Lights. Chromatics. Animation. The merging of innovative high-frequency watchmaking and vibrant multimedia optical art. After having worked on the historical Manufacture’s façade with a specifically designed tarpaulin in 2020, a limited edition series of the DEFY 21 that was instantly sold out in 2021, and a unique piece for the Only Watch 2021 charity auction that set a new record for a Zenith watch sold at an auction, the forward-looking watchmaker and the globally renowned Argentinian-Spanish optical artist raising the bar even higher and expanding the realm of artistic expression in watchmaking with the DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone.
Always conjuring new ways of expressing his unique vision that merges the digital and physical across different formats, Felipe Pantone once again pushed the Zenith Manufacture to transfigure his artwork into a mechanical watch with the same exacting level of detail and optical play of light. For Zenith, this meant eagerly accepting the challenge and finding creative new solutions and innovations to reproduce the unique aesthetic of Felipe Pantone on a much smaller scale without losing any of the vibrance and optical magic that are trademarks of the artist’s instantly recognizable body of work.
On the latest result of this ongoing collaborative partnership, Felipe Pantone shared, “Once again, I’m ultra-happy to announce a new collaboration with the Swiss horology masters at Zenith. For this watch, I applied and referenced some of the concepts behind my Planned Iridescence series. For the first time, I intervened a piece of sapphire creating a radial hologram that appears only under the right light in an astounding way. The watch is full of incredible details, possible after a long year collaborating back-to-back with the team at Le Locle.”
To encapsulate all this miniature details and give the watch a sculptural depth, The DEFY Extreme was a natural choice of canvas. Its sharp lines and immersive volume allowed the Manufacture and artist to further explore many of the elements that debuted in the original DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone, while also introducing some entirely new ones. This time, the inspiration is Pantone’s “Planned Iridescence” series, where his bold use of colour is combined with metallic elements and mathematically conceived shapes and shaded to generate optical illusions that transcend the boundaries of the analogue and virtual worlds.
Crafted entirely in mirror-polished stainless steel, the faceted lines of the DEFY Extreme case take on a new sculptural context. Incorporating transparency and colour where least expected, the dodecagonal bezel as well as the chronograph’s pusher protectors are crafted in translucent blue YAS (yttrium aluminosilicate), a crystalline glass material comparable to synthetic sapphire. The four corners of the case are engraved with “FP#1”, a coded signature for “Felipe Pantone El Primero”. Matching the blue transparent elements of the case, the DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone comes with a translucent blue silicone strap. A fully polished steel bracelet as well as black Velcro strap are also included and can be easily swapped with the push of a button on the case back.
Looking down at the dial, its sapphire elements appear translucent and metallic. Turn it ever so slightly towards the light, and a spark of colours and geometric patterns emerge. Dynamic and metamorphic, the dial of the DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone is unlike anything else that has ever been made in watchmaking. Colour gradients and the interplay of light, patterns and transparency are part of the artist’s signature. As such, Zenith and Pantone sought to create a dial that retained the highly chromatic look typical of his work while incorporating elements that play with light in a most unexpected way. Using a transparent sapphire disk as the dial’s base, an innovative physio-chemical process is used to create some hidden micro-engraved patterns that are just 100 nanometres deep. This innovative process gives the sapphire an iridescent effect, reflecting different colours that shift with
the angle of light while making the patterns visible. This element marks the first time that Felipe Pantone’s aesthetic is applied to sapphire crystal while highlighting ZENITH’s persistence to find the most cutting-edge techniques to miniaturize and translate the artist’s palette into a horological context.
The hour and minute hands as well as the movement use the same vibrant three-dimensional PVD technique as was prominently featured in the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone’s movement, reflecting a perfectly transitioning gradient of metallic rainbow tones. While this innovative process has been standardized, each set of hands will take on slightly different colours, essentially making each watch a unique work of art. The chronograph’s minute counter features a graduated scale of colours, where each minute is segmented by a different tone. The chronograph’s second counter is done in very fine concentric black and white lines, mimicking the moiré effect.
Putting chromatics in motion, the El Primero 1/100th of a second automatic high-frequency chronograph beating within has also received a distinctly Felipe Pantone makeover. The open star-shaped oscillating weight is finished in the same gradient rainbow 3D PVD as the hands. The most cutting-edge chronograph calibre in production and the only one to offer a true 1/100th of a second measurement, the El Primero 21 features an efficient construction of two independently driven regulating organs, beating at 50Hz and 5Hz for the chronograph function and timekeeping respectively, ensuring that the use of the chronograph has no effect on the timekeeping precision of the watch.
The artist’s touch goes beyond the watch. The DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone is delivered in a box that is shaped like an art book, with a design by Pantone modelled after his “PLANNED IRIDESCENCE” series. It is adorned with the same iridescent effect as the watch’s dial, though using an entirely different method. The finishing touch is a transparent plexiglass hardcover, making the box a striking centrepiece in its own right.
The DEFY Extreme Felipe Pantone is made as a numbered limited edition of 100 pieces and will be available exclusively at Zenith physical and online boutiques from October 27 at 14:00 CET.