From the “Zodiac Archives” collection comes a limited-production redo of the famed Zodiac Sea-Chron diver’s-style chronograph watch. For 2023, Zodiac introduces two dial variations of a new watch based on the existing and popular Super Sea Wolf case, but thicker in size and containing an automatic chronograph movement. Appropriately priced and attractive, these two watches are not trying to reinvent the chronograph or define a new era of pieces for Zodiac but rather are in response to a lot of consumer demand to bring back the Sea-Chron. Originally from the 1960s, the Zodiac Sea-Chron watches still look very attractive today. Just recently I was handling some of the original Sea-Chron timepieces and was impressed at how well they held up. It makes total sense that both Zodiac fans and the people at Zodiac today wanted to bring back the Sea-Chron — and here it is!

Zodiac is owned by the Fossil Group, and the Fossil Group owns the Swiss movement maker STP. At this time, STP does not yet have an in-house chronograph movement in the way that it has in-house three-hand automatic movements. My understanding is that STP is working on a chronograph mechanism, but for now, Zodiac needs to work with other suppliers in Switzerland in order to get movements. From a consumer perspective that should not be an issue at all. For the modern Sea-Chron watches Zodiac opted to go with Swiss Sellita and their SW510 B automatic chronograph. I think that is a great choice for this product.

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Sellita’s SW500 is their Valjoux 7750 automatic “clone,” and the SW510 (SW510 B) is a variation on it with a 3,6, and 9 o’clock chronograph layout, as well as a lack of an inset pusher to adjust the date. I say that because many ETA chronographs with this layout require the use of an annoying (in my opinion) pusher designed to correct the date (I understand the irony of bringing up the date as this watch doesn’t display one). None of that here, and for the better. Otherwise, the performance of the SW510B has it operating at 4Hz with 62 hours of power reserve. The standard SW510 only has 42 hours of power reserve so the SW510B automatic (there is a manually wound version as well) is an upgrade. I think this was a great movement to use for a modern limited-production version of the Zodiac Sea-Chron.

Unlike the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf case (that is 40mm wide), the Sea-Chron is 42mm-wide, but it is also appreciably thicker given the movement. The case is 16.5mm-thick with a 50.5mm lug-to-lug distance, and 200 meters of water resistance (not requiring screw-down chronograph pushers, though I would not try to use the chronograph underwater). The extra thickness makes the case feel bolder on the wrist, and it also has a higher center of gravity that will affect the wearing experience. I found the weight of this steel Sea-Chron to be a lot when worn on the bracelet. So I opted to put it on a strap. That is easy because, like most other Zodiac watches, the bracelet on the Sea-Chron uses quick-release spring bars. The thicker case and heavier weight are what they are, and really, it just means that (like most watches) the Sea-Chron will feel great on some wrists and not others.

Zodiac did a lot of fancy architecture work on the Sea-Chron case to make it look smaller than it is, and also to make it wear more comfortably. That makes it quite different from the Super Sea Wolf. First is the slightly thicker bezel, which also has a more rounded bezel insert. Here the bezel insert is made of black ceramic (with lumed marker paint), which is an upgrade from the K1 mineral glass crystal topper on most Super Sea Wolf bezel inserts. The Sea-Chron case’s lugs curve a lot more, and of course the caseback is a bit more rounded in order to further help reduce visual mass. The use of simple plunger-style pushers and a guard-less screw-down crown is about making the exterior of the Sea-Chron as elegant and uncluttered as possible so as to maintain smallish dimensions.

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The five-link bracelet that comes on the Sea-Chron is a now-standard part of the Zodiac watch collection. It has a lot of benefits including the micro-adjust comfort springs built into each end of the butterfly-style deployant. However, I found the tab-style pushers of the deployant to be on the sharper side and would have generally liked more soft edges when it comes to the bracelet and certain parts of the case bottom. This is a larger refinement issue that will probably come in due course as Zodiac produces more of the Sea-Chron cases; I presume it will because this is such an attractive timepiece collection.

Zodiac did the best work on the Sea-Chron dials. There are two versions to start, and they represent the Zodiac reference ZO3604 with a “reverse panda” black and white dial, as well as the pictured Sea-Chron reference ZO3605 with a blue dial and black subdials along with a matching black ceramic bezel insert. The dials all feature multi-level designs including a sandwich-style section for the hour marker’s luminant. The various levels of the watch dial, flange ring, and hands make the Sea-Chron both handsome, but also feel like a meaningful instrument in terms of high amounts of legibility and visual logic to help you read the information. Zodiac is certainly not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but rather to create a wearable and attractive redo of an archival Zodiac watch design that was originally from the 1960s. People seeking novelty and fresh design will need to look at other Zodiac products, but those seeking a highly refined vintage-style diver’s-style sports chronograph watch will really like what Zodiac did with the 2023 Sea-Chron.

Price-wise, the Sea-Chron is about $1,000 USD more than your typical steel Super Sea Wolf watch. That is about what you’d expect with the move to a mechanical chronograph movement, versus a time-only automatic. With that said, it does seem as though Zodiac is competing in price-point it isn’t normally accustomed to here. Zodiac has played in this price space before with mechanical chronographs, but the company admits that these higher price brackets are not typically where they compete. I believe that Zodiac can easily get away with selling a high-value special chronograph or other “complication” watch once in a while, but that it would otherwise be a mistake for the brand to shift too much attention away from the $2,000 and under price point. The Sea-Chron is a lovely collection that should be further explored by the collector enthusiast, but it is not where I think Zodiac as a brand is going (for the better). That said, while Zodiac remains strong in the $1,000 to $2,000 price point, there are still opportunities for Zenith to come out with special watches like the Sea-Chron that break the usual price point because Zodiac is offering something really nice at an otherwise good value when compared to the competition. There are other nice sports chronographs out there at this price point, but in a retail setting where Zodiac is often sold, most competitor brands don’t really offer anything like the Sea-Chron until you start to spend over $3,000 USD. Price for the Zodiac Sea-Chron reference ZO3604 and ZO3605 chronograph watches is $2,495 USD each. Learn more at the Zodiac watches website.

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