon.
And to round off this set of experiences, an exceptional tasting to celebrate history and heritage, with the world’s most prestigious sweet white wine, Château d’Yquem Sauternes, featuring the opening of a 19th century bottle.
For as Jean-Claude Biver likes to say
: “Without tradition, there is no future”, but also “Without innovation, there is no future”.
10 unique pieces (each is different)
ZENITH OSCILLATOR (CALIBRE ZO 342)
Monolithic regulating organ (Zenith Oscillator) made out of Silicon
Diameter: 32.80 mm
Movement thickness: 8.13 mm
Frequency: 108,000 VpH (15 Hz)
Power-reserve: approx. 60 hours
Finishing: Oscillating weight adorned with “Côtes de Genève” motif
Hours, minutes and central seconds
CASE, DIAL & HANDS
Diameter: 44 mm
Opening diameter: 35.5 mm
Thickness: 14.5 mm
Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
Case-back: Transparent sapphire crystal
Water-resistance: 5 ATM
Hour-markers: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with black varnish
Hands: Rhodium-plated, faceted and coated with black varnish
STRAP & BUCKLE
Black rubber with alligator leather coating
Titanium double folding clasp