Zodiac – Sporty Watches With a Long History
Zodiac watches have been popular with watch enthusiasts for over 100 years. The traditional Swiss brand introduced the Sea Wolf, one of the first ever diving watches, in 1953. Current models offer great quality at fair prices.
Innovative Designs, Reliable Tech
Zodiac dates back to 1882. In the beginning, the company produced pocket watches, and only later began manufacturing wristwatches.
Zodiac made a name for itself with the Sea Wolf diving watch, which debuted in 1953, even before the Rolex Submariner. The timepiece was one of the first commercially available diving watches and went on to become an icon of the brand. The Sea Wolf received even greater attention in 1971, when it featured on the wrist of the alleged Zodiac killer in the Hollywood classic, "Dirty Harry," starring Clint Eastwood. Needless to say, the Sea Wolf is still an integral part of the Zodiac catalog today.
Another well-known Zodiac line is the Aerospace collection, home to the Aerospace GMT. Introduced in 1960, the watch is based on the Sea Wolf but features an additional hour hand and the characteristic GMT bezel with a 24-hour scale.
Over the decades, Zodiac has created a variety of collections, including the Jet-O-Matic, Sea Dragon, Super Sea Wolf, and Sea-Chron. The Super Sea Wolf and Sea-Chron lines are still part of the Zodiac catalog. All Zodiac watches share excellent value for money.
Into the 1970s, Zodiac fitted their (now vintage) mechanical models with movements from a variety of manufacturers, but most Zodiac models made up into the 2000s are powered by quartz movements. Since 2012, the brand has increasingly turned to mechanical calibers. More recently, they've been utilizing calibers from the Swiss movement manufacturer Soprod, which, like Zodiac, is a member of the Fossil Group.
Reasons to Buy a Zodiac Watch
- Swiss watch brand established in 1882
- Swiss quality at affordable prices
- The Sea Wolf was one of the world's first diving watches
- Extraordinary, recognizable designs
Prices at a Glance: Zodiac Watches
|Zodiac model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Features|
|Super Sea Wolf GMT, ZO9402||2,300 USD||GMT function, green & blue bezel, Hodinkee Edition|
|Super Sea Wolf GMT, ZO9411||1,800 USD||GMT function, green & white bezel|
|Super Sea Wolf GMT, ZO9403||1,800 USD||GMT function, orange & white bezel, white dial|
|Aerospace GMT, 752-925||1,760 USD||GMT function, steel bezel|
|Triple Date Moonphase, 742-908||1,650 USD (pre-owned)||Weekday & month, pointer date, moon phase display, vintage|
|Aerospace GMT, ZO9401||1,540 USD||GMT function, orange & blue bezel|
|Sea Wolf||1,540 USD (pre-owned)||Diving watch, Bakelite bezel, vintage|
|Super Sea Wolf World Time, ZO9410||1,430 USD||World time function, red bezel, silver dial|
|Super Sea Wolf, ZO9266||1,480 USD||Diving watch, blue bezel & dial|
|Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Black, ZO9276||990 USD||Diving watch, black bezel & case|
|Super Sea Wolf Two-Tone, ZO9271||825 USD||Diving watch, two-tone, black bezel & dial|
|Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression, ZO9250||770 USD||Diving watch, black bezel|
How much does a Zodiac watch cost?
The most affordable entry point into the world of Zodiac watches are pre-owned vintage quartz models of various designs, available for between about 100 and 330 USD. Prices for modern diving watches in the Sea Wolf collection begin at approximately 770 USD new. That amount will get you a Sea Wolf ref. ZO9250 with a stainless steel bracelet, for example.
Vintage variants of the Sea Wolf and Aerospace GMT are more expensive and will set you back between about 1,000 and 4,400 USD, depending on the condition and edition. Modern Aerospace GMT models change hands for roughly 1,650 to 2,200 USD.
Zodiac also offers some chronograph models. In 2023, the brand presented a new edition of its 1960s diving chronograph, the Sea Chron, priced at approx. 2,170 USD. As of mid-2023, a vintage Sea Chron changed hands for roughly 4,000 USD on Chrono24. Sea Wolf chronographs from the 1970s are rare and will set you back some 5,000 USD.
When it debuted in 1953, the Zodiac Sea Wolf was a pioneer among diving watches. The watch appeared just after the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and just before the Submariner, with which Rolex officially entered the emerging diving industry in 1954. Compared to the competition, however, the Sea Wolf, with a diameter of just 35 mm, was quite small, but also notably more affordable and thus more accessible to a wider audience.
The Sea Wolf had a unidirectional bezel with a 60-minute diving scale. Depending on the version, the bezel was made of Bakelite or stainless steel. The Bakelite versions were water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and were equipped with an automatic caliber from A. Schild. Slightly modified variants from the early 1960s were powered by the caliber 70-72, which offered a balance frequency of 21,600 vph and a 40-hour power reserve.
The dial of the Sea Wolf features Arabic numerals nestled within large triangular markers at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock, while the remaining hours are marked with simple line indices. Daupine hands put the finishing touch on the Sea Wolf's design.
A vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf like the ref. 722-946 will set you back between 1,150 and 1,850 USD, depending on its condition.
Modern Zodiac Sea Wolf Variants Since 2010
Do you like the look of the classic Sea Wolf, but want a larger watch for every day? If so, you should take a look at the Super Sea Wolf from the current catalog. Zodiac renamed the Sea Wolf in 2010, which is now known as the Super Sea Wolf.
The Super Sea Wolf 53 ref. ZO9213 and the Super Sea Wolf 53 "Skin" ref. ZO9214 are visually very similar to their vintage forerunners. But these new stainless steel watches measure 39 mm in diameter and are thus significantly larger than the vintage models. The ZO9213 comes on a three-piece link stainless steel bracelet, has a stainless steel bezel, and is powered by the Soprod caliber 1-11. The movement oscillates at 28,800 vph and offers a 44-hour power reserve. As a reinterpretation of the classic Sea Wolf, which had an acrylic crystal, the Super Sea Wolf 53 ref. ZO9213 is fitted with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
This model demands an average investment of around 1,400 USD in new condition.
The Super Sea Wolf 53 "Skin" ref. ZO9214 is technically identical to the ZO9213 but comes on a rubber strap and has a black bezel. The watch features orange accents on the tip of the second hand, the "Super Sea Wolf" inscription, and the triangle at 12 o'clock on the dial. Overall, the combination of colors and materials lend this reference a decidedly sporty character. The price is comparable to that of the ref. ZO9213.
Overview: Zodiac Super Sea Wolf
- Zodiac's cult watch since 1953
- Visually very similar to the original
- 39-mm stainless steel case
- Super Sea Wolf 53 "Skin" with orange accents
- Automatic Soprod caliber 1-11
The success of the Sea Wolf was so great that in 1960, Zodiac used the watch as a model for the Aerospace GMT. The manufacturer replaced the diving bezel with a 24-hour Bakelite bezel and added another hour hand to indicate the time in a second time zone. The brand effectively advertised the watch with the slogan, "twice the time for your money." Like the Sea Wolf, the vintage Aerospace was made of stainless steel and approximately 35 mm in diameter. The Aerospace was also water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft).
Zodiac also redesigned the dial for the Aerospace, turning to applied square or rectangular hour markers instead of baton and triangular indices and offering two color options, black or white.
Zodiac offered the Aerospace GMT with an array of different bezel color combinations, including black and red, blue and red, green and black, and gray and black. Anyone who didn't like the color selection at the time could also opt for a variant with a satin-brushed stainless steel bezel. There were also rare two-tone versions of the Aerospace GMT that are now highly sought-after by collectors. Zodiac fitted the watch with the caliber 75B, which beats at 21,600 vph and offers a power reserve of 40 hours.
A vintage Aerospace GMT will set you back between 1,250 and 4,300 USD, depending on its age, condition, and design.
From Aerospace GMT to Super Sea Wolf GMT
In 2019, Zodiac introduced the Super Sea Wolf GMT collection, a fascinating line of successors to the Aerospace GMT that are almost identical to the vintage models in terms of looks. All models in the collection measure 40 mm across, feature a sapphire crystal, and are water-resistant to 20 bar (200 m, 656 ft).
The watch was available in stainless steel and two-tone versions from the start. Like the original from the 1960s, the stainless steel reference ZO9405 features the applied indices and bar-shaped hands that already distinguished the Aerospace GMT. The second hour hand remains red – a striking contrast to the black dial. The two-tone ref. ZO9406 is technically identical to the stainless steel model, only the bezel, crown, and center links of the bracelet are gold-plated. Both watches come on a three-piece link stainless steel bracelet.
The ETA caliber 2893-2 sets the pace inside early editions, but the current Super Sea Wolf GMT is powered by the Soprod C125. Both movements oscillate at a frequency of 28,800 vph and provide the watch with a date display at 3 o'clock.
References ZO9405 and ZO9406 each demand an investment of approximately 1,400 USD in new condition.
Zodiac released a special, colorful edition of the Super Sea Wolf GMT (ref. ZO9403) in 2020, limited to just 282 pieces. The watch comes with a white dial, which features applied indices with a splash of orange just beyond their outer edges. The color combination on the dial matches the blithesome white and orange bezel, making this Super Sea Wolf GMT the perfect summer watch. The watch is powered by the ETA caliber 2824-2 and changes hands on Chrono24 for roughly 1,600 USD.
If you prefer the color green, take a look at the ref. ZO9411. The watch, known as the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT Neon Lime, is limited to 250 pieces and features bright green design elements where the ref. ZO9403 features orange. The model is powered by an ETA caliber and will set you back about 1,170 USD in new condition.
Together with the American watch blog Hodinkee, Zodiac created the Super Sea Wolf ref. ZO9402, which features a blue and green bezel and is limited to 182 pieces. The timepiece is powered by the ETA caliber 2893-2 and will set you back about 2,250 USD new.
Super Sea Wolf GMT: Details
- 40-mm stainless steel case
- Wide range of dial colors available
- Water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft)
- Limited editions available
- Automatic ETA caliber 2893-2 or Soprod caliber C125
Sea Chron: The Zodiac Diving Chronograph
Zodiac offered diving chronographs under the name Sea Chron as early as the 1960s. Vintage models are relatively rare and highly sought-after by collectors, thanks to their design. The typical Sea Chron features a tricompax dial in reverse panda style, with subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, and a tachymeter scale at the edge of the dial.
The classic Sea Chron is made of stainless steel and measures approximately 39 mm in diameter. The watch was originally water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), but the water resistance cannot be guaranteed for a watch of this age. As was common in the 1960s, vintage Sea Chron watches were fitted with an acrylic crystal. Zodiac equipped the watch with the high-quality Valjoux 72 caliber, which was also used in much more expensive watches like the Heuer Autavia.
Expect to pay about 4,300 USD for a well-preserved Zodiac Sea Chron from the 1960s.
New Sea Chron in 2023
Zodiac introduced two new models of the visually appealing Sea Chron chronograph in early 2023. Like many manufacturers of well-known classic chronographs, Zodiac decided to significantly enlarge its Sea Chron. Thus, the current variants have a case diameter of 42 mm, a lug span (lug-to-lug) of just over 50 mm, and a thickness of 16.5 mm – dimensions well-suited to larger wrists. The watch is water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), just like the original, but instead of an acrylic crystal, the new timepiece features a modern sapphire crystal.
The new models are powered by the automatic Sellita caliber 510 b, which beats at 28,800 vph and boasts a 62-hour power reserve. Both versions of the Sea Chron are offered on a five-piece link stainless steel bracelet.
Ref. ZO3604 features the classic reverse panda design with a white tachymeter scale at the edge of the dial, while ref. ZO3605 has a blue dial with black subdials. Expect to shell out just over 2,150 USD for one of these new Sea Chron models.
About the New Sea Chron 2023
- 42-mm stainless steel case
- Classic Sea Chron design inspired by the 60s
- Water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft)
- Sapphire crystal
- Automatic Sellita caliber 510
The History of Zodiac
The history of Zodiac dates back to 1882, when the company was founded by a young watchmaker named Ariste Calame in the Swiss town of Le Locle. Calame's small workshop focused on the manufacture of watch components.
In 1908, Ariste Calame's sons took over the company and renamed it "Zodiac," and under their management the company expanded rapidly and began producing wristwatches. Even then, Zodiac created innovative designs and used high-quality materials like stainless steel and gold.
In the 1930s, Zodiac made a name for itself with the first waterproof wristwatch, the Zodiac Autographic, which was one of the first automatic watches with a power reserve indicator.
During World War II, Zodiac produced watches for the Allied Forces and quickly became known for making rugged and reliable timepieces. After the war, the company continued its success and added more innovative models to its product line. The 1950s and 60s saw the introduction of the Zodiac Sea Wolf, a diving watch that was water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft). The Sea Wolf was a symbol of reliability and precision for divers around the world. Zodiac has been part of the Fossil Group since 2001.