Swiss watchmaker Zenith recently celebrated music producer Swizz Beatz during an event in New York City. At the event, the new limited edition of six pieces reference 45.9001.9004/78.R581 Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Swizz Beatz watch was debuted, with one of them (the reference 45.9000.9004/78.R587 Unique Edition) being raffled off for charity. The American music producer is a long-time watch collector who has been working behind the scenes with LVMH’s (Zenith’s parent company) head of watchmaking Jean-Claude Biver for a while. Swizz Beatz himself decided that Zenith (which he has coined “the watch brand of confidence”) would be the watchmaker he would publicly associate himself with. His ambitions with the company seem far deeper than simply being the basis of a few limited edition timepieces, and I think it is interesting to see where his ability to anticipate popular cultural trends will have impacts on the future direction of the Swiss brand.
The New York event was a more formal acknowledgement of Swizz Beatz’s participation in the group’s efforts to translate the art of traditional watchmaking to today’s popular culture. Swizz Beatz considers himself mature in his appreciation of timepieces, opting for watches that have appeal on both the inside and outside – but never shying away from statement pieces. In an interview, Swizz Beatz described how like many in the music community, one’s watch tastes might be initially fueled by status-demonstrating models with diamonds, but later evolve into appreciating more subdued models that focus on technique and timelessness. That’s part of becoming a mature watch collector – though Swizz Beatz routinely advises his friends not to get aftermarket diamonds (as they negatively affect value).
Zenith has always held a special place for me. From a fairly young age, not long after high school, the brand occupied an elite status in my mind. More specifically, it was and remains in my top two favorite brands of all-time, the other being Grand Seiko. In my mind, they offered two intriguing sides to the same high-frequency coin. Where Grand Seiko possessed a certain austerity to it, a degree of refinement I found in few, if any other places, Zenith was quite the opposite. Zenith might be a Swiss brand, but it always seems to have an American-grade boldness to it, a panache matched by none, at least none with Zenith’s horological pedigree. And thus, my two favorite watch brands were chosen: a restrained and sophisticated dress watch and a wild, avant-garde sports watch. Why can’t one watch just be both?Zenith, to their credit, almost had an answer to my question already: the criminally overlooked A273, a classic chronograph that had a measure of civility to it. Yet the A273 itself had committed an offense: it was offered during the same basic time frame as the legendary tri-color El Primero. Because of this coexistence, it was doomed to be overshadowed by its more prolific brother, which continues to be available today. Unlike the El Primero, the A273 was powered by a beautiful, yet far less revolutionary, hand wound movement. There it remained, largely unnoticed even among Zenith collectors, awaiting the time it too would receive the El Primero.
The Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Swizz Beatz timepiece – in one item – seems to combine a wide range of the elements that Swizz Beatz has passion for in a watch. It begins with the in-house El Primero 21 automatic movement inside of the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). With two regulation systems, the watch uses a “hi-beat” 5Hz oscillator to regulate the main time, and a much faster 50Hz speed oscillator that makes the 1/100th of a second chronograph possible. Rather than merely make a new dial color for the limited edition watch, Zenith actually revised the dial of the Defy El Primero 21 for Swizz Beatz. This offers a welcome view of the movement, which is important to Swizz Beatz because in his opinion, the original and exclusive technology that Zenith features is among the strongest highlights of the brand.
44mm wide in 18k white gold with tastefully set diamonds is how Swizz Beatz wanted the watch dressed. When diamonds are an option on the table, it is really hard to say no. I personally like the combination of the round-cut stones (288 of them, about 2.55ct) set into the case with the larger (and more masculine) baguette-cut diamonds (44 of them, about 2.46ct) set into the bezel. Matching the orange accent colors on the dial is a white rubber strap with an orange fabric lining. Swizz Beatz considers orange one of his favorite colors, and more importantly sees colorful timepieces such as this his preferred choice to wear when in the mood to have fun.
Among the more interesting and distinctive elements on the limited edition watch are engraved statements on the inner strap, as well as on the outside of the case bezel. Swizz Beatz penned the statement “Never let people tell you what you can’t do, because the sky’s not the limit, it’s just the view.” The feel good, realistic, and poetic remark is indicative of the values a lot of Swizz Beatz’s music attempts to convey. More directly, the application of a statement like this on a watch is a tacit reminder that watches are often used by their owners as celebration totems. Swizz Beatz shared my own thoughts (using the same words) that watches make the best trophies. I couldn’t agree more, and nothing makes a personal trophy better than having your own message on it.
Thanks to Swizz Beatz for chatting with aBlogtoWatch. The retail price for the Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Swizz Beatz watch is $55,000 USD. zenith-watches.com