Chances are when you hear the word Zodiac you think about star signs. What you probably don’t think about is a Swiss watchmaker, which is a shame, because Zodiac watches have been around since 1882. However, the company suffered during the so-called ‘quartz crisis’ in the 1970-1980s and never really picked itself up after that.
This is a travesty when you consider how good its watches actually are. Zodiac developed one of the first-ever commercial dive watches back in the early 50s, a worthy Rolex competitor.
Today Zodiac’s popularity has been restored to a degree, probably due to the fact that they were bought out by Fossil in the early noughties. Fossil held onto the obscure nature of Zodiac, but this wasn’t necessarily to its benefit. Some thought the watches were somewhat aggressive.
Zodiac (under Fossil) listened to this feedback and toned it down a little. Using in-house mechanical movements, the company launched variations of its Iconic Sea Wolf dive watch collection. Let’s peek into a Sea Wolf as a start.
Super Sea Wolf
($1,255 / £1,145)
With a pretty solid classic watch design and the trademark high-quality craftsmanship, the Super Sea Wolf still packs a lot of swagger due to the bold colour making a full-on statement.
In common with all Zodiacs, you get a reliable, stylish watch. Though the original version was one of the first-ever dive watches to be released, it was aimed at non-divers. Luckily that was over 50 years ago and the message has been re-tuned.
Even the packaging says something. It comes in a black cube that’s entirely no-frills and all class. The stainless steel case and matching band have a retro vibe, paying perfect homage to the original version. It’s a great everyday watch, being reasonably small at 39mm.
It has bright green-cum-mint-cum-teal-cum-lime (depending on what light you’re in) and orange rings framing the face. Not for everyone!
On the inside, there is automatic movement. When it’s fully wound, you can expect 42 hours of power. As it’s been developed as a dive watch, you’ll find it’s got a 20ATM rating, which isn’t bad but don’t expect to go to great depths.
$1,775 / £1,545
The most recent development is the Jetomatic, which features a 42mm case, a thick 20mm leather band and 10ATM water-resistance (an impressive 100m).
In creating the Jetomatic, the engineering team at Zodiac used the original drawings of the watch and some of its original elements to develop the new variant. It looks traditional in matt black with cream. It has a two-tone face with raised minute and hour markers in a luminous mint colour.
The Jetomatic is, therefore, something modern-day watch enthusiasts have been pining for. The craftsmanship takes the best of the classic and brings it into the modern-day. The best part is, materials, movement and design considered, this watch is reasonably priced, too. It has all the qualities of a much more expensive watch.
Aerospace GMT Limited Edition Chronograph
($1,695 / £1,475)
The original Aerospace came out in 1966 as another development of the Sea Wolf. Inside this 40mm stainless steel case is Swiss-made automatic movement. It wasn’t made as a dive watch, but it still has a 20ATM rating.
This limited-edition timepiece shows two timezones and, though its powder blue and bold orange colours might look modern, they have been a Zodiac feature for some time. You’ll see them on some variations of the Sea Wolf.
Zodiac says this is supposed to look like the sun beaming off the water. Clever, and so expertly executed it simply looks beautiful. A risky move given the colour choice, but it paid off.
Are Zodiac watches worth the price?
As a brand, Zodiac can be trusted. They’ve retained classic design and solid engineering. They simply upgrade, and therefore improve.
Zodiac might not be the most well-known Swiss brand, but they’re well worth considering as they are accurate, rugged and reliable. They continue to receive great reviews to this day.
Are there alternatives to a Zodiac watch?
If you like something that respects its history and has developed over time, you’ll also like the look of Junghans catalogue. Take a look at our review here.
If you want to try a brand that has a better reputation, and has been tried and tested, see our review of Frederique Constant watches and you’ll be sure to find something that suits you there. Timeless designs wrapped in rugged materials.
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