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The 5 Best Zodiac Watches - Stunning & Colourful Swiss Timepieces

Posted on August 27 2021

The Best Zodiac Swiss Watches

Not all watch brands get the recognition that they deserve.

We all know the Rolex Submariner. It's the most famous dive watch on the planet. The Submariner made its debut in 1954.

But Zodiac Watches beat Rolex by a year.

In 1953 they gave the public the first purpose-built divers watch - the Sea Wolf. And other great dive watches followed. In the 1970s their Super Sea Wolf model was the watch of choice for America's Navy Seals.

Unlike the Submariner, these great watches would fade from memory. The brand changed hands and suffered bankruptcy. And by the turn of the new millennium, there was no Sea Wolf watch in production.

Zodiac wasn't the same brand that had released those groundbreaking dive watches.

But recently that began to change.

The Zodiac that we remember is back. So let's find out more.

A Brief History of Zodiac Watches


Two big things jump out from Zodiac's backstory. An iconic dive watch and a serial killer.

Yep, you read that correctly. Watches and serial killers.

The story starts simply enough. It's a story of Swiss watchmaking that you're familiar with. Zodiac started as a small family run business in the Swiss town of Le Locle.

By the end of the 1800s, the founder's son was in charge and by 1908 the company was using Zodiac as its registered name. Zodiac was producing pocketwatches powered by their own movements.

In the 1930s the company created sports watches, but it wasn't until the Basel Watch Fair of 1953 that they'd make a significant impact.

At that fair Blancpain showcased its Fifty-Fathoms diver and Zodiac debuted the Sea Wolf. These were quickly followed the next year by the Rolex Submariner.

Dive watches were popular during this era. As technology advanced professional dive watches became more desirable. Zodiac's Super Sea Wolf from the 1970s boasted 750M of water resistance.



Meanwhile, in 1960s America a serial killer was on the loose.

The killer wrote letters to the local press where he rambled about the murders - he signed the letters Zodiac and illustrated the watch brands logo.

The killer was never caught.

But the police did have a major suspect. And when they raided his home? He was wearing a Zodiac watch.

This episode had no bearing on the company's story or its later difficulties.

Having changed hands, the company went bankrupt in 1997. The next owners discontinued most of the collections, including all mechanical chronograph models.

By 2001 American company Fossil was the owner of Zodiac and in 2015 they finally brought back the Sea Wolf.

These colourful vintage-inspired models are now at the core of the brand's offerings. It's brought Zodiac back into the limelight and I'd like to show you the best of their current collections.

Where Are Zodiac Watches Made?


Zodiac Watches are Swiss-Made. The company is now owned by Fossil who have watchmaking facilities in Switzerland. Fossil also owns movement manufacturer STP.

You can see the words Swiss-Made on the bottom of Zodiac dials.

Are Zodiac Watches Good Quality?


The consensus is that Zodiac does make good watches. They're Swiss made and use high-quality Swiss movements.

The mechanical movements used in Zodiac watches are provided by Swiss Technology Production (STP). These movements have been compared favourably with other Swiss movements from ETA and Sellita.

Zodiac watches use the materials and specifications that you'd expect. Their watches feature sapphire crystals and, where appropriate, have water resistance up to 1000M.

They're entry-level Swiss watches and are priced accordingly.

The Best Zodiac Watches


I could have made a list of my favourite Sea Wolf watches. It's a versatile watch with colourful modern models, plainer heritage watches and some quirky limited editions.

But that wouldn't do the brand justice.

So I've highlighted a wider selection of the brands best watches. Trust me, there will be at least one that you love.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf

I could have picked several variations of the Super Sea Wolf for my favourite Zodiac watch. In the end, I chose this stunning model nicknamed the 'Watermelon'.

It ticks all the boxes I'd want for an eye-catching vintage-inspired watch.

This colourful version of the Super Sea Wolf takes the original watch DNA and injects a bit of fun. It still looks retro. But the colours have created a new aesthetic, quite different from its birth as a utilitarian dive watch.

And it is all about the colour.

The dial is silver and has a wonderful sunburst effect. This is paired with a teal bezel that is covered with a sapphire crystal. In addition, the chapter ring is bright orange. Hence the watermelon nickname.

But this is still a functional dive watch.

It has 200M of water resistance, a neat date window and a screw-down crown. It also has plenty of lume and a simple, legible dial layout.

The movement is a Swiss-made automatic from STP.

For me, this is what Zodiac does best.

They've experimented with modern oversized watches in the past. But mining their own back catalogue for inspiration has given us some gems.

If you're new to Zodiac watches, start here. The Sea Wolf is the brands most memorable watch. And why not get a colourful variation?

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf ZO9269

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance


Zodiac Sea Wold 68 Watch

The Super Sea Wolf 68 is a very different style of retro dive watch. Inspired by a later Zodiac model, it has a distinctive barrel case and a whopping 1000M of water resistance.

This isn't a versatile desk diver that you could wear to the office. Instead, it's a bold sports watch that was designed to be submersed.

We can come back to the styling in a minute. First, a quick mention of the features.

The most obvious feature on the spec sheet is the water resistance. It's five times what you'll find on most dive watches. The watch also features a unique bezel locking system to ensure that the bezel doesn't move when knocked. Once more, the bezel is covered with a sapphire crystal and the watch has a screw-down crown.

And for the design?

This is pure 1970s dive watch chic.

The 44mm case houses an interesting vintage-styled dial. Zodiac has built this in layers, with the dial being deep in the watch. The chapter ring is higher and the minute hand is bright orange to aid legibility.

The markers are straightforward and there is a date window in the traditional 3 o'clock position.

Again, it's Swiss made and runs off an STP movement with two days power reserve.

This is a bold piece. A watch that makes a statement. It also references a high point in Zodiac's history. It's a great watch if you want something sporty and unashamedly vintage.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 68 ZO9501

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 16.5mm Lug Width
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 1000M Water Resistance


Zodiac Grandville Quartz Watch

The Grandville is a very different watch from the previous two models. It's an inexpensive quartz watch with classic dress watch styling. It's a conservative piece, also inspired by a piece from Zodiac's archives.

I love Jaeger-LeCoultre's Master Control and the Grandville feels like a very affordable way to get that aesthetic.

It has a pale dial and simple hands. It also has the blue second hand of the JLC. It's far from a homage but definitely appeals to the same tastes.

At 40mm wide it's a comfortable size for a dress watch. And the case is reasonably slim, due to the quartz movement. The dial is protected by a sapphire crystal.

The cream dial is complemented by a light brown leather strap. There is a blue variation of the Grandville that comes on a bracelet if that's your preference.

Overall, it's a good-looking watch. And as I noted, it is very affordable. For me, this would make a good option if the Sea Wolf models are out of your budget. It's still Swiss-made and it's a handsome Zodiac watch.

But it doesn't have the unique styling of some of the brand's other models. It doesn't stop you in your tracks like the Watermelon diver. Instead, it's a safe choice.

I can't help thinking that if you want to play it safe with your wristwear, Zodiac watches probably aren't for you.

But if you're on a budget or want a watch to wear with formal clothing? Yes, this is a real contender.

Zodiac Grandville ZO9302

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Zodiac Olympos Watch

The Olympos feels much more like an authentic Zodiac watch.

The vintage inspiration is clear and it's a watch with a very strong look. I'd suggest that you'll either love or hate it.

The Olympos sits somewhere between the Sea Wolf and Grandville models. It's quirky, with a unique asymmetrical case, but the colours are restrained.

For me, the mixture works well.

I love the odd-shaped case. It has a practical use too. The flared upper half protects the 2 o'clock crown. But I also like the sunburst effect dial. It's traditionally styled and benefits from the gold minute track and the matching text.

Price-wise, it also sits firmly between the more expensive Sea Wolf models and the Grandville.

The specs do the same. It has an automatic Swiss-made STP movement like the Sea Wolf. But 50M water resistance like the Grandville.

This is a safer choice than the Sea Wolf but not as conventional as the Grandville. It still has an understated flair.

If some of Zodiac's famous models are a little too colourful for you, this could be the answer. A dressier watch with a very distinctive appearance.

Zodiac Olympos ZO9700
  • 37mm Diameter
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance


Zodiac Grandrally Chronograph Watch

The Grandrally is a quartz chronograph that captures the retro-chic of 1970s racing watches.

It's a style that you're probably familiar with. A sporting chronograph favoured by motorsports fans.

In keeping with that ethos, the Grandrally has a 41.5mm barrel-shaped case. That's a nice size. It's contemporary, without making the watch cumbersome.

Both the weight and the price are kept down by the use of a quartz movement. And there are variations with both a bracelet and a leather strap.

This is another eye-catching piece from Zodiac.

The blue version is my favourite. It has a nice contrast of colours, being reminiscent of a reverse panda dial model. With that in mind, it shares many of the same design points as those iconic watches.

It has a simple two sub-dial layout and a large matching tachymeter. The hands are bold and the second hand is a prominent red.

I like that the date window is repositioned to 6 o'clock meaning that it doesn't mess with the dial's symmetry.

This watch does a few things well.

It's clearly vintage-inspired. But the styling isn't unique to Zodiac. Instead, it references the racing chronographs of the 60s and 70s, the most famous of which is Rolex's Daytona.

So it has Zodiac DNA. But it's shared with other watches, giving a pleasing reassurance that this is a tried and tested design.

It's mid-sized, mid-priced and a great sports watch that isn't a diver.

Zodiac Grandrally ZO9601

  • 41.5mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance


Conclusion


Zodiac watches are underrated.

In the 1950s when companies were releasing their debut dive watches, Zodiac was a pioneer. Zodiac was a competitor and contemporary of Rolex and Blancpain.

But they struggled to survive the quartz crisis. And when they did make a comeback, they'd lot direction and purpose.

The current owners have changed that.

They've built the modern Zodiac brand around the company's heritage. The current Zodiac range is inspired by their most successful historical models.

And it's working.

Watch fans are talking about Zodiac again. And since 2015 we've been buying countless iterations of the Sea Wolf model.

But of course, they make more than that colourful diver. So have a closer look at my list. Get familiar with each of the watches and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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