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Is Zenith Better Value Than A Rolex?

It isn't just about price either. There's a real pedigree in Zenith that many aren't as aware of as they should be....
Credit: Zenith

I might start this article with stating that Rolex and Audemars Piguet have not done enough to keep me interested with their limited stock runs and withholding of new pieces. It’s quite annoying. I want to buy a Daytona, and I want to buy a Royal Oak. That is it.

Don’t sell me with a Cellini or a Code 11.59. If I want a dress watch, I’ll grab an A. Lange or a Patek. Something recognisable. I am not buying your watches to start a relationship or a journey. I certainly don’t want to have to spend upwards of $20k when doing so either.

This is where Zenith comes in. They’ve started with a voice of their own recently, proclaiming;

  1. Here I am
  2. Look at me in all my glory
  3. I am simply better than you

Who Are Zenith?

Zenith has graced us with several models over the years and you can see their evolution over time. Acquired by LVMH in 1999, Zenith really only started to find their legs about 10 years later (LVMH was too focused on making HUBLOT’s that explode, you see).

Zenith has secretly been famous with watch collectors for one main reason. Their movement was so good that they made it for the Rolex Daytona (one of the most sought-after watches ever). And they did it for 12 years. Lightning in a bottle some might say.

As a result, Zenith set out to perfect their movements.  By doing so, they got it down to 1/100th of a second. Pretty remarkable stuff if you ask me. When they started playing around with materials such as carbon, ceramic, rainbow dials and even skeletonizing itself the world began to take notice. Not bad.

Zenith Felipe Pantone

In 2021, Zenith came out with a bang – The Zenith Felipe Pantone. Made in collaboration with street artist Felipe Pantone, this watch was one of the most sought-after rainbow dials in the market… and only 100 were made.

They followed this up with magical novelties like the Defy Extreme. A more open works piece to show off their movements. And then they did it. They released the Chronometer Sport, which you might notice looks a lot like a Rolex Daytona.

But we forgave Zenith. They made the movement for 12 years, and now it’s almost impossible to get one. The watch community as a whole basically said, “You know what zenith? You do you, booboo.”

Zenith v. Rolex v. AP

Then they went a step further, and in 2022, they released the Zenith Defy Skyline which just might have drawn its inspiration from an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

And that brings us back to our intro. These are the two watches I want – a Royal Oak and a Daytona. Something that performs perfectly as a three hander, and the other that performs as a racing watch, and I genuinely cannot get my hands on either.

So Zenith are forgiven again. Not for drawing inspiration from other brands, but for simply digging so far into their archives that they were able to find similar items within their brand and bring them into 2022.

See many will call the Zenith Defy Skyline a Royal Oak knock off. But us real watch buffs will know that it draws its inspiration from the Zenith A3642. A watch released three years before the Royal Oak was ever conceived. Yes, that’s right, a 12-sided bezel, steel integrated watch that appeared a full three years before Genta’s iconic design was released.

Audemars Piguet is just a worse Zenith with better marketing. Maybe Genta was the one stealing ideas?

The Zenith Defy skyline packs a punch. A fully integrated bracelet with quick strap change, the El-Primero movement showing off the high beat 1/10th of a second movement. The third hand isn’t superfluous. It’s necessary. Just like it’s necessary to push the boundaries outside of the plain three handed movement, it’s absolutely necessary to have this housed in such a thin case.

This watch packs so much punch, that its price point makes you wonder why you would purchase a 41mm Datejust. Why you would go that extra mile for a 15202, or 15400 Audemars Piguet.

Zenith have managed to do in a span of 10 years, what Rolex and Audemars have been doing for over a century, and that is create something iconic in the blink of an eye.


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