Zenith’s exploration of kinetic art

The Manufacture in Le Locle joins forces with the artist Felipe Pantone and enters a new chromatic dimension in the art of watchmaking.

By Arthur Frydman

View of the facade of the Zenith factory in Le Locle
© Zenith/LVMH

En 2021, the Manufacture unveiled a world first. In collaboration with the Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone, Zenith presented its avant-garde project to redesign the facade of its historic headquarters in Le Locle like a giant painting. An ambitious medium for Pantone, known for works that explore how shifting the light spectrum affects color and repetition, with light being “the very essence of visual art”, in the words of the former graffiti artist graduated from the Beaux-Arts de Valence. Through this architectural facelift of the Zenith building, Felipe Pantone deploys his art as a meditation on how we consume visual information drawing inspiration from kinetic artists like Victor Vasarely and Carlos Cruz-Diez who both worked on the movement by producing a sensation of vibration when the position of the spectator changes in relation to the work.

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Extending this association, the brand and the artist also created a watch – this was the first time that Zenith called on a contemporary artist – designed as a work of art on the wrist with the multicolored Defy 21 Felipe Pantone chronograph whose design was based on the principle of interference colors with a coating composed of silicon particles to produce a crystal clear color spectrum. A successful horological and artistic union which has therefore led the two protagonists to collaborate again together with the recent launch of the limited edition – 100 copies – called Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone.

Optical illusions taken from the works of Pantone

This new collection reference builds on the Defy 21 model released last year but through a new exploration of kinetic art. The piece required hours of development in order to find the innovative technique that permeates the whole spirit of the watch which displays a chromatic hologram that only appears under certain lighting conditions. The artist was inspired by the optical illusions of his “Planned Iridescence” series which includes holographic works in which the use of color is combined with metallic elements and mathematically designed shapes to generate optical mirages.

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Made of blued mirror-polished steel, the imposing 45 mm case features faceted lines that bring an additional sculptural dimension to the Defy Extreme. The color permeates everywhere through a game of transparency that takes place where you least expect it, like the dial whose sapphire components appear translucent and metallic. Thus, depending on the orientation of the wrist, the watch produces an unsuspected jet of colors and geometric patterns, based on the chromatic palette of the artist, making each model a unique work of art.

On the mechanical side, the Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone is powered by the El Primero 1/100th of a second high-frequency automatic chronograph caliber, also redecorated by the artist. A 3D PVD coating displays an unprecedented rainbow gradation that can also be found on the hands as well as on the chronograph’s graduated color scale offering a different shade for each minute.

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Zenith’s exploration of kinetic art

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