Optical illusion meets chromatic art in new watch from Zenith and Felipe Pantone

Felipe Pantone and Zenith watch
The artist and the new Zenith Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone
(Image credit: Zenith)

Art and horology unite once again in the latest collaboration between Zenith and Felipe Pantone, with the launch of the limited edition Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone.

The new piece builds on last year’s Defy 21 with a new exploration of optical art; innovative techniques imbue the watch with a subtle shimmer, the result of a radial hologram only appearing in the right lighting conditions.

Pantone takes a cue from his ‘Planned Iridescence’ series in the design, with the juxtaposition of metallic bold colours and strong geometric shapes inspiring the optical illusions that play out on the watch itself. ‘I truly appreciate the craftsmanship dedicated to watches, and the creative aspect. I like the fact that there’s a mechanic and artistic history and evolution. I love to take that into account and to be able to be part of it,’ Pantone says.

close up of watch dial

(Image credit: Zenith)

‘Felipe is known for working in different fields, such as motion, lights and colours,’ adds Romain Marietta, Zenith product development and heritage director. ‘The Defy collection is all about these elements. High frequency in motion, edgy aesthetics that capture the light, and highlighting our manufacture movements through colours. There are so many parallels which is what we absolutely love about this collaboration. The Defy Extreme case that we are using for this special edition is the perfect vessel for such a collaboration.’

Crafted from mirror-polished stainless steel, the watch is imbued with prisms of colour throughout its design. It is an effect that also plays out on the dial, with elements of sapphire creating a metallic effect, and geometric patterns when angled under the light. The chromatic shimmer, achieved by a transparent sapphire disc which acts as the dial’s base, is subjected to a physio-chemical process that creates minuscule engraved patterns.

Zenith watch on purple strap

(Image credit: Zenith)

‘At the end of the day, watches are utilitarian objects and they need to tell the time,’ Pantone says. ‘Also, I’m quite a watch geek and I follow what’s being released. Meaning I try taking into account the history line, trying to offer something that makes sense within the watch world, not only in the art world. That combined with my own history and vision affects the design and hopefully makes it unique.’

Adds Marietta, ‘One of the main challenges is definitely to adapt the scale of work from Felipe Pantone’s (often very big) to ours (small, dial, proportions). Felipe expresses his art in large format and we do it in micro format. When you reduce the scale you tend to lose the vibrance. We had to find new processes to obtain the effect we were going for. We literally had to push our boundaries, exactly what Defy is all about.’


Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.