In 1953, the modern diver’s watch was first presented, by three watch brands. Two of them are very well known for this accomplishment: Blancpain, for the 50 Fathoms, and Rolex, for the Submariner. But there’s a third brand which also debuted what’s recognizably a modern diver’s wristwatch: Zodiac, which launched its Sea Wolf the same year. The original Sea Wolf had all the attributes of a serious diver’s instrument watch, including great legibility and a rotating timing bezel, and for a couple of decades, the firm – always a contender although never the juggernaut that Rolex was – continued to make tough, durable, relatively affordable watches that were enthusiastically adopted by military personnel, among others, including the Navy SEAL teams (a fact that Zodiac enthusiastically pointed out in its advertising).
However, as Jason Heaton pointed out in our earlier coverage of the Super Sea Wolf 53, history is written by the victors, and the Sea Wolf’s debut at the dawn of the dive-watch era was mostly forgotten as the company, like so many, struggled for existence in the aftermath of the introduction of quartz timekeeping technology. Bought by Fossil in 2001, it has slowly begun to bring back its dive watch designs from the 1950s and ’60s – most notably, the Sea Wolf, of course, which in today’s everything-old-is-new-again watch world is looking better than ever.
The Sea Wolf watches, in Zodiac’s heyday, came in a wide range of styles and depth ratings – everything from relatively slim offerings with only moderate water resistance (relatively speaking) to massive undersea instrument watches with aggressively shaped sawtooth bezels, and a water resistance up to 3,000 feet. The Sea Wolf line has been officially re-launched by Zodiac this year, and it includes both slimmer models, rated to 200 meters, as well as the new Super Sea Wolf 68, which has a 1000 meter depth rating, and looks it.
The Super Sea Wolf 68 we had in here is an 82 piece limited edition, which comes with special packaging and which will have both a rubber strap and a mesh bracelet. The cushion case is 50 mm by 44 mm and it’s a very solid, massive slug of stainless steel; it’s one of those watches you can imagine flying through a plate-glass window without altering its trajectory by so much as a millimeter. The sheer massiveness of the watch is further underscored by the link bracelet, which feels like it could double as a spare tank tread (if you happened to have a tank and felt you needed a spare). You certainly do not have any doubt when you have the watch in your hands, or on your wrist, that you have something you can trust not to crap out on you in a jam, whether diving or topside.
The Super Sea Wolf 68’s dial is largely unchanged from the vintage model that inspired it – in fact, the fidelity to the original is almost total; the only noticeable difference is the movement of the words “Super Sea Wolf” from 6:00 to 12:00 on the new model, and that’s to accommodate the words “Automatic Chronometer” (the limited edition, pictured here, is certified by COSC). The bezel turns sharply and crisply, with virtually no play, and it locks in position once set (you need to push down to unlock it). The minute hand, which is of course of most concern to a diver, is prominently outlined in orange, as are the dial markers.
The aforementioned bracelet is one of the nicest things about the watch. It’s heavy, but supple and comfortable, and goes a long way towards making the watch pretty wearable despite its weight and size. Sized correctly, it and the watch fit snugly on the wrist, and there’s a very well made wetsuit extension system on the clasp.
Inside is the STP-11 automatic movement – a bit of an interesting side-note. STP-11 is made by a company called Swiss Technology Production, which is a movement manufacturer wholly owned by Fossil Group, the parent company of Zodiac. STP was originally founded in 2006, and represents, along with firms like Sellita, one of the few alternatives to ETA’s ubiquitous automatic calibers. So we have an intriguing situation, here: a Swiss-made watch, with a movement from a Swiss movement manufacturer, that’s actually owned by a U.S.-based company (Fossil Group is headquartered in Richardson, Texas). STP is slated to produce up to a quarter of a million movements this year, and the STP-11 in a non-COSC version is also used in Fossil’s “Swiss Made” line of automatic watches.
As with its forebearers, the Super Sea Wolf 68 is a fantastic value. The limited edition of 82 pieces is priced at only $1,995 – this, bear in mind, for a COSC-certified chronometer, with irreproachable build quality and great styling; at that price this is easily one of the top values out there for a dive watch right now. The non-COSC certified, non-limited-edition models are even more approachably priced – on a rubber strap, the Super Sea Wolf is $1,395, and on the mesh strap, $1,595. It seems almost a shame to describe this as a bargain, as that makes it seem as if the fact that it’s a steal for the money is the most interesting thing about the watch – but it doesn’t hurt.
The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 68 Limited Edition, as shown, $1,995. Stainless-steel cushion case, 50 mm by 44 mm, water resistant to 100 atmospheres/1000 meters. Stainless-steel mesh bracelet or (included) strap. Black sunray dial; one-way 60 minute timing bezel. COSC-certified chronometer.