WATCH REVIEW:

Borrowed Time: Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression


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.

Margarita, anyone?

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 Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression provides a lot of value with its historical significance, smart and distinct design, and affordable price tag.

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 bezel is made from mineral glass providing a nice color and depth.

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.

The stainless steel case has a brushed finish.

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.

The watch is officially sized at 40 mm by 14 mm but wears slightly thinner.

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.

Aloha!

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.

6 Responses to “Borrowed Time: Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression”

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  1. Randy Rogers

    I think there is potential for the Brand, it’s niche and their own History, but higher Quality and Finish are the route, whether the initial Sea Wolf, which had the World’s 1st Uni-directional Rotating Bezel and at ‘660’ had twice the depth as the Blancpain ’50 Fathoms’ of 1953. Historically, Zodiac when sold in the United States was under the Edward Trauner Co.’s distribution and had as a sister Brand, Vacheron Constantine, this in the early 1970’s. A re-birth was attempted in the early 1990’s and although the Astrographic was omitted, the new Collection did include Red Point and Silver Tip Chrono Collections, moving backward towards Sea Wolf and Silverpoint II’s, as well as a Swiss Formula Collection which borrowed heavily from the TAG-Heuer Formula-One. Cosmetically and Finish wise, I feel they were superior to the current product, and this generation, had a tapered Case that created it’s own Crown Protector, something neither on the Original nor this latest version, but since Panarai in 1998 a Feature that adds both Function and Value to a product in this category. Zodiac does have potential in this new millennia, but Fossil must separate it and it’s distribution, thought process. and recognize that the category represents in most cases (pun intended) a Collection with-in a Brand, not the focus of the Brand, whether Rolex, Breitling, to Oris or Alpina , there is but Panarai, who is getting confused as well with Tourbillions, or Ulysee-Nardin, there is room, if focused and positioned correctly!

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  2. David Johnston

    I have a what I believe is a first gen. Seiko divers watch. Except for for a small scratch on the sapphire crystal which is almost unnoticeable, the watch was worn maybe once and then put away. Occasionally in the past,I would take it out to wind(by shaking).this was bought around 1978 new. It no longer has the traditional rubber wristband. Do you think the owner of the Zodiac you are displaying and describing would do an even swap as I’m not interested in the watch any longer except as an investment. Cordially David Johnston

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  3. Nice watch. I can’t see why a divers extension would be ‘prototypical’ though, surely it’s just ‘typical’?

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