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Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Colorful watches clearly are not for everyone: next time you can, just take a look at the selection inside the windows of your local watch retailers and see for yourself how conservative watches still are, as brands do all they can to closely follow trends and the taste of the broader public. However, once you do find a funky-looking piece that you like, most of everything else will just appear so safe and dull. Enter the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 and ZO9264 watches, which might just be some of the best “go anywhere but not bore you to death” value proposition watches out there.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

With its baby blue bezel and vibrant, saturated orange elements, all further highlighted by a dark dial, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 is one heck of a “zero cares given” watch – and I already friggin’ love it for that. Being at the end of summer with some decent sunshiny days still remaining in my life may have me feeling more inclined to show my appreciation of the neat weather through my love of watches – but I won’t let that keep me from finding what this Super Sea Wolf 53 is like if you are in with it for the long run. Furthermore, Ariel had the ZO9264 with him in Los Angeles, so we have images of that alternative as well.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

When I first put it on I already knew, the 1,495-dollar Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 is not just among the most expensive Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression pieces, but also in the upper tier of “enthusiast dive watches.” Just 82 pieces of this iteration exist, but you can shave $300 off the price if you opt for a non-limited version on a strap, like Ariel’s blue-on-blue ZO9264 that retails for $1,195. Curious to find out how this stands up as a value proposition, I began my time with the more expensive model – and will focus on this throughout, but will compare it to the less expensive variant where it makes sense.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

First, A Bit Of History

As is usually the case, let’s begin this review once again by looking at the larger picture, namely the history of the brand and the particular watch at hand. First of all, Zodiac is a historical brand – of course it is, it says Zodiac 1882 on the caseback, m’kay?

It all started as a workshop in 1882 – big-expensive manufactures had not been growing out of the Swiss land at the time like they do today – established by one Ariste Calame. Calame started his operation under his own name but soon enough switched to Zodiac, though it was not until 1908 that the brand name became officially registered – which is also when the production of the brand’s first wrist watches began.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Understandably, the Zodiac watches that enjoy a cult following today are the charmingly unique tool watches from the ’50s and ’60s. These pieces, namely the Sea Wolf and its numerous iterations, offer a more unique look at an affordable price point and decent enough build quality – something that we’ll find applies to both the vintage originals and the modern pieces alike. Plus there is the quirky but awesome Astrographic (reviewed here) as well – we mustn’t forget about that.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Add to all this impressive achievements like a small 10.5-ligne movement with 8-day power reserve from 1937, the Dynotron “Swiss electronic watch,” and what over time turned into an incredibly diverse range of watches from triple date chronographs and GMTs through early 36,000vph high-tech pieces and dive watches all the way to dress watches… and you know you are looking at a brand with the proper zest to make timepieces.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

All this noted, the Sea Wolf is this 200m water resistant, legible, unique-looking diver that made its debut in 1953 and gained traction in the late ’50s and early ’60s. They went so far as to write “Especially Water Tested” on its caseback and advertise it as “The most popular watch in 3/4 of the world” – since, as they explained, that much of the world is under water and the Zodiac Sea Wolf is the “undisputed first choice” of skin divers. What the heck, it even came with an “unbreakable lifetime mainspring and balance staff” and was advertised as “an official watch of the Swiss Federal Railways.” Mind you, while truth in advertising arguably wasn’t as closely regulated back then as it is today, all this still is an impressive list of features for a skin diver watch to boast about. Also, if you’d love to have the modern version of the original, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Skin reference ZO9205 is the one.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Fast forward to the quartz crisis and you’ll know what I’m about to say: Zodiac was one of the innumerable brands that didn’t make it through the late ’70s and ’80s. The story continues in the regular fashion: the rights to the brand have been sold and re-sold until it ended up with the Fossil Group, pretty much the world’s largest group of fashion watch brands. Zodiac, however, is of course the odd one out.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac watches all get the “Swiss Made” stamp on both the dial and the case – and as far as I know (and in my experience so far), only cases produced in Switzerland can be stamped Swiss Made; a watch that complies with Swiss Made regulations (more on those here) but without a Swiss Made case will only have said marking on the dial. Needless to say, not all Swiss made cases are stamped “Swiss Made.” Anyhow, Fossil’s Swiss movement manufacture is called STP (Swiss Technology Production) and it is STP who provides the movement for pretty much all Zodiac Sea Wolf watches. More on the movement soon, but now…

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Design

Even with its unusual colors, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 is one safe design these days – vintage-style watches are very much in and the ZO9265’s 40mm wide case hits a sweet spot at a time when watches finally appear to have not only stopped growing in size year-over-year, but shrink a bit. The lug width is 20mm – if you want to keep a watch simple, just adhere to 40-20-12 (or less for that latter, thickness figure), and you should be alright.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Make no mistake however, the Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression is a great and interesting looking watch, even with its more sensible proportions. There is just “something right” about a 40mm wide, round watch – it feels, wears and looks right on the wrist. The relatively long, straight lugs make for a more confident look, which saves the Super Sea Wolf from looking like a kid’s watch. I find that many 38-40mm watches don’t have enough character, especially not when matched with more vibrant colors, but the ZO9265 looks every bit as cool and mature as one could possibly expect an orange-blue watch to be.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

One last note on the color scheme here: I just can’t stress enough how fantastic of a summer-time watch this is – and when I unavoidably am going to be wearing it during the freezing cold winters of Budapest, it will still look good enough to remind me of fun times from last summer. Because it has a medium size (by modern watch design standards), its loud colors stand out more and are not overwhelmed or turned into vulgarity by a ridiculously larger size. When seen on the wrist, out and about, the ZO9265 looks both fun, unique, and comfortable. If I had to describe a fun but mature watch, I’d say it should display those qualities.

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 & ZO9264 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The 40mm-wide case of the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression ZO9265 is crafted from 316L stainless steel (like most all other quality steel watches) and is water resistant to a depth of 200m, making it a proper dive watch. Additional dive watch elements are a screw-down crown and a steel, screw-down caseback with an embossed and polished Zodiac logo and acid-etched markings (“acid etched” – maybe it’s just me but that sounds pretty cool).

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  • A_watches

    for sure its a fun watch, but it is well over priced, $750 should be the price

  • Norbs K

    Wow! Just WOW!
    First off, great article David. Enjoyed the history lesson. It’s always nice to learn about the brands and watches.

    I already had the Zodiac on radar with their Astrographic line. But this might be the one I would go for. Although I don’t have $1500 lying around in the house and probably by the time I will have the money all the 82 pieces will be gone. The other 3 aren’t this nice. (maybe the dark blue one)

    The one thing I didn’t like about the watch was the name ‘Fossil’ in there.
    I confess, never had a Fossil watch. These designer brands always give me the creeps. Maybe I should read up on their movements and stuff.

    Orient should take notes on the crystal bezel with their new Nami watches and the plastic scratchy bezel on them.

    This was a good article to start of the week.

    • egznyc

      Yeah that new Orient would be a lot more attractive with better bezel and crystal materials.

    • David Bredan

      Thanks so much for your kind feedback, really appreciate it! Check out Ariel’s Fossil/STP movement manufacture visit article ( http://ablogtowatch.com/visit-stp-watch-movement-manufacture-fossil-group-answer-eta/ ). I wouldn’t worry much about Fossil – at least they should have a service network readily available soon enough for such a small brand.

      • Norbs K

        Thanks for the link.
        The article was very informative about STP.

        I might invest in a Fossil watch with an STP movement to have a bit of experience. I did like their design, but the fashion vibe they give out, always kept me away.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I’ve seen better for the price, but this seems a little steep for what you’re getting. It’s smart enough but i would put some more money in the coffers for a Tudor. . The colour scheme is a little loud, but i suppose thats the point. Small thick hands annoy me, and a tad small.
    Nice enough watch but not for me.

    • proudAmerican702

      +1. It’s an “okay” design, and many of us here agree the price is just a bit elevated for the features. But the hands and indices remind me of many years ago, looking like pieces of craft paper we used to cut out in preschool. Their shapes are too squared for me—like no one in the design department wanted to work late that Friday night, taking a few extra minutes to design something just a bit more special.

  • SuperStrapper

    With a name like Compression I would think that a compressor style case would have been welcome.
    The sun bleached Gulf livery doesn’t quite do it for me and I prefer the blue-on-blue iteration. Interested in understanding the performance differences of this movement between the cosc and non-cosc versions. Presumably they make the same adjustments to it without sending it for certification.

    • Radium head

      Maybe the certification was done by the Swiss railway 😉

    • egznyc

      I agree re: COSC. Otherwise it’s hard to see why someone would be willing to only get a $300 “discount” since you’re also going to forego the bracelet.

    • David Bredan

      That’s a good question regarding COSC and non-COSC, will try and figure it out.

      • SuperStrapper

        Im sure what youd find is the unfortuante truth about cosc: the 2 movements perform the same, only one of them has a certificate to hang on the wall and feel good about.

  • Yan Fin

    First of all, congratulations David on a solid and fun article! Always liked this bygone era style. Also, nice to see STP movement in a thoughtfully designed watch. I would consider one if equipped with ceramic bezel.

    • SuperStrapper

      A sapphire bezel might be more appropriate for this design, and a material upgrade as well.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you! I agree, it could look bonkers cool with a baby blue ceramic bezel, but the price would climb quite a bit! In real life the noticeable, but discreet reflectivity of the crystal over the bezel make for a comparably cool feature, I’d say, without the price premium. If you get the chance, I’d suggest taking this in hand and bringing it outdoors.

      • Yan Fin

        David, would you mind to share the wrist size on the photos of bracelet limited version? There is no AD near by.

  • Tim Archer

    I have #4 and love this watch. I get questions and compliments on this watch. It is certainly a summer piece or a vacation watch. The only criticism is of the bracelet as it looks and feels a bit dainty—took it off immediately and replaced it with a Haveston Nato.

  • BNABOD

    Very different and quirky enough to be fun but not vulgar and priced decently. In oris acquis territory here so it would be hard to pick this over an Oris but I find the Zodiac more fun. Bracelet wise I would drop it and get something that can be used in water.

  • Radium head

    Thanks for the interesting read with my morning coffee but still not into dive watches Cheers!

    • Berndt Norten

      If you’re not down with this diver, I guess nothing will convince you! What a beauty this is!

      • Radium head

        I guess I never got into the exterior rotating bezel on a watch. But a openly admit I’m still looking for one

    • David Bredan

      Thank you for your kind feedback. Not here to convince you about dive watches, just bringing one option after the other to your attention – let us know if you gave in and got one eventually 🙂

  • #The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Very nice review Mr. Bredan. Very nicely photo’d also. Well done.
    Just two (2) very minor quibbles:
    I think the problem with the hands is a hold-over from dressier pieces. This piece was conceived as a tool watch – ergo thick robust hands for legibility and durability.
    got sharp edges? – Use a simple nail-file or emery board. “Problem” solved.
    Nice well-made watch with a history attached. Good review.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you for your kind feedback, really appreciate it! You’re right, I good file could help with the sharp edges, but I still feel it was worth mentioning so when people purchase this watch they know it’s “normal” and/or is something that needs a bit more attention. Anyhow, as you say, certainly isn’t the end of the world and impossible to feel when wearing the watch (that’d be a much greater issue). Thanks again!

  • Richard Bonanno
    • David Bredan

      Thank you for sharing and wear it in good health!

  • Larry Holmack

    Nice looking….I have a thing for watches with orange on the dial…and blue dials…and green dials….oh hell…everything but black dials with white numerals!! Despite it’s small size…for me….I would wear one if I owned it! It’s just a cool looking watch!!

  • Jubilee bracelet… Eww…oyster style much better.

    • Matthew Butler

      I like the Jubilee style bracelet.

      • IG

        I hate all bracelets and proud of it.™

  • Ramakrishnan Ravindran

    Kinda cool and funky, not sure about the price

  • IG

    Yeah the hands are two bad boys. Too bad that the minute hand is a little short guy.

  • Pete L

    Good value and nice to see a different colour scheme from the norm. Like it.

  • WINKS

    Fonts on the dial should be smaller except for brand name.

  • SVK

    I dig the style, but those lugs look like they’d be too daunting for my wrist.

  • Middle

    Nice dial but those lugs are even worse than a Tudor.

  • Middle

    Suggestion to ABTW in general: Can you guys provide ‘wrist shots’ from more than one person? I’d love to see how many of the watches you review fit on a variety of people, not just the reviewer.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you for sharing that idea. Unfortunately, the majority of times it would be rather difficult as part of the team is not located in the same place – whenever we can, we do, however. So check out the gallery at the bottom of page 2 to see more shots from Ariel on the version he has.

      • Middle

        I was thinking more along the lines of accosting random strangers to make use of their wrists. Thanks for the reply!

  • SharpsvilleBill

    Has anyone compared the quality of the Doxa Sub 1200T Professional to this beautiful Zodiac? The Doxa is $400 more (at the moment) and is rated to 1,200 meters depth. I have a Doxa Sub 600T and LOVE it.

    • Shinytoys

      Both are excellent dive tools, but they are 2 different animals entirely. How much diving do you do and how often, plus to what depths. Mixed gas dives, how long are you in the water?

      • David Bredan

        Haven’t had one of those, the Doxa, around for ages so I couldn’t give specifics – though I don’t think the case on the Doxa is noticeably (or at all) more beautifully made. The bracelet I could imagine to be somewhat more solid. Given the considerable price difference, you do pay a fair bit more for the Doxa, so I personally would choose not based on quality (they’re both a good match for their price segments) but rather on which style and size I’d prefer to wear more often. Hope this helps.

        • Shinytoys

          David, are you going to dive with them?

  • egznyc

    I like the slightly wild, irreverent colors. But those hands don’t strike ME as being that huge. They seem a good size for a diver to me. You want to talk about big hands? Look at a Sinn U1!

    • David Bredan

      Fair enough, but the U1’s hands end in a slimmer part that points at the track for more accurate reading. I love these hands on the Zodiac (and actually prefer them to hands with small parts sticking out of them), but they do make for less accurate reading – which, I guess, is part of the fun/charming element.

  • I’ve loved this watch since I first saw it, the colors, the combination is fantastic!
    Plastic bezel should be sapphire.

  • I wish the blue was a bit darker. A bit too pastel for my tastes – but then I haven’t seen this watch in person, so maybe it’s just right after all.

    The ends of the lugs should be rounded to match the side profile of the bracelet links. Otherwise, pretty darn nice – especially for the price. The chrome which becomes black at some angles hour hand looks like a visibility monster except for the always visible lume (which saves the day).

    40 years ago I had a high beat (36,000 bph) Zodiac. Can’t recall where it ever went. I seem to recall the springbars started to pull out of enlarged lug holes, so I think it wouldn’t stay on my wrist and that sentenced it to a trash can death decades ago. Now, I want to find one on eBay – but it has to be exactly the same (which is hard to find).

  • Everette Eats World channel

    I think the pastel blue is perfect. The orange contrast gives it that 60’s vibe that is so fun. Without the interesting colors, I think the watch looks a bit dated. The blue on blue just doesn’t have the pop, thought the blue and pearl works.

  • BeardieTheDuck

    I prefer the ‘intolerably bad’ SKX Jubilee to the bracelets on many of my more expensive watches, including the Speedmaster. It’s also not a ‘niche desk diver’ element— SKX (and their 7548 predecessors) have been worn on that bracelet by working divers for decades.

    The light weight that desk diver fans complain about in older style watches like 5 digit Rolexes is actually a plus in the field.

  • Ulysses31

    I respect Zodiac and what they have done in the past, but the lugs are a bit long and the colours too pastel for my tastes.

  • Yan Fin

    Hi David, you really hooked me with Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression, so looking to get one(different colors though) . Can you please disclose your wrist size, I am worried about how those long lugs will sit on my wrist?

    • David Bredan

      Hey there, you got lucky that I saw this comment pop up – I very rarely see comments on older threads. My wrist is about 6 3/4 inches or about 18cm, hope this helps.

      • Yan Fin

        Thank you Sir, helps a lot!

  • GalaxyGuy

    So this is an old thread, and I doubt that this comment will ever be read by anyone. That said, it is absolutely striking to me how different in tone this article is compared to those that have been recently posted by David. Perhaps I have not read enough of his posts, but this one seems practically giddy compared to, say, some of his posts that were published after SIHH 2018. At any rate, I am picking up a Sea Wolf myself tomorrow and am pleased with the overall review here. Thanks, again, to ABTW and to David Bredan.

    • Yomamma

      I read it;)
      Just discovered this watch. Been a life long Zodiac admirer of their stuff up through the seventies when it was still family owned (that’s over 80 years old at that point).
      The readdition of that beautiful script was the final nail for me. Unfortunately this model was sold out by the time I discovered it. Ending up putting a deposit down on Topper’s no-date LE version of this watch.
      No. 6 should be heading my way soon:)

      • GalaxyGuy
        • Yomamma

          Ahhh…, haven’t checked my personal email since Wednesday!!!

          Didn’t realize he had received these. Just paid the balance on my invoice. Could have been on its way to me already!
          Funny, I’ve got No. 6 Black on reserve.
          What is the extra strap these come with? It was my understanding that was the final piece they were waiting for before final billing.

          • GalaxyGuy

            I actually don’t know what the extra strap is. I literally passed the UPS guy on the street when I walked into Topper’s yesterday, so they didn’t really have the shipments completely sorted. Rob is going to send my strap and the COSC card once he has all of that figured out.

          • Yomamma

            Your killing me.

  • Michael Kurtz

    just purchased mine and received it, brand new, great price. i had read this and many other reviews on it prior to purchase, and they were all, including this one, very upbeat and positive. being a longtime watch collector & vintage seller, mostly of divers & military issue, i had a pretty much solid understanding of this piece just by looking at it and seeing the specs.

    still, i was unprepared for how truly this piece matched all the hullabaloo. actually, exceeded it. how do you exceed very explicit close up pictures, and specs that are extremely clear, and a design that’s pretty rooted in the original but with some very careful retro style improvements?

    you exceed all that by having the sum total exceed the parts. that is what this timepiece does. i understand it is fossil fueled. but that’s not a bad thing. i’ve seen for years the sophisticated influence that solid horological history and design had on fossil’s inexpensive fashion watches, and was impressed.

    but apparently they took over zodiac and did the brand super proud.

    this is an amazing timepiece, and i adore it already. i’ve the blue and white on nato strap and was even astonished that the nato strap, with its own weird contraption butterfly buckle, turned out to be an amazing and lovely thing to wear and use.

    kudos to zodiac/fossil and all you reviewers, especially here, with all the great photos, and excellent description and review. out of all the timepieces i’ve ever bought over the last 25 years of selling and collecting mechanical watches, this purchase has been one of the finest, if not finest, experiences.

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