- 42mm x 14.2mm (20mm strap width)
- Brushed stainless steel case with black DLC coating
- Black rubber strap
- Dial in sunray black
- 300m water resistance
- Helium escape valve at 2-o’clock
- Left hand crown
- Soprod C125 automatic winding movement with GMT module
- COSC certified chronometer
- Limited edition
- Year of release – 2023
- Price upon release – $2295 USD
The Zodiac Killer Is Dead
Since reviving the Sea Wolf in 2015, the Fossil Group’s Zodiac brand has struggled to convince die-hard collectors of vintage Sea Wolves and serious dive watch geeks that these remakes are The Real Deal. It’s an understandable demand of die-hards—even if it is mired in unexamined notions of authenticity and other vague nonsense—because the Sea Wolf holds a special place in dive watch history as one of the first commercial dive watches. This was in 1953, a year ahead of Rolex’s Sub and so on. The Sea Wolf was then and is now a big deal.
Nothing like actual history can weigh so heavily on attempts to recreate a legacy with some of the original’s authenticity intact. But what is authenticity? Culturally speaking, I’ve identified it as a quality one assigns to things that are somehow close to their own origins. A watch with one owner feels authentic because you are closer to its origins. A new old stock (NOS) watch is even more authentic. A watch like Rolex’s Submariner feels authentic because Rolex stayed in business, never stopped production of the Submariner, and barely changed the design.
But what to make of recreations from brands like Zodiac that went off the radar and reemerged in the twenty-first century under new ownership? It’s not a unique scenario. Yema, Alsta, Nevada Grenchen, Doxa, Aquastar, Aquadive are just a few others off the top of my head. There are many more, and each faces its own struggle to offer watches that feel authentic to their demanding and critical watch nerd customers. Remember, this is the information age, and everyone is an expert. As common as this problem of authenticity is, Zodiac faces what seems to me a rather specific set of challenges.
Regarding closeness to origins: Zodiac has struggled to endow the Sea Wolf with authenticity because Zodiac went out of business and then the horologically undistinguished Fossil Group bought the IP in 2002. The brand didn’t release a revised Sea Wolf for fifteen years. When they finally did, the QC was a little wonky, which is a no-no for a dive watch. Thus the balking of serious collectors and serious nerds, who care very much about these things.
There’s no easy path forward for a brand like Zodiac. Zodiac can’t undo the gap in its history, or the more recent missteps. All they can do is do better, consistently, always and forever as a Swiss watch brand must or bear the brunt of the unexamined judgements of internet experts.
All this is a long-winded way of asking one simple question: Is this Zodiac a sufficiently well made dive watch that it can be thought to inhabit the exalted place that the original Sea Wolf inhabited in the middle of the previous century? If so, it’s The Real Deal.
My answer is yes. If you want to know why, read on.
The Zodiac Savior
Marketing marketing marketing, that’s all we ever hear anymore from Swiss watch brands. It’s annoying, let’s admit it. The CEOs are marketing experts, and they spend as much on marketing marketing marketing as they do on making watches, and now we have to listen to people go on about which movie star wore which watch to which red carpet event and so on with the bullshit that has nothing to do with the watch on their wrists—which, you should know, are often on loan anyways. I know, because I sometimes have to send review samples off to some Hollywood jeweler for polishing and bracelet sizing, usually just before an awards show. My inbox is flush daily with emails I don’t read about who wore what where, and it’s all very antithetical to what people like me turn to watches for.
And who endorses this Super Sea Wolf? Andy Mann, a person who actually explores the planet and helps conserve it, too. I don’t need Andy’s endorsement, of course, but I’m sure he does, and that’s totally fine with me if it means this champ can keep doing his thing for Earth on our behalf.
Thank the horological gods that Zodiac has, importantly, not over stressed marketing and endorsements, but instead has diligently been focusing on how to make their flagship model, the Sea Wolf, a better dive watch. Indeed, Zodiac is now offering The Real Deal. This watch has so many cool features going for it that I almost don’t care about the legacy it must live up to. It’s an excellent dive watch in its own right, and it’s interesting, and it’s not all that expensive when you consider what you’re getting for the money.
Why This Watch Kills
First of all, it looks badass in black with stark white and orange. Secondly, it’s a GMT, so it’s all suggestive of travel and adventure, but more importantly useful for someone like me who actually SCUBA dives in other time zones than the one I live in. It’s got a killer movement from Soprod that’s COSC certified, meaning it is an authentic chronometer. It sports brilliant Super-LumiNova (previously a weak spot for Zodiac Sea Wolves), and on top of that it has some very special features too.
The LHD crown, meaning on the left hand side, is what initially drew me to this watch. I am a fan because they’re useful for motorcycling, as the crown doesn’t dig into my left wrist which is busy working the clutch and counter steering my Ducati into a mid-life crisis. LHD dive watches are just cool. Tudor makes the LHD Pelagos, which is badass, and now Rolex offers its GMT Master II in LHD with green, which is probably the coolest thing that Rolex has offered since they invented sliced bread in 1924. That Zodiac has offered an LHD Super Sea Wolf Pro Diver simply puts them into rad company, and it feels like the kind of thing that the innovative Zodiac of the past would have done. That kind of bridges the historical gap, in a way, I think, maybe. Sure, why not?
The helium escape valve I can do without, but whatever, it’s not hurting anything, and it makes this watch useful for someone who is saturation diving. If you’re a saturation diver, awesome, and if you’re not, the asymmetry of the extra crown is pretty cool the way the entire Omega 600M and 300 Seamster line is cool that way, with its huge helium escape valves sticking out all askew and funky.
Seriously, for an LHD to have a threaded helium escape valve…that may be a first? I’d have to ask Jason Heaton, he’d know, but I can’t come up with an LHD dive watch with one other than this, so it’s one of those cool things that’s unique, useful for maybe like two people ever, and otherwise another superfluity on a superfluous thing. All good there.
Ceramic bezel insert, yes. Serious kit all around, really. Nothing missing that you’d get with a Rolex Sub, other than the bling, which kind of makes the ceramic Rollies a little yicky to this internet expert’s digitally informed tastes. I like the polished ceramic bezel insert on this Zodiac, tho.
The Horological Intelligentsia Can Shut It
What this watch represents to me is a kind of proof that Zodiac is not f’ing around. They’re serious, and they’re making serious dive watches for really competitive prices, and they’re also styled after and reminiscent of one of the most important dive watches in history. I can’t see why Zodiac shouldn’t be fully absolved of whatever sins they may or may not have committed to so greatly offend the horological intelligentsia.
And let me be even more frank: I wasn’t sure Zodiac was entirely there yet. But when I gazed on this specific watch I thought to myself: Well, that certainly seems like The Real Deal. I’m thrilled to report—for the sake of watch nerds everywhere who depend on such authenticity for that feeling that the world is not entirely nuts—that in person this watch lives up to every millimeter of scrutiny you or I might throw at it.
Apparently it’s also a limited edition in collaboration with Huckberry, but that seems entirely unimportant. I hope Zodiac issues a serially produced model soon, maybe in titanium, maybe without the DLC, maybe with room on back for me to engrave my own name. That way I can ride my Ducati with it on my left wrist and feel that much more like the middle-aged badass I seem to think I am.