Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition Hands-On Operations

It might seem obvious to most people, but before we get too far into the weeds with this thing, it’s worth to point out that Land Rover and Range Rover are two distinct fake branches of the same off-road vehicle company. Although the former is the flagship workhorse behind the iconic Defender production, the latter is its more modern, more luxurious cousin, tailored for adventurous urbanite in the white-hot crossover SUV market. With that out of the way, I can say that the Zenith x Land Rover company collaboration (currently in its fourth generation) has long remained one of my favorite capsules in the watch world, as it routinely provides an *ahem* vehicle to explain the luxurious movement of otherwise classic Zenith replica watches. However, 2020 marks the first time Zenith has produced a collaboration inspired by the Land Rover – and if you’re a fan of the new 2020 Defender, you will going to like this one.   
Introducing the LVMH Group’s new Dubai showcase concept back in Jan. this new Defy 21 in keeping with the Land Rover’s classical design cues with a very interesting “super-matte” tool aesthetic that contrast sharply with the “rugged-chic” design sensibilities that defined the earlier Range Rover editions. While, the co-branding of those older watches has always received mixed reviews from watch fans and car fans. That is to say: 2016’s inaugural black ceramic aluminum Chronomaster edition straight-up says “Range Rover” on the dial under the Zenith, but this is a follow up correction in 2017 – a stealthy black (again, ceramic aluminum) Chronomaster with copper accents, inspired by the luxurious Range Rover Velar, and bearing only with a custom rotor and engraving on the caseback. The 2018’s Defy Classic, based on the Evoque, was again oh-so-close, but with an open-worked dial that looks like the cutaways on the Evoque’s futuristic rim and, again, might have turned away potential collectors. I personally love the Defy and would have been thrilled for a non-skeletonized silver dial in this collaboration, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s still a visually striking watch.
The 2020 seems to be a return to form for the ongoing series with the new Defy 21 Land Rover – a watch, moves away from the sport-luxe Range Rover (which, remember, is more of a luxury SUV than a true workhorse car) platform as its source material, and into the shoes of the original adventure mobile: the iconic Land Rover. Spontaneously, if you strip away all of the Range Rover’s many decorations, you’re left with one of the most rugged workhorses of all time, and that’s more or less what Zenith has done with this particular release; they’ve taken the classically purpose-built, pragmatic spirit of something, like a Land Rover Defender 90 and packed it into a sparsely branded, micro-blasted titanium case replete with matching dial. Now, there’s certainly no shortage of rugged titanium watches already out there, but the all-matte-everything treatment on this particular edition lends it a very interesting aesthetic that is more visually in line with a matte gray ceramic or carbon case – unless you get all the reassurance of durability that a proper modern metal case can afford. And the whole thing is not just ultra-light on the wrist, it’s dramatically soft and extremely visually stark, I mean that in the best possible sense. With the exception of the caseback, where there is again a minimal co-branded Wordmark and a cool custom rotor shaped like the new Defender rim, there is little sign otherwise that this is a special edition of any sort, which is great for watch fans who might not (yet) be the owner of the Land Rover.
Just don’t let the 44mm size get to you – as we’ve pointed out before, the modern Defy 21 case conceals some relatively compact lug-to-lug measurements, making this particular model comfortable to wear on my 6.5-inch wrist. In addition, the lightness of the case and the absence of any polished surface anywhere mask these modern dimensions, which otherwise tend to extend the presence of the watch on the wrist, no matter the size. Now, there are not currently many products in the Defy 21 collection with traditional dials, but this is certainly one of them, and it serves as a good reminder of just how purposeful the El Primero 9004 high-beat chronograph movement can be when it’s given a canvas that puts a premium on utility and legibility. In this case, all the markings on each accumulator are clear and crisp, can be easily read even while the chronograph hand is whipping around the dial – remember this is a 5 Hz high-beat chronograph with the ability to measure splits as precise as one hundredth of a second. Even with all that power-sapping frequency, nevertheless, the 9004 maintains a 50-hour power reserve, which is subtly laid out at in a sleek, horizontal slot at 12 o’clock on the dial. This is actually the Defy 21’s first linear reserve indicator, which is a complicated case where the line is traditionally indicated by a separate external hand.
The watch comes with two shoulder straps: one, a dark gray waffle-textured rubber strap that carries the overall package’s monochromatic theme quite well, and the other, colorful event has a sewn nylon fabric on the rubber core, giving the whole replica watch more personality and color contrast.
the whole watch a little more personality and color contrast. Thankfully, it’s these light orange details matched to elements on the dial and the rubber-ringed crown that preserve the watch’s sporty character and keep it from becoming an overly sober experience. I think that this is a watch that would also look excellent on a hearty suede or tan Horween leather strap – anything to accent those orange touches while preserving the tough, dynamic character.