Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition

The inaugural LVMH Watch Week hosted in Dubai a few weeks ago saw a bunch of headline-grabbing releases from Bulgari (Octo Finissimos all round!) and Hublot (hello new bracelet). TAG Heuer is holding fire for now, but even its announcement of a Heuer 02-powered Heritage Carrera is impressive.

And then there was Zenith. Historically, they’ve been a brand with major ups and downs, and are coming off a couple of up years with the Defy Inventor and the 50th anniversary of its hero, the El Primero. Sure, there’s a bit of trimming to do in the catalogue, but they’re in a pretty good place, and the brand’s LVMHWW — is that really the acronym? — releases reflect that. They include: a revamp of the Elite, a wonderful-looking women’s Defy and some limited editions.

Including the Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition. It’s an attractive, matte grey ceramic Defy 21 — powered by the impressive El Primero update that can clock times to within 1/100th of a second — with a closed dial and matching rubber strap. The general consensus is that it’s a pretty hot-looking watch, if a tad on the large side at 44mm (which is big, but not ridiculous for the genre). But there’s one topic that’s come up in every one of the dozen or so chats I’ve had about this watch in the last week. And that’s about the Land Rover tie-in. These comments have ranged from mild confusion to downright derision and scorn.

Zenith Defy 21 Land Rover Edition

To each and every one of these discussions, my response has been “Does that matter?” I don’t think it does. Look, the press release take on it is that this watch embodies the resilient spirit of the new Land Rover Defender. Do I buy that? Not particularly. If you’re charitable, the grey with orange highlights is in the right color palette, and the watch and the car are both luxury objects that tip their hats at ruggedness.

But really, that doesn’t matter. Zenith and Land Rover have a corporate partnership, and that means we get Land Rover limited editions every so often. I’m sure there are a few die-hard fans out there who are sold on the partnership, and some Zenith VIPs get a cool Land Rover drive day, but apart from that, no one is bothered. Except the people who enjoy complaining about (very) minor perceived wrongs.

Only there’s nothing wrong with it. We’ve now got a great-looking limited edition — one of a long list of great-looking watches with vague partnership affiliations. More than that though, it actually serves a useful purpose. Making a grey Defy 21 with a matte solid dial and a linear power reserve wouldn’t have made sense if it was introduced into their main collection. But as an LE, go ahead. What’s more, if it sells like hot cakes or the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, you can bet that we’ll see elements introduced into regular production. This is how watch designs are refined and developed. So really, you could argue that the testing ground of the Land Rover editions (and other limited-edition collaborations) leads to better watches all around.

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