Zenith Defy Revival A3648 Brings Divers Back to the Collection

Zenith Defy Revival A3648 Brings Divers Back to the Collection

In recent years, Zenith has streamlined its various product families while at the same time introducing a range of styles, materials, and colorways to appeal to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. What has been conspicuously absent from the manufacture’s lineup for more than a few years, however, has been an honest-to-gosh, purpose-built dive watch. At Watches & Wonders Geneva 2024, Zenith filled this long-unoccupied niche in its portfolio — with the Defy Extreme Diver models, which we cover in detail here, and with the modern incarnation of the vintage watch that serves as their template, the Defy Revival A3648. 

Zenith launched the Defy collection in 1969, the same milestone year the venerable Swiss manufacture made its most significant contribution to horological history with the debut of El Primero, the world’s first self-winding, high-frequency chronograph caliber. The Defy Ref. A3648, the fledgling family’s first dive watch, hit the market the same year. As I explore in much more detail here, the Defy collection underwent numerous changes over the years, and dive watches as a genre largely disappeared from Zenith’s product portfolio by the end of the 20th Century. In recent years, Zenith has produced a handful of Defy Revival editions, resurrecting notable models from those early days, and the latest is one that it’s safe to say almost no one was expecting: the modern iteration of Zenith’s first Defy dive watch.

Measuring a period-appropriate 37mm in diameter and featuring the angular, octagonal steel case of the original Defy family, the Defy Revival A3648 features a stationary 14-sided bezel positioned above a rotating steel bezel with a dive scale on an orange insert made of sapphire. The black markings on the orange insert matches the color scheme of the vintage watch’s scale, though the insert on the vintage watch was made of Plexiglas. Also evoking the unconventional design of the original A3648 is the placement of the screw-down crown at 4 o’clock, helping this historically influenced dive watch achieve the same water-resistance rating as its ancestor: 600 meters, a level that was quite impressive back in 1969 and still uncommon in dive watches today. (And go figure: 600 meters is also equivalent to 1,969 feet, making for a serendipitous reference to the Defy’s launch year.)

According to Zenith CEO Benoit de Clerck, whom I spoke to shortly after the watch's launch in Geneva, it's actually tested to an even higher level of robustness. "We test all of these watches to 750 meters," de Clerck says, "which is a big difference in terms of pressure if you are a diver, almost 40 more pounds per square inch of pressure on the watch. The fact that 600 meters is equivalent to 1,969 feet is something the watch's creators knew 55 years ago when it launched — not marketing, but reality. Of course, this was very complicated to achieve back then, even to get instruments that could make such a measurement. That's why you can still find some vintage models of this watch with both measurements on the dial: 600 meters and 1,969 feet."

The watch boasts this level of underwater robustness despite its case being constructed to incorporate a sapphire pane in the caseback, a visual bonus that is hardly ever found on a watch designed to withstand such depths of pressure — and, of course, one that was not present on the 1969 original. "To Zenth, the open caeback has always been a signature, representing quality and advanced technology," de Clerck explains. "Not many watch brands have an open caseback [for their dive watches], because it definitely creates a weak point. But we were unafraid to add it. The way the case is assembled is very technical and difficult, but it's constructed in a way that the more pressure is put on it, the more it clinches and contracts upon itself; the higher the pressure, the deeper the watch goes, the more resistance is locked in. Of course, the [sapphire] glass is also very, very thick."

The caseback window offers a view of the movement, Zenith’s automatic Elite 670 Caliber, a three-hand descendant of El Primero with a date display at 4:30 and a 50-hour power reserve. Like previous models in the Defy Revival series, the Defy Revival A3648 comes on a five-link steel bracelet with a folding buckle, modeled after the bracelets made by the Swiss firm Gay Frères in the ‘60s and ‘70s for many Zenith watches. The Zenith Defy Revival A3648 carries a retail price of $7,700.

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