Zenith’s Defy 21 Felipe Pantone watch is wearable kinetic art
Zenith and artist Felipe Pantone announce the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone, a highly chromatic and visually striking timepiece for the 21st century
The Defy 21 Felipe Pantone builds on Zenith and Felipe Pantone’s first collaboration, in 2020, when the Swiss manufacture offered the façade of its main building as a canvas to the Argentinian-Spanish artist.
A digital native, Pantone’s themes across his paintings, interactive kinetic objects and massive public installations are dynamism, transformation and computer-age revolution. Vibrant, electric and distinctly retro-futuristic, his approach involves relinquishing all pre-existing notions of art to facilitate a freely creative environment.
The artist’s use of modern and unconventional tools to realise his colourful takeover of its manufacture, in Le Locle, was picked up on by Zenith, a future-facing brand whose rich history and traditional roots are helping it build the future of watchmaking. An unexpected but coherent collaboration was born.
Now, for the second phase in this collaborative partnership, Pantone has reimagined Zenith’s most advanced chronograph to date, creating a ‘visible spectrum concept’ that is at once a feat of exceptional watchmaking prowess and a piece of wearable kinetic art: the Zenith Defy 21 Felipe Pantone.
‘From the start, the concept was to transform this spectacular piece of watchmaking into a wearable work of kinetic art,’ explains Pantone. ‘Time and light converging into a single object.’
Just as Felipe Pantone constantly explores novel techniques to create his bold works of art, Zenith also pushed boundaries of innovation when it came to executing Pantone’s version of the Defy 21, developing methods previously unheard of in watchmaking.
Among the watch’s most notable features are the multi-coloured bridges, a signature trait in Pantone’s work. Using the principle of ‘interference colours’ (an optical chart that identifies minerals in thin sections using a petrographic microscope), the coating on the bridges reflects a gradient of metallic rainbow tones.
Employing silicon particles as a surface treatment on a movement to produce a spectrum of perfectly transitioning colours, each piece takes on slightly different colours, essentially becoming a unique work of art during the process. Requiring months of trials, specialist skills and machinery to achieve this rainbow effect, the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone, limited to just 100 pieces, is the first watch to use this innovative kind of three-dimensional PVD coating technique.
The central hour and minute hands are no less extraordinary, taking on an intentionally distorted look, resembling the lightning bolts that figure in much of Pantone’s work, with a rainbow gradient of colours applied through the same process as the movement’s bridges.
The moiré optical effect produced by thin, alternating white and black bands is another recurring theme in Pantone’s paintings and sculptures. This op-art effect has been miniaturised and reproduced on the top bridges and portions of the dial of the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone, using fine laser-engraving and lacquering techniques so precise that they provide an optical illusion of fluidic movement in the contrast of the stripes. The open dial is just as dynamic, with a mix of gradient and block colours on the markers and counters.
Even the inanimate, external parts of the Defy 21 Felipe Pantone case have been revisited by Pantone for a dynamic overhaul. The black ceramic watch features a grid pattern engraved on the bezel, and ‘FP#1’ engraved on the four corners of the case, denoting ‘Felipe Pantone El Primero’. Allowing the various details of the chromatic dial and movement to stand out, the artist opted for a black textured rubber strap with a warped grid motif.
For those who prefer an even bolder look that matches the striking tones of the dial and movement, a second rubber strap is offered, with a central insert that goes from dark grey to a flash of all the colours in the spectrum depending on the light. The colours are not actually embedded in the strap, but are the result of iridescence caused by the surface of the material and how it reflects light.