July 31, 2020
by Ariel Adams
A couple years ago, the most in-demand Zodiac watch was a GMT version of its popular retro-revival Super Sea Wolf diving watch series. That came in 2019 with another revived Zodiac classic, the Zodiac Aerospace GMT (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here). Since then, Zodiac has produced a small number of Aerospace GMT pieces, and for this third version (the reference ZO9403 GMT Sherbet), Zodiac returns to the Super Sea Wolf naming scheme (which ultimately makes more sense because even though “Aerospace” was used in Zodiac’s history, the watch is really just a GMT iteration of the Super Sea Wolf with some different parts.
aBlogtoWatch debuted the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf GMT ZO9403 “Sherbet” here. The watch quickly sold out its limited edition, which isn’t a surprise given how difficult Zodiac GMT watches have been to get. The GMT Sherbet is further made more compelling given that is the result of a watch-enthusiast poll. Zodiac asked its social media audience what colors it wanted for the next GMT watch, and “orange and cream sherbet” was the most preferred palette. One might call this a crowd-designed timepiece.
One reason for the limitation of Zodiac GMT watch production is actually related to the movements, which are Swiss Made ETA 2893-2 automatics. Most other Zodiac watches use movements produced by Swiss STP, a company owned by the Fossil Group (of which Zodiac is also a member). That means Zodiac is going out of group in order to get GMT movements. Sure, STP could make a GMT movement, but for now, it does not. Doing so would require adding new parts and processes (all of which come with a cost versus reward way of being decided upon. Some evidence that STP may very well be planning to make GMT movement is that ETA 2893 movements are not easy to acquire in large quantities. That means there is demand for GMT movements that ETA cannot fill, and thus a good business case for STP to develop GMT automatic movements.
Price for the watches overall is also quite reasonable, so someone wanting a nicely done Swiss Made GMT watch with a classic look to it doesn’t have much else at this price point. I also really like the Super Sea Wolf GMT, overall, but I want Zodiac to move away from this dial and hand design. The company bases the look on the original Aerospace watch, but I think today there is room to improve on this core design. For one thing, the hands never stop looking a bit stubby to me. The dial is also very blocky, with a few too many right angles, as opposed to circles and curves. I feel like just messing with the hour and minute hands could make a world of difference here, though it would mean that the hour markers would need to be a bit shorter in height off the dial, too.
At 40mm-wide with 200 meters of water resistance and a sapphire crystal, the overall proportions of the Super Sea Wolf GMT are the same as the Super Sea Wolf 53 diver’s watch collection it is based on. The bezel (capped with a mineral crystal overlay above the “orange and cream” bezel insert) is bi-directional in rotation, as a opposed to uni-directional, and the case is fitted to a different style of matching steel metal bracelet. Here, the bracelet has a wide polished center-link (probably a nod to the Rolex GMT-Master II). As a daily wear or medium-sized sports watch, the Super Sea Wolf GMT will handle your needs pretty well and be comfortable in the process.
This reference ZO9403 is not the first time Zodiac has used the “sherbet” color palette, but it is the best looking one so far. The summery colors are very friendly and the overall light-colored white dial is very easy to read, offering this tool timepiece a high degree of legibility (though the dial would be a bit more legible if the polish on the hour markers and hands was muted just a little bit). Zodiac is also now free to move beyond the design codes set by the original Zodiac Aerospace GMT watches given the popularity of these models with consumers. Zodiac should certainly maintain a retro-revival design spirit but create what the Aerospace (now Super Sea Wolf GMT) would have turned into if made by Zodiac’s team in the 1960s and 1970s, and continue to evolve it naturally.
Another question to ask is how long before STP manages to get a GMT movement ready? One of the major value propositions of Zodiac watches is the fact that they contain in-house movements, such as the regarded STP 3-13. If Zodiac continues to rely on ETA-made GMT mechanical movements, then the brand will never really be able to compete on a larger scale as a GMT watchmaker. But that natural limitation could benefit collectors who value more exclusive production numbers. Zodiac has not made it clear how many pieces are in the limited edition reference ZO9403 Super Sea Wolf GMT set. Previous GMT watches were produced in sets of 182 pieces. So, assume that the ZO9403 will be produced in similar numbers. Price is $1,695 USD. Learn more or order at the Zodiac watches website here.