Haute horlogerie marque Zenith is shaping the future of horology with Defy Lab and its new oscillator – an invention that challenges the operating principle of mechanical watches invented by Christian Huygens in the 17th century
The Defy Lab was unveiled 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 effective teamwork by the brands composing the group’s Watch Division, and overseen by Guy Sémon.
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 now optimised to the greatest extent, it has never been called into question, but rather has been 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 breath-taking 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 – 10 per cent more than that of the El Primero – despite a frequency that is three times higher.
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. (To illustrate, 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).
The Defy Lab 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 per cent of its power reserve.
The latest offering from Zenith negates the need for oil, as no more contact means no more friction or wear, and thus no need for lubrication.
The timepiece’s 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.
The Defy Lab enjoys triple certification, including chronometer certification displayed 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 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. 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.
The mechanism of this watch opens up whole new vistas and enters a new dimension, representing no less than a reinvention of the Huygens principle with another mechanical system.
It is the first watch with a case (44 mm in diameter) made from Aeronith – the world’s lightest aluminium composite material – a new material for which a patent has been filed by Hublot’s R&D department. 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 per cent lighter than carbon fibre.
Already pre-sold to collectors, Defy Lab is presented in the form of 10 exceptional gift boxes to mark the event. Each of these unique gift boxes contains a personal invitation to attend the launch press conference, a personal invitation for the client to visit the Manufacture Zenith to receive his watch – this notably includes an entirely organised stay and a personalised welcome by Messrs Jean-Claude Biver, Julien Tornare, and Guy Sémon – and an exceptional tasting to celebrate history and heritage, with the world’s most prestigious beverage from the grape of the vine.