Zodiac watch has seen a number of changes throughout its 140-year history, but many collectors consider its high quality and distinctive dive watches produced in the 1950s and 60s a high point. Following those decades, the brand went through a period of decline before being purchased by the Fossil Group in 2001. Being swallowed up by a large conglomerate would often spell an end to any identity that a brand might have, as shareholders hope only to make a quick buck off the name. In the case of Zodiac, however, it has been quite the opposite.
In recent years, Zodiac has been releasing watches that retain the great qualities of the brand's DNA, but with the addition of modern advances. Kudos to the Fossil Group for seeing the brand's inherent qualities, and letting its leaders such as Mike Pearson run with it.
Because of this, a lot of people in the watch hobby like myself have become increasingly interested in Zodiac. I've wanted to experience one for quite some time, but it was attending the Windup Watch Fair, trying them on, and meeting the people behind the brand that finally pushed me to purchase one. The problem was, how to select which one.
Finally, it was the Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream Special Edition that I decided to purchase. I knew I wanted to choose a fun color, and this one is my favorite of the popular Super Sea Wolf line. In addition to that, it was designed in collaboration with aBlogtoWatch founder, Ariel Adams. I'm a contributor to the site, and Ariel has taught me a lot, so that was all the more reason to choose this model.
Zodiac is bigger than a microbrand, but it's definitely on the smaller side as far as watch companies go. It also offers quite competitive prices, so I wasn't sure what to expect as far as build quality goes. Once I tried a few on, however, I was impressed. Additionally, the combination of colors combine with the raised markers and slight distortion from the crystal make this a really fun watch to look at.
Wearing the Super Sea Wolf
The SSW is 40mm wide (40.6 by my measurement) at the bezel, which overhangs the case slightly. This gives that fun vintage look and also makes it easy to grip. And you'll want to use this bezel, as it has a very nice action. It is fairly easy to turn and features 120 crisp clicks with minimal play between them.
The 13.6mm thickness includes the slightly domed sapphire crystal, so it looks and feels slim for a dive watch.
At 49mm lug-to-lug, it is fairly tall for a 40mm watch. This is thanks to the long, sharp lugs. Luckily they slope down to meet your wrist, making it feel very balanced.
Also, the lug holes are closer to the middle of the lugs, so you won't have an unsightly gap if you decide to wear it with a supplied, or aftermarket straight-end strap.
One of my favorite things about the Aquamarine Dream (and one of Ariel's criteria when agreeing to do the collaboration with Zodiac) is that it does not say Ariel Adams, or aBlogtoWatch anywhere on it (or in the model name for that matter). The only clue is the image of "I'd Rather Be Swimming" written in Ariel's handwriting on the caseback.
The colors unique to the Special Edition are obvious, but there are a few other unique updates as well. All other Super Sea Wolf Variants feature hard-edged rectangular markers, but those on the Aquamarine Dream are softly rounded, giving them a pebble-like appearance. Additionally, the date window is removed. Wearing this watch makes you feel like you're at the beach, and who needs a date when you're on vacation?
All of the Super Sea Wolf models use a variety of fonts on the dial as a nod to vintage models. It can tend to look a bit busy, but much less so on the Aquamarine. Because everything on the dial is from the same color family (other than the polished metal brand logo), the text doesn't pop out as much visually. While the dial looks completely matte at first, bright sunlight reveals a subtle metallic finish underneath that was difficult to capture in photos.
Another unique detail about the SSW collection is the bezel markings. As with vintage versions, that the only number on the bezel is 30. I didn't notice it myself in photos but rather heard it mentioned on the Whiskey and Watches podcast. It gives the bezel a cleaner look, but when I was timing my dive with it (and by dive I mean pasta cooking), I found that the 30 combined with the triangle markings every 3 minutes for the first 15 gave enough information to read it. More numbers would have ruined the clean look, but fewer and it would be quite difficult to actually use the bezel.
The off-white center sections of the hands and markers give it surprisingly good legibility. As you'd expect, they are Super-LumiNova filled, as is the bezel pip (which sits under a mineral crystal bezel insert). The lume on the hands is quite a bit brighter than the hour markers. It is decent, but not as bright as a Seiko diver.
At first glance, the Super Sea Wolf's bracelet appears to be your typical 5-link jubilee. The polished center links, and brushed outer links give it just the right amount of flash, and it's very comfortable due to the small links being quite flexible.
I'm not typically a fan of butterfly clasps, but this one is quite slim and short making it more comfortable than most. Twin triggers keep it secure, and the integrated cap with an engraved Zodiac logo helps keep it from getting caught on things.
After installing the bracelet and trying it on, I initially thought that it was too tight, and retrieved my tools to add an additional link. that was when I noticed a small slit at each end of the clasp. I gave it a tug, and discovered two hidden spring-loaded links!
Considering how compact that clasp is, this was a welcome surprise. I decided not to add in that extra link and wear the bracelet tighter than I typically would. The spring tension is the perfect amount, giving just enough stretch. While I don't think that this could be used in place of a dive extension, for the 99% of us that will never need that, it is a much more elegant and comfortable solution than something like a bulky Tudor Pelagos clasp with its larger amount of travel.
If I had one small complaint about the bracelet, it would be that the butterfly opening amount is limited, making it tight to pull over my hands. my hands are wide compared to my average wrists though, so I don't think that this will be a problem for most people. It's pretty minor, and I'd rather keep the slim clasp if it means it takes me a small amount of effort to put the watch on.
The included color-matched strap Tropic-style strap is also quite nice. Compared to a StrapHabit Tropical strap, it has diamond-shaped holes vs. round. The strap is slightly thinner, but that also makes it more flexible. The buckle is a bit thicker and has polished chamfers, but the strap does not have quick-release spring bars (the bracelet does). The keepers are a bit thicker, and of course, our straps don't say Zodiac on the back. The length and width are roughly the same, with a 2mm taper from 20mm at the watch to 18mm at the buckle. Zodiac sells white and blue versions of this strap on its website for $95.
Of course, I've been wearing the Aquamarine Dream on other StrapHabit straps. My current obvious favorite is the new Teal Ridge FKM Rubber Strap. Keep reading at the end of the article to see other straps on it.
Another modern update applied to contemporary Zodiac watches is the movement. In the case of the Aquamarine Dream, it's Fossil's "in-house" STP 3-13. Its bones are those of an ETA 2824 clone, but it has a number of upgrades including a swan neck regulator, an extra jewel, and a thinner and longer mainspring that increases its power reserve to 44 hours.
The version in the Aquamarine dream also has the date mechanism removed (with no phantom date position), and as the dial says, it is chronometer-certified! Quite impressive for the price of this watch.
Going into this review I knew that the Aquamarine Dream was going to be a fun watch to wear based on the colors alone. After having worn it for a while, I also found it a very comfortable watch to wear (partially due to its trick clasp), and appreciated its build quality. With most versions of the Super Sea Wolf coming in at $1,495, this Zodiac offers a lot of value. Doxa comes to mind as a brand to compare it to. As with Zodiac, Doxa offers a range of fun colors and has nostalgia attached to its name. Its COSC-certified diver, the SUB 300 costs $1,000 more than the Zodiac, however.
As with Doxa, the hardest part is picking a version out of all of the colors! If you're not able to find an Aquamarine dream, the Watermelon is another one of my favorites!
Zodiac also just came out with an all-black version with a ceramic case. At only $200 more than the standard model, it appears to offer a lot of value.
While the vintage-inspired dive watch space is a bit crowded, Zodiac offers some truly unique offerings from a brand with real dive watch heritage.
Name: Zodiac Special Edition Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream
Reference Number: ZO9283
Lug Width: 20mm
Movement: Chronometer-Rated no date STP 3-13
Power Reserve: 44 hours
Water Resistance: 200m
Bezel: Unidirectional, 120 clicks
Bracelet: Stainless steel butterfly with spring stretch clasp and rubber with tang buckle
Shop Other Straps for the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream:
Ridge FKM Rubber
Premium Sailcloth Colorway Collection
Waffle FKM Rubber
Tropical FKM Rubber
Smooth FKM Rubber
Vented FKM Rubber
Classic Beads of Rice Bracelet