Updated: Aug 31, 2022
In their marketing, Zodiac has been using a tagline that speaks to us here at Spirit of Time - "Small batch isn't just for whiskey." By that, they mean that they only produce a few thousand watches each year. Despite the low volume, they are riding a bit of momentum of late. This could be due in part to their colorful, limited editions, and more perhaps recently to their dedication in relaunching their core lineup in key markets. Cutting across both points though, there's been a revival of what the brand means in the greater marketplace and an awakening to what they currently offer.
Zodiac has a rich history spanning back over 140 years. For a majority of that time, the brand was family owned. They launched the first dive watches alongside Blancpain and just before Rolex. Think about that and how the greater watch community reveres the Submariner and Fifty Fathoms (for good reason). It's been said that the Zodiac Sea Wolf was the first dive watch to feature the first fifteen minutes highlighted on the rotating bezel! That's worth celebrating from Zodiac's perspective and a bit of unknown watch history for a large swath of folks. The thought exercise isn't meant to compare those three brands, but lay claim to some dive watch provenance.
And in fact, that might be where a lot of people currently place the brand - thinking about back catalog Sea Wolf. Those watches were purpose built and accessibly priced, making them legends in their own right and quite charming. A handful of collectors might point to the bold designs of the Sea Dragon lineup, fully embracing the funky case shapes and color pops of the time, which carried through the ensuing quartz crisis, and ultimately Zodiac changing hands several times before finally landing in Fossil Group's care.
When the Super Sea Wolf was relaunched in 2015, it started making waves within the enthusiast community. This was a heritage watch brand with real diving chops, breathing new life and made available at a price point that was, by industry standards, accessible. The groundwork was also laid by Fossil's acquisition of Swiss Technology Production (STP). Zodiac now had access to in-house production of an ETA 2824 clone (with arguably superior specs), big energy from a series of low production, high fun-factor releases and an eye toward reintroducing itself to the watch world at large.
This is where the Super Sea Wolf Skin Automatic plays an important role. As the closest relative to the original Zodiac Sea Wolf, this non-limited, traditionally styled piece makes up the backbone of today's catalog. For as cool as the limited editions are (watermelon or Saved by the Bell!), these small runs aren't going to make their way onto everybody's wrists. Nor does a brand build their entire DNA on them. If you want a dive watch (I say this knowing this particular Super Sea Wolf is not ISO certified) with its own design language, incredible history, and modest proportions - well this is where you can start looking.
Let's get to some details and tech. The watch is 39mm in diameter, 47.5mm lug to lug and 12.5mm thick. The dial retains Sea Wolf inspiration with large, triangular hour markers at 12-3-6-9, dauphin hands and an attractive, yet subtle texture that sort of looks like a pebbled effect. The orange color pop is reflected in the lume pip surround, Super Sea Wolf dial text and the tip of the sweeping seconds hand. Additionally, the lume is orange. Beating inside is the STP 1-11beating at 28,800 bph, automatic winding with hand winding, hack seconds and 44 hours of power reserve packaged into 200 meters of water resistance. It's available with a stainless-steel bezel and matching jubilee bracelet, or as we have it here, a black, ceramic bezel insert on an Italian rubber strap fitted into 20mm lugs.
So where does the Super Sea Wolf Skin Automatic shine? The obvious nod to its heritage styling, so hot at the moment, is well executed and just plain attractive. Its dimensions are just perfect for this writer and despite the obvious advantage to large dive watch dials, this just proportionately works. We wrote recently about how big dive watches are just a great wearing experience, but in terms of daily driving and comfort, the Zodiac is right in the sweet spot without sacrificing legibility. While restrained compared to the many limited editions, the orange nuances add personality and the reality is, this will pair with absolutely any strap you throw at it. This is vintage inspiration with modern sensibilities. If you have always lusted after a vintage Sea Wolf but actually want to wear the watch anywhere and everywhere, they've got you covered.
Room for improvement: the lume. It's a really fun idea to go with orange lume and I will admit to lighting it up and running to darkness to catch it myself. A neat party trick for sure. The Super Sea Wolf would benefit from additional applications though, as it fades much too quickly for my preference. The supplied rubber strap is high quality, comfortable and vanilla scented. It's a tad long, but that's a "me" problem. I did find the pin and buckle clasp to be a bit loose when inserted into the selected strap hole, though it never released. But the old adage goes, "you hardly ever buy a watch for its strap" and as you can see, it paired beautifully with several different combos. All of this comes together for a list price of $1,195.
Getting back topside, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin Automatic is a wonderful reinterpretation of the original Zodiac Sea Wolf, closely tied to its origins while embracing modern technologies. I didn't mention the price until nearly the end. Most conversations about the watch seem to address it as a value proposition. This isn't wrong, with the specs laid out, for a Swiss dive watch with the history it has, the watch clearly is. But I didn't want to take away from just discussing the watch and appreciating it on its own merits. This watch carries its weight against others in the same category and likely at even 2x or 3x the price. But from technical and aesthetic perspectives, I truly enjoyed this watch and think many others would feel the same, without even a discussion about price until somebody decided they needed to consider purchasing it.
Keep your dive mask defogged, because from what we understand, big things are still on the horizon for Zodiac Watches and the Super Sea Wolf line.
For more information and to purchase, visit https://www.zodiacwatches.com/en-us/