Few watch brands have built their modern identity on historical watches as thoroughly as has Zodiac. Its lineup today includes five primary series — the Super Sea Wolf, the Astrographic, the Jetomatic, the Sea Dragon, and the Super Sea Wolf 68 — all of which find their roots and inspirations in the brand’s golden era, spanning the 1950s through the 1970s. Most notable from this period was Zodiac’s release, in 1953, of the original and now iconic Sea Wolf — a watch that would compete with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, Rolex Submariner and, later, the Omega Seamaster, among many other famous dive watches. This watch allowed the Zodiac brand to compete with some of the biggest players in horology for decades, until the dawn of the Quartz Crisis, and set the foundation for the success of many future series it released during the period.
The watch we examine today, the Super Sea Wolf 68, is based on one of these models. First released in 1968, the Super Sea Wolf was the diving-superior follow-up to the original Sea Wolf. With a water resistance up to 750 meters, a massive case even by today’s standards, and highly visible accents and colors on the dial, the Super Sea Wolf was the next-generation diver, aimed at the professional. The contemporary re-creation of the original piece, the Super Sea Wolf 68, works very hard to pay homage to the original designs of the late 1960s and ‘70s, while at the same time bringing the watch into the modern age with new materials and refined finishing.
The modern watch, like its predecessor, is large. With an almost tourneau-like shape, the watch sits prominently on the wrist, with a steel case measuring 44 mm in diameter and 16 mm thick, while also using hooded lugs to cover parts of the bracelet, which is available in a steel Milanese style or as a leather or rubber strap. Its bezel is very innovative in that it must first be pressed down before it can begin moving in its unidirectional rotation; it’s something like a horological “child safety lock,” except here it is to help divers properly note their oxygen levels and diving times to avoid underwater catastrophe.
The dial, like the bezel, is available in a variety of colors and accents, but on each you’ll find an outer raised minute ring, an inner sunburst dial (one limited edition uses a black textured dial) with luminescent rectangular hour markers, and a date window at the 3 o’clock position. The watch uses a simple hour hand, a snakehead-like minute hand, and a rectangular “lollipop” style seconds hand — all of which are powered by the Fossil Group-developed automatic STP 1-11 movement (the group’s equivalent to the ETA 2824-2), which holds a 44-hour power reserve. Prices for the Super Sea Wolf 68 begin at $1,395, and the watches are available through the Zodiac website as well as at other retailers.
As far as the modern design compares to the vintage, it seems Zodiac did its very best to maintain as many design features from the past as it could — while also improving upon the manufacturing quality as contemporary practices allow. For this reason, it’s easier to point of the few differences than compare all the similarities. For instance, the vintage models often used day indicators alongside the date window, with their backgrounds colored a bright orange, similar in color to the minute hand. The bezel on the vintage model tended to be slightly thinner, and the dials were simply black, with green and orange accents, rather than the sunburst metallic blues and blacks available in the modern editions. The modern watch also has a higher dive rating — 1,000 meters compared to the vintage model’s 750 meters — a trait that is exceedingly rare in a sub-$1,500 professional-grade dive watch.
Yet despite these differences, it’s obvious in the watch’s design that Zodiac took the upmost effort to preserve and re-create the most important details of the historical watch. From the size and shape of the case, to the distinctive snakehead minute hand, to the rectangular hour markers and thin, push-down bezel — the “68” stands out as an expertly crafted vintage-inspired piece. And for Zodiac, a brand that in recent years has remade itself as one dedicated to resurrecting its golden age in a modern manufacturing framework, this expert homage speaks to its success in this endeavor. Furthermore, its relatively low price for a high-quality tool watch, coupled with its interesting history, makes it a very competitive piece in today’s growing vintage-inspired market.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.