Now, we’ve reviewed a number of Zodiac watches over the past few years, but today’s review marks something different. In the past, their releases were rather limited numbers, and once they were sold, they were gone. To address the interest, there’s a new “Core” lineup that is being introduced, containing watches that should be more broadly available. The first watch we’ve seen from this new range is the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin.
You might think that “Skin” appellation at the end is a bit weird, but it makes sense if you understand some of the history around dive watches. For more on that, this article covers things pretty quickly. In that article, you’ll see a beat-up dive watch that looks an awful lot like the watch we’re reviewing today. That’s because Zodiac is actually a brand with a fairly long history, having kicked off at the same time as heavyweights Rolex and Blancpain. To put it more concretely, they trace their history back to 1882. If you really want to take a deep dive into the history of Zodiac watches, we’ve learned that VintageZodiacs.com is a very robust resource.
Suffice to say, Zodiac has a pretty good back catalog to get into. No surprise, then, that you’ll see a number of vintage Super Sea Wolf watches that have the indices that we have here on the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin. As I spent time with those triangles at the compass points, I came to think of it as being a “toothy” dial. You know, like a shark that you’d never hope to encounter while you’re off diving. Then again, if it only has four teeth, maybe you’re ok. The other hour indices are triangular, though more elongated. Still, it goes a long way to giving this watch a vintage feel, standing out from other divers you might encounter.
Another way those indices stand out is in the color of the lume used. Here, it’s a lovely orange tone that we just do not commonly see. On a dive watch, that’s probably for a good reason, as the glow is not as bright as, say, the traditional green. As someone who doesn’t get much deeper than a local pool, I’m ok with it. You may note that the glow fades a bit more quickly as well, but I feel that’s more due to the hue than anything else. Sure, a thicker application might help there, but then you’re getting into something that would feel out of place on the dial, not to mention really recessing the numerals. In other words, you would lose the feel of this watch.
What is the feel of the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin? Well, as a skin diver, it’s meant as something that’s part of a “minimal equipment” kit for getting into the waters, along with some flippers, a mask, and maybe a snorkel. To that end, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin feels like a stripped down approach to a diver. At just 39mm diameter (and 12.7mm thick – including the sapphire crystal), it is much more compact than the independent dive watches you may have banging around in your watch box. For that, it does still hit a 200m WR rating, which means you’d have no worries going in the water with it, provided that crown is screwed down.
Should you want to time your dive (or even your parking meter) you’ve got your standard dive timing bezel (with the requisite 15-minute markings) done up courtesy of a ceramic insert in the bezel. This material should hold up worlds better than the standard steel or aluminum insert, as well as bringing more lume to the party. While it’s a slender bezel (keeping with that stripped-down theme), it’s still plenty legible, and I am rather keen on it for being done up in a matte finish, rather than the glossy look we’re more accustomed to from a ceramic insert.
All of this is set on the steel case of the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin, but when you look at it straight on, you don’t actually see much of the case, other than the lugs. The bezel is ever so slightly larger than the case diameter, so you get this effect of it looking almost like an all-dial watch that has lugs springing out from it. Of course, viewed in profile, you see the case and it’s brushed surfaces (great for hiding fingerprints). And flipped over, you’ve got a multi-finish solid caseback. Here, the SSW script shows up down the middle, but there’s still some room there for a skilled engraver to mark a special occasion, should you be so inclined.
As I’ve said, I’m not really a diver – but I enjoy the robustness of a tool watch like a diver, as well as liking the style. So when it came time to wear it, I did just that. It was a work day watch, it was a cooking watch, it was a weekend watch. I even had it on with a suit at one point (for that, you might want to swap the rubber strap for a leather one, or even their universal bracelet). In short, I did everything short of yard work with it (because that’s not how we treat loaner watches here at WWR), and it worked great. The compact size just felt right on my wrist, and the large indices and broad handset really kept legibility at the fore.
We should talk about the movement inside the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin. Here, it’s the STP 1-11, a movement that we’ve seen in a number of Zodiac models. It’s labelled as being an in-house movement, and we agree with that assessment. Why? Well, you see, Fossil Group owns both STP and Zodiac, so it’s all in the family. For those thinking back to your first purchase of a Fossil at the mall, put that away for this movement. It’s a movement that they’ve been making since 2006, and it truly is a Swiss automatic. In other words, this isn’t your teen self’s Fossil. No, here you’re stepping into the world of Swiss watchmaking, and all that that entails.
How well does the STP 1-11 hold up? Of course, our short time with the loaner doesn’t really paint the picture, but there were no noticeable issues with accuracy in our time with it. And given that they’ve been making them for over 15 years means they should have things ironed out. Of course, should something happen, Zodiac would be able to service your movement for you. At the moment, we believe that’s only done in Switzerland, but we’re hopeful that we may see more regional support that allows you to get your watch back more quickly.
To summarize, yes, I do rather like the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin. Sure, it’s brothers with the brightly colored bezels and dials get a lot of attention (rightly so), but I do find myself drawn to the toothy indices of the dial, and the broad pointers of the handset (as opposed to the keystone hands used on some of their other models). It’s great as a compact everyday watch, and with the 20mm lugs, fitting other straps (or their bracelet at $295) should be a cinch, making for a versatile – and capable – watch. It’s also a solid way for someone to get into the waters of Swiss watches, while not breaking the bank. At $1,195 it’s firmly in entry-level luxury territory. And given the limited availability prior to the introduction of the Core lineup, it’s likely a watch none of your watch friends will be bringing to the local get-together. Unique, vintage looks, Swiss-made, and ready for anything – what’s not to like? You can check them out, and even order one online, directly at zodiacwatches.com.
Want to hear even more about Zodiac? Check out this interview over at the Scottish Watches podcast
Tech Specs from Zodiac
- Sku: ZO9212
- Case Size: 39MM
- Strap Width: 20MM
- Movement: Automatic
- Case Color: Silver
- Case Material: 316 Stainless Steel
- Bezel: High-polish, scratch resistant ceramic insert with lume markers
- Movement: In-house STP 1-11
- Strap Color: Black
- Dial Color: Black
- Strap Material: Rubber
- Platform: SUPER SEA WOLF
- Water Resistance: 20 ATM
- Closure: Single Prong Strap Buckle
- Strap Inner Circumference: 200+/- 5MM
- Battery Type: No Battery
- Interchangeable Compatibility: 20MM