Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Felipe PantoneMarch 11, 2021
Zenith and Felipe Pantone collaborate to create the manufacture’s first watch designed with a contemporary artist: Introducing the Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone, a highly chromatic and visually striking timepiece that brings a different notion of art to watchmaking.
A global sensation in the world of contemporary art, Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone has reached his star in becoming one of the brightest talents in the world of contemporary art. Instantly recognizable, polarizing and never leaving observers indifferent, Felipe Pantone’s work is coveted by art-lovers and those with an eye for radical design. Zenith and Felipe Pantone began their collaboration in 2020, when the Manufacture offered the façade of its main building as a canvas to the contemporary artist. Now, Felipe Pantone has reimagined Zenith’s most advanced chronograph to date, created an object that is at once a feat exceptional watchmaking prowess and a piece of wearable kinetic art.
The result from this unexpected yet coherent collaboration is the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone, a strikingly colourful creation that is all about playing with frequencies – visually and mechanically. With its 1/100th of a second El Primero 21 chronograph movement beating at an extremely high frequency of 360’000 vibrations per hour for unrivalled precision, the Zenith DEFY 21 is a logical choice of canvas onto which Felipe Pantone could express his “visible spectrum concept”, where all the detectable frequencies of light and its refracted colours come into play with the highest-frequency chronograph in production. Limited to 100 pieces, the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is a new kind of collaboration for Zenith and watchmaking at large.On his first watch collaboration, Felipe Pantone shared “I’m thrilled and humbled to be able to give my personal touch to a watch for the first time, and especially with a manufacture that I deeply admire for its innovation and daringness. From the start, the concept was to transform this spectacular piece of watchmaking into a wearable work of kinetic art, where time and light converge into a single object. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the result.”Just as Felipe Pantone constantly explores novel techniques and tools to create his bold works of art, Zenith pushed the boundaries of innovation when it came to executing Felipe Pantone’s version of the DEFY 21 – to the extent of having to develop new techniques previously unheard of in watchmaking. One of its most striking features are the multi-coloured bridges, a signature trait in Pantone’s work. Using the principal of interference colours, the coating on the bridges reflects a gradient of metallic rainbow tones. Requiring months of trials and finding the appropriate solution with specialists to achieve this rainbow effect, the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is the first watch to ever use this innovative kind of three-dimensional PVD with silicon particles as a surface treatment on a movement to produce a spectrum of perfectly transitioning colours. While the process has been standardized, each piece will take on slightly different colours, essentially becoming a unique work of art.The central hour and minute hands are no less extraordinary, taking on an intentionally distorted look resembling the lightning bolts that figure in much of Pantone’s work with a rainbow gradient of colours applied through the same state-of-the-art process as the movement’s bridges. Both the unusual shape and scale of the hands as well as the precise application of the gradient PVD so that the colours transition perfectly between the different segments of the hands proved far more challenging to create than anyone could have anticipated. But the engineers at Zenith refused to compromise even the littlest details. In the process, the development of this collaborative edition allowed Zenith to think out of the box and accomplish several world-firsts in watchmaking.The moiré optical effect produced by thin alternating white and black bands is a recurring theme in Felipe Pantone’s paintings and sculptures, which has been miniaturized and reproduced on the top bridges and portions of the dial of the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone, using fine laser-engraving and lacquering techniques so precise that they provide an optical illusion of fluidic movement in the contrast of the stripes. The open dial is no less dynamic, with a mix of gradient and block colours on the markers and counters.Even the inanimate, external parts of the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone case have been revisited by Felipe Pantone for a dynamic overhaul. The black ceramic Zenith DEFY 21 features a grid pattern engraved on the bezel, and “FP#1” engraved on the four corners of the case, denoting “Felipe Pantone El Primero”. Allowing the various details of the chromatic dial and movement to stand out, the artist opted for a black textured rubber strap with a warped grid motif.For those who prefer an even bolder look that matches the striking tones of the dial and movement, a second rubber strap is offered, with a central insert that goes from dark grey to a flash of all the colours in the spectrum, depending on the angle of light. The colours are not actually embedded in the strap, but are the result of iridescence caused by the surface of the material and how it reflects light.Fit for the work of art that it is, the Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone comes in a presentation box that mimics a hardcover book. On its cover is a miniaturized painting that Felipe Pantone created exclusively for this special series, complete with a signed certificate.With the DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone 100-piece limited edition, Zenith is deftly merging the worlds of contemporary art and watchmaking to produce a watch that is as much a high-precision instrument as it is a piece of kinetic, wearable art. The DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone will drop on March 15 2021 at Zenith Boutiques around the world as well as on the Zenith online shop.
We often hear that the watch industry is lost in conservatism, turning around in circles, rehashing glorious vintage watches. Well, today, you won’t be able to say so. Certainly, the watch you’ll discover here isn’t for the faint-hearted, nor it will be unanimously liked. Surely it will create divisions, surely it will be seen as polarizing, surely it won’t leave observers indifferent. Surely, this is the goal here, as street artist Felipe Pantone has reimagined Zenith’s frenetic chronograph with his highly personal chromatic eye. Meet the striking, polarizing Replica Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone. Felipe Pantone (born 1986) is an Argentine-Spanish contemporary artist. Pantone’s work is based on kinetic art, oversized installations, graffiti and design, characterized by the use of bold flashy colours, geometrical patterns and Op Art elements. His combinations rely on bright, gradient colours (neon colours, white and black), the 1980s, geometric patterns and colour bars used on TV. Felipe Pantone’s work is today coveted by art-lovers and those with an eye for radical design. Forbes magazine called his aesthetic “the intersection of Blade Runner and PhotoShop.”So what happens when you give a Zenith DEFY 21 Chronograph to a man like Pantone…? This, an unexpected, radical, striking, far from conventional, totally segmenting watch that won’t leave anyone cold. The typical “hate or love” watch. We won’t blame anyone here for finding this over the top, and we’re sure this is exactly what Zenith was looking for. The base for this Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is well known, being this watch, which also served as a base for multiple collaborations, with Land Rover or Carl Cox.Starting from a black ceramic case of 44mm, the differences are obvious, such as the grid pattern engraved on the bezel, or the “FP#1” engraved on the four corners of the case, denoting “Felipe Pantone El Primero.” What’s even more blatant is the work done on the dial and movement, both fully reimagined by Pantone with his personal codes. One of its most striking features are the multi-coloured bridges, indexes and sub-dial – all coated with a unique process that reflects a gradient of metallic rainbow tones (executed with three-dimensional PVD with silicon particles).The central hours and minutes hands are no less striking, with a distorted look resembling the lightning bolts found in Pantone’s work, again with a rainbow gradient of colours. Finally, the bridges have a moiré optical effect produced by thin alternating white and black bands, miniaturized and reproduced by laser engraving on the top bridges and portions of the dial of this Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone.The movement of this Zenith DEFY 21 is also special. Visually first, as once again some of the bridges have been coated with the bold rainbow gradient effect. But also mechanically, since this movement isn’t your typical El Primero calibre. While known for its high frequency of 5Hz, which is here used for one of the two regulating organs (the one in charge of timekeeping), there’s a second ultra-high frequency regulator which is devoted to the chronograph only, beats at 360,000 vibrations/hour (or 50hz) and thus allows displaying chronograph indications to the 1/100th of a second. The central seconds hand of this El Primero 9004 rotates once per second. And to keep the two independent escapements running smoothly, the movement is also equipped with two barrels providing a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. The movement is chronometer-certified by Time Lab.The Zenith DEFY 21 Felipe Pantone is delivered with two straps. First is a relatively classic black rubber strap with a grid pattern, recalling the bezel. For those who want the full chromatic look, the watch also comes with a second rubber strap, with a central insert that goes from dark grey to a flash of all the colours in the spectrum, depending on the angle of light. The colours are not actually embedded in the strap but are the result of iridescence caused by the surface of the material and how it reflects light.
Felipe Pantone is an Argentine-Spanish contemporary artist known for his kinetic art, installations, graffiti and design in bold colors, geometrical patterns and optical illusions. Zenith tapped into his talent for creating a limited edition that is a bold piece of wearable mechanical art.
Zenith’s collaboration with Felipe pushed the watchmakers to innovate to meet his vision for this watch by developing new techniques. The multi-colored bridges have a coating to reflect a gradient of metallic rainbow tones. To achieve this rainbow effect, Zenith utilized three-dimensional PVD with silicon particles as a surface treatment on the movement to produce a spectrum of perfectly transitioning colors. The central hour and minute hands take on a distorted look resembling lightning bolts that utilize the same surface treatment for rainbow colors as the movement’s bridges.