Zodiac is a watch brand that I’ve long admired, but for one reason or another, my overall wrist time has been limited over the years. That changed a few weeks back when I found an opportunity to bring a Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression along on a personal vacation to the Big Island in Hawaii.
As you likely know, the Zodiac Sea Wolf was one of the very first modern dive watches, debuting in 1953, the same year as its more prevalent contemporaries, the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Now situated as the most expensive brand underneath the Fossil Group umbrella, Zodiac has slowly-but-surely built out a line of accessibly priced and handsome dive watches with automatic movements.
One thing I’ve noticed since the Super Sea Wolf line was relaunched a few years back is that it has mainly focused on building out the niche (but aspirationally cool) segment of heritage-focused divers. Not only are the models vintage-inspired, they feature a variety of extremely funky colors that recall the cult era of beach shows filled with pretty people and neon lights like Miami Vice and Baywatch. They draw plenty of attention, feature guilt-free price tags, and have enough mechanical potency to satisfy even the strictest watch pedant. To put it simply, these watches are just plain fun and can make your annual beach trip a more memorable experience.
The model I received (Ref. ZO9250) featured bright green lume on an all-black dial with a cushion bezel topped by a piping of the same green lume at the zero marker on the bezel. There are a lot of small details at play here that aren’t immediately noticeable without a loupe or direct sunlight. What I originally thought was a pitch black dial actually features a sunburst decoration that can be clearly seen when immersed in water. The partially skeletonized hands feature a brushed finish on the outline and the indexes are split between the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock spots with an enlarged, escutcheon shape that is completely filled with the green C3 SuperLumiNova and a polished border while the remaining eight indexes are fully polished with a slight facet cutting down the middle and a square of lume to top it off. There’s an unobtrusive date window at 3 o’clock that rounds out the dial and, above 6 o’clock, is a small script denoting its automatic status and its depth rating of 200 meters.
At 40-by-14 mm, the watch is nicely sized for dressing up or down and wears surprisingly thin on the wrist. The case features a brushed finish while the long lugs are polished. In fact, the overall lug length, which surprised me a bit at first, actually aids in the watch’s overall fit. Even those with smaller wrists can appreciate how the bracelet seamlessly fits into the lugs and allows the watch to slightly hang while still feeling snug on the wrist. The five-link, stainless steel bracelet is quite comfortable although that didn’t stop me from fantasizing about throwing a black-and-green NATO on it, which, with 20 mm lugs, shouldn’t be hard to find.
The 120-click bezel provides a nice turning action and is constructed from mineral glass while the sapphire crystal has been coated in an anti-reflective material. The crystal is slightly domed providing it with a nice vintage appeal. In fact, a lot of the design decisions here, from the jubilee-esque bracelet to the shape of the screw-down crown, seem motivated by desire for the vintage look. There are countless brands out there that have attempted to build out this “heritage diver” category to mixed results, but the consistency in which Zodiac has turned out its colorful concepts is fairly rare and they’ve done a great job of distinguishing themselves through that decision.
One of the more surprising aspects of the watch is its clasp. It’s a very functional double folding clasp but it comes without a prototypical divers extension. What it does come with, which is something you rarely see in watches at this price point, is a dual spring-loaded enhancement that allows you to have some flexibility with the sizing. It’s particularly helpful during the summer months when your wrist may swell due to the heat and humidity leaving your wrist in the awkward zone between sizes. It’s a thoughtful addition that increases the watches functionality during the season you’ll wear it the most.
Inside the watch is one of the Fossil brand’s STP 1-11 movements with a 44-hour power reserve (an improvement on the similar ETA 2824-2 with a 38-hour reserve). It’s protected by a closed, screw-down caseback that features an engraving of the brand’s logo in relief surrounded by a grained texture.
Although this particular Super Sea Wolf was first released in 2016, its colors and clever ingenuity give it a refreshing vibe that should provide enjoyment to its owner again and again. Although my trip to Hawaii only lasted a week, the memories of wearing the watch while walking on the beach will be hard to ignore the next time I’m looking to pick up a dive watch.
In conclusion, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression would be a good fit for anyone that is in the market for a dive watch and wants something that’s different from your standard desk diver and stands out in an overcrowded sport watch segment while retaining the functionality and heritage that made it an icon in the first place. The price, at $1,295, is rather attractive as well.