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Introducing: The Zenith Defy Lab, With A Revolutionary New Oscillator System (Exclusive Live Photos)

Introducing: The Zenith Defy Lab, With A Revolutionary New Oscillator System (Exclusive Live Photos)

The Zenith Defy Lab, with another silicon oscillator system.

The watch into which this new technology has been placed is called the Zenith Defy Lab and Zenith describes it with pardonable hyperbole – “the solitary mechanical watch embodying both a development and an improvement of the sprung balance principle introduced in January 1675.” That’s the surmised date on which the Dutch mathematician, physicist, and horologist Christiaan Huygens published his discoveries on the utilization of a winding spring and balance wheel combination, in the Journal des Sçavans (the soonest known academic diary in Europe, which began publication in 1665).

The innovation of the balance spring was not Huygens’ separated from everyone else – the Englishman Robert Hooke came up with the idea at about a similar time – but Huygens today is by and large credited with having been the first to create a working mechanism.

Drawing by Christiaan Huygens of his balance spring and balance combination, as published in 1665. (Picture: Wikipedia)

The watch with balance spring wasn’t the principal precision mechanical timepiece; that honor goes to the pendulum clock, which Huygens additionally is credited with concocting (the primary pendulum clock to his design was completed in 1657). Notwithstanding, it was the balance and spring combination that made precision watches possible. A harmonic oscillator is one in which, when the oscillator is pushed from its impartial position (draping straight down, on account of a pendulum) it’s gotten back to its unbiased situation by some reestablishing force which – and this is the critical part – is consistently corresponding to the disturbing force. Set forth plainly, the harder you push a harmonic oscillator the harder it swings back; any individual who’s always pushed somebody on a swing knows the inclination. It’s the proportionality of the reestablishing force to the perturbing force that gives a harmonic oscillator its “normal frequency.”

A guitar string is a harmonic oscillator; regardless of how delicate or hard you pluck it, a G string will play a G note. Similarly, in a pendulum, regardless of how hard or delicate you push it, it will take a similar measure of effort to complete a swing (this isn’t totally obvious gratitude to a marvel called circular blunder, but the basic idea is the equivalent). In a watch, the reestablishing force is a balance spring, not the force of gravity; but rather once more, it’s a similar principle at work. The ability of a balance and spring to keep up a similar frequency regardless of the perturbing force, is known as isochronism.


A high-beat balance and balance spring, beating at 36,000 vph, manages the Zenith El Primero movement.

In a modern, all around made and changed wristwatch, you can achieve an every day variety in pace of under ten seconds – and at times much less, with a few companies like Rolex, Omega and Seiko ensuring significantly better performance. Nonetheless, the classic combination of a balance, winding spring, and switch escapement probably has characteristic impediments in precision.

In no particular order, magnetism, temperature change, and adjustments in position can all affect the pace of a watch, and the utilization of oils to lubricate friction focuses – especially the balance turns and the beds of the switch – is another source of rate variety. Every one of these factors imply that while a balance spring and balance ought to be perfectly isochronous, in actuality, the best performance is for the most part achieved when amplitude is kept above a certain base number of degrees.

Is an improvement possible? In a mechanical watch, an ideal arrangement would be one that isn’t susceptible to positional rate varieties, not affected by magnetism or changes in temperature, and one in which friction can be wiped out at the purpose of drive just as at the oscillator’s rotate focuses. This is a difficult task, but one which numerous manufacturers have attacked in recent years – especially with the increasingly widespread utilization of silicon for balance springs, switches, and escape wheels (just as other amagnetic materials).

The Zenith Defy Lab, And Caliber ZO 342

The Zenith Defy Lab (Photo, HODINKEE)

These new materials can produce significant improvement in rate stability, but of course better arrangements are a subject of active research and quite possibly the most intriguing is the oscillator framework that Zenith is utilizing in the new ZO 342 caliber.

Zenith caliber ZO 342.

Even a casual glance at the Zenith caliber ZO 342 caliber makes it obvious this is a very unconventional development. The most obvious differences are in what’s not there – no conventional balance, no balance spring, and no switch; there’s no conventional enemy of shock framework by the same token. In their place is a one-piece unit etched from a silicon wafer, which combines the functions of the switch, balance spring, balance, and switch in a solitary component, getting rid of, says Zenith, exactly thirty components (including the ruby beds, bed switch, balance spring, stud, and more).

This component – the Zenith Oscillator – is the brainchild of Guy Sémon, currently General Director of TAG Heuer. Sémon is a previous maritime pilot, who flew the Dassault Super-Étendard off French carriers before going to watchmaking, holds a PhD in physics from the Université de Franche-Comté, and has shown analytic algebra and geography . He’s notable in the watch lover community for his work on a number of cutting edge TAG Heuer projects, including the belt-driven TAG Heuer Monaco V4, and the  TAG Heuer MikroPendulumS, which utilized magnets as opposed to a balance spring as the reestablishing force on an oscillator.

Steps in the fabrication of the silicon oscillator at the core of the Zenith Defy Lab.

The wafer taking shape.

Silicon wafer, preceding etching.

The Zenith Oscillator is etched from a wafer of silicon, utilizing DRIE ( Deep Reactive Ion Etching ) and each individual unit is structurally and functionally identical to the others; this consistency in performance, measurements, and specifications is obviously a big favorable position in producing reliably reproducible outcomes (something that historically was a significant challenge in precision watchmaking).

The end result: the Zenith Oscillator, which encompasses the functions of the balance, balance spring, and switch in a solitary component.

So how can it work? To understand the oscillator, how about we see it in place, in the movement.

Zenith Caliber ZO 342, with Zenith Oscillator in place.

The whole oscillator is generally the distance across of the actual development (30mm for the oscillator alone) and is held in place in the development by screws going through the three leaflike lobes transmitting from the center. The circular external component, nonetheless, is allowed to vibrate back and forward. There are three incredibly fine silicon blades (or beams, as Zenith calls them, just 20 microns thick) reaching out from the center, to the internal edge of the circle, which play out a similar part as a balance spring in a conventional watch development: they act as springs, and are the reestablishing force on the oscillator. Quite possibly the most fascinating highlights of the oscillator is that the external circle is certainly not a straightforward, single ring; it’s part in three places, which are mechanically connected by a double silicon blade, reaching out from a L-formed terminal to each of the ring segments.

The three ring portions have oval spaces in them, which receive minuscule pins; these act as an enemy of shock framework, to forestall excessive sidelong displacement of the external ring segments.

You’ll notice that there is no switch. The part of the switch in a conventional watch is twofold. The first is to lock and unlock the escape wheel, permitting the stuff train to advance in a controlled manner, consequently advancing the hands. The second is to “take” a portion of the energy of the stuff train and use it to motivation the balance, keeping it swinging. In caliber ZO 342, the part of the switch is taken by – and you’ll need to look carefully to see them – brief teeth, projecting from an external arm of the oscillator. These are functional likeness the switch – additionally called an anchor – in a conventional watch) at about 4:00 in the picture below.

The Zenith Oscillator, as it’s delivered from the fabrication clean room. (Photograph: HODINKEE)

One other component of the oscillator worth bringing up is the component at about 9:00 in the picture above of the oscillator by itself. This is essential for a controlling framework, with the end goal of tweaking the vibration of the oscillator; the fork can be moved back and forward to control the oscillator frequency, with a greatest change range from one finish of its arc to the next, of about 300 seconds out of every day. Some kind of guideline framework is necessary because even with DRIE, you can never achieve absolutely perfect precision.

A fascinating aspect of the oscillator, is that you get various types of movement depending on how the pieces of the oscillator are connected to each other. The three blades, or “beams,” as Zenith alludes to them, which are connected to the three masses on the edge, flex along the side to provide a reestablishing force as the oscillator vibrates through six degrees of amplitude. Each mass is connected to its accomplice by two blades which, in conjunction, permit interpretation (sidelong development) in the level plane, but restrict development in the vertical plane. Also, on account of the anchor, the point shaped by the two blades connecting it to one of the fixed lobes of the oscillator, and to one of the edge portions, creates a rotational development of the anchor.

We are currently in a situation to view at the oscillator as it’s placed in the development, in relationship to the escape wheel.


As the oscillator vibrates back and forward, the arm carrying the teeth – which are what a watchmaker would call “beds” (a similar term is utilized for the gems on a switch in a switch escapement watch) – flexes. As we referenced before, perhaps the most fascinating aspects of the oscillator is that you get various types of development for various components, depending on how they’re mechanically coupled; here, the sharp point shaped by the two silicon blades produces a rotational development, which is the thing that permits the beds then again lock and unlock the escape wheel teeth. These thusly give the beds a little kick as they pass, communicating energy to the oscillator.


The escape haggle of the Zenith Defy Lab. (Photograph, HODINKEE)

The whole framework runs at a high frequency: 15 hertz, or 108,000 vph, with a force save of about 60 hours. Performance is remarkable; because there are no balance turns, nor a conventional spring, positional rate variety is essentially nil, and with just 6 degrees of amplitude, greatest (versus 300+ in a conventional balance) the framework shows a most extreme variety in pace of just ± 0.5 seconds more than 48 hours.

The Defy Lab is certified as a chronometer by the observatory at Besançon in France (not by the COSC, curiously, despite the fact that I don’t know whether we should add anything to that). Variety in rate because of temperature is controlled by a silicon dioxide coating (silicon is very touchy to temperature varieties and some type of temperature compensation is fundamental in silicon-based oscillators) which provides a variety of about 0.3 seconds per degree Celsius; Zenith says this is “about twice on par with the norm (ISO-3159, the worldwide chronometer standard) recommends.” Resistance to magnetism is excellent too, at about 88,000 A/m or 1,100 gauss.

The Aeronith Case

Aeronith is another case material, lighter than even carbon fiber.

Zenith is likewise debuting another material for the case: a composite called Aeronith. Aeronith is basically an aluminum froth; dissolved aluminum is filled a shape “where a procedure at first developed by Hublot changes it into an open pore metal froth,” according to Zenith. The voids in the froth are then loaded up with an “incredibly light polymer” and the outcome is 2.7 occasions lighter than titanium, 1.7 occasions lighter than strong aluminum, and even 10% lighter than carbon fiber. Between the exotic mechanism and the bizarre case, the Defy Lab has esthetics dissimilar to some other watch I’ve seen – wildly colorful, amazingly light, and distinctively animated.



Zenith has chosen a fascinating technique for the launch of the watch: there will be 10 pieces made, each with an extraordinary color scheme. Each has just been pre-sold, and Guy Sémon has said that the subsequent stage is to reduce the oscillator much further in size, to make it more suitable for a wider scope of watches and watch designs. The oscillator currently sits on an unexpected plane in comparison to much of the stuff train just as the origin barrel, and reducing the size of the oscillator with the goal that it tends to be placed on a similar plane as the going train and barrel would take into consideration a more slender movement.

The oscillator is very remarkable. The solitary thing I’ve seen that approaches it is the Senfine oscillator that Parmigiani Fleurier has been chipping away at , which has some comparative concepts; there are anyway significant differences between the two also, and Zenith and LVMH have figured out how to produce a completed, little arrangement produced watch just as a model. This is a new area for watchmaking; for the whole history of watchmaking, the physics of watchmaking has been overwhelmed by the classical mechanics of inflexible bodies, but the Zenith Defy Lab and caliber ZO 342 utilize the physics of compliant, or flexible, components in a way never done. The high frequency, low energy cost, and low mass of the oscillator framework give it a number of theoretical focal points over a classic switch, balance, and balance spring watch and LVMH is clearly in a situation to put those preferences on a practical balance as well.

Is it an absolute upset in watchmaking? Not totally. The basic principles are equivalent to for a conventional watch, to the extent that you actually have an oscillator, a main impetus, a reestablishing force, and a few methods for counting the oscillations and impulsing the oscillator (the escapement). Anyway in pretty much every other respect this truly is a dramatic development. It’s additionally a challenge to the estimations of conventional watchmaking – the mechanism is obviously as much a victory of cutting edge silicon fabrication and very sophisticated mathematical and computer modeling, all things considered of watchmaking.

But to the extent that it’s a mechanism that emerged out of a genuine mathematical and theoretical handle of the nature and behavior of harmonic oscillators, it’s truly intellectually exciting similarly that the pendulum and balance spring were four and more centuries prior – cutting edge materials science wedded to the oldest and most essential principles in the workmanship and science of timekeeping.

The Zenith Defy Lab: 10 extraordinary pieces, all pre-sold. Case, 44mm x 14.5mm, Aeronith composite aluminum polymer froth, water impervious to 5 climates/50 meters. Development, Zenith caliber ZO 342, with silicon Zenith Oscillator. 14 1/4 lignes (about 32.15mm) x 8.13mm, self-twisting, with 60-hour power hold; frequency, 108,000 vph. See more at zenith-watches.com .