July 13, 2020
by David Bredan
I never thought I would one day compare a mechanical watch to artificial intelligence, but here goes. In today’s civilized world, we have artificial intelligence analyzing our data to provide content, product, and location recommendations tailored to our taste — and do a lot more, besides. The Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m watch promises to hit such a sweet spot in terms of specs and design, it is almost as though it were designed by an algorithm based on some of the most common watch design requests shared on the Internet.
How so? It’s a distinctly well-made dive/sports watch with some exceptionally cool dial and case options, a proper ETA movement, GMT functionality, case diameter of 40mm (the sweet spot for many — please do let us know you if you are the exception), bracelet and strap options. Honestly, the resemblance to some of the most frequent requests shared under our Giveaway queries is just uncanny. Moving on to some proper first impressions now.
It is a relieving and joyful moment to have a watch make an excellent first impression right after taking it out of its box for the first time. I hate disliking watches because I know even the stuffiest, most stuck-up of brands with the most pitiable reliance on an octagonal bezel have spent a fair bit of effort on a new product — only for it to sometimes disappoint the audience and ultimately its creator. Now, imagine a small startup of a watch brand that’s only in its sixh year of operation that relies tremendously on the ongoing support of its customer base — which, in turn, is heavily dependent on its ongoing satisfaction.
The Zelos Horizons V2 GMT is a watch that makes a fantastic first impression. Upon first sight, I was relieved by its compact proportions and reasonable weight, both suitable for a comfortable wearing experience when strapped around a boringly average human wrist. This was elevated by the funky, but not overdone, teal-centered dial and light blue bezel. Meanwhile, the massive hands and large indices effused confidence and functionality. First impressions? A big tick, and the neat presentation has only added to it.
The Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m measures 40mm in diameter with a compact 45mm lug-to-lug distance and a wearable 11mm thickness. Zelos provides that 11mm thickness rating noting that it excludes the box crystal on the front — you have to add another 1.5mm for that. A 40mm-wide case properly made from solid 316L stainless steel… Having worn it for 10 or so days to this point, this might just be the perfect size-weight ratio for a sports wristwatch. It’s robust, without trying too hard. It’s reassuring, without being floppy or cumbersome. I said this years ago and will keep saying it until it eventually happens: Large, borderline oversized watches will be out of fashion soon. In fact, as you probably see all around you, the process has already begun. Watches that extend beyond the edge of the wrist have for long been frown upon, but the time will come when everyday sports watches, styled like the Horizons V2, will all be considered desirable in the 40-41mm size. Crazy concept watches and watches designed for extreme use scenarios will remain an exception, sure. And all we’ll be hearing is Rolex quietly snickering in the corner of the room, having sat this whole large watch craze out without much effort. But that’s a different story.
At $899 as seen here with a steel case matched to a steel bracelet, the Zelos Horizons has to be more than a handsome compilation of parts with a blatantly off-the-shelf nature to them. It’s a good couple of Benjamins too expensive for that. No problems with that, though — the execution of this case noticeably exceeds the quality of its $500-$600 microbrand peers across all fronts. The neat curvature of its case profiles — as they narrow from the center towards the ends of the lugs while also arching downwards — is just superb. In fact, it is such a pleasant sight to the eyes that it takes extra scrutiny for one to appreciate just how ideal its dimensions are.
Whereas cases on cheaper alternatives often have an undesirable chrome-like look to the polished segments of their steel cases, the shiny bevels around the 316L case of the Horizons V2 GMT have a distinctly solid, I want to say “dense” appearance. The edges meet in sharper points at the ends of the lugs with a marvelous extra-polished square at the tip of the lugs. On five- and six-figure priced watches, we tend to highlight how difficult it is to add extra squares at such finicky places, for the slightest mishap will result in botched lines and the futile chase for a perfect shape begins. So, I guess we should damn well praise it on a sub-$1k watch.
The bezel has vertical lines for easier grip and a more refined look. Despite that, the bezel is pretty hard to turn mainly due to its low profile and heavy ratchet. The lower profile to the bezel looks good, but also makes it easier for fingertips to slide for a lack of grip. As far as I’m concerned a hard-turning bezel is annoying some of the time, whereas a tall one is unsightly all of the time. That makes this a preferable compromise for now, but a looser ratchet would nevertheless be nice to have. To assist reading the 24-hour GMT hand, the bezel has a 24-hour scale underneath a transparent layer that’s sapphire crystal; hardcore GMT users will know that this bi-directional rotating 24-hour bezel can also be used to read a third time zone as well. A minor, yet notable plus point is that the markings of the bezel are lumed as well. It’s a faint lume, especially when compared to the A-class luminescence of dial components, that’s there more for the giggles than anything else. Still, I am yet to see a lumed bezel at this price point that glows brighter than this.
The stainless steel caseback has a sapphire crystal window revealing the Elaboré-grade (i.e. high-grade) ETA movement within. Being a high-quality item, the caseback itself goes neatly with the quality of the case — it might sound ridiculous mentioning this, but in this segment, corners are often cut where manufacturers think we won’t notice it. So to find a rock-solid caseback with laser-etched texts and a nice, large window in sapphire is a noteworthy plus.
Most of the stainless steel cased Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m watches come on a stainless steel bracelet with a rubber strap also in the box. I say “most” because the previously launched meteorite-dialed versions were equipped only with the rubber strap, and so were the bronze-cased variants. The bracelet, although far from perfect (more on that in the wearability segment) has come a long way in terms of finishing. The outside edges of the bracelet are polished and the individual links are held together by 1mm screws, as opposed to pins. The folding clasp remains the Achilles heel of these cheap(er) bracelets as it still has a few too many sharp edges where their absence would make a difference. That said, visually, the bracelet nicely complements the case and doesn’t look cheap like these often tend to do.
By contrast, the strong point of the rubber strap is precisely its pin buckle. It’s chunky, nicely finished and comfortable to use and wear. The rubber strap has a diagonal basketweave pattern embossed its texture with rectangular cut-outs for the pin to go through and for the skin to breathe. The flipside is cool too, with massive indentations keeping the strap from sticking up against the skin even when wet. The positive impact this amplified pattern on the back has on wearability is so enormous that when we come to power we’ll make these mandatory on every rubber strap.
The dial is another aspect of the Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m that sets it apart from its comparably more affordable competition. The applied indices are massive and multi-faceted, putting on a decent light show easy to see and appreciate with the naked eye. The vignette effect on the edge of this teal dial isn’t as in-your-face as it is on some other pieces riding the vignette / ombré / dégradé dial trend, giving enough space for the cool turquoise base color and its sunburst treatment to breathe. The hands are massive to match the indices. To-the-minute legibility isn’t great and takes time getting used to, but you do learn how to eyeball it pretty soon. The polished hands are another nice, quality touch. Lume is excellent all around, with no blotchy textures or short-lasting luminescence to report. Top-tier stuff.
The ETA 2893-2 that powers the Zelos Horizons V2 is a neat-looking example with a custom rotor. The rotor isn’t the most beautifully etched piece of metal in the world, but the pattern is nice enough to balance that out and add a unique character to the caseback view. Specs are regular ETA stuff, power reserve is a low, low 38 hours though the frequency is at least the higher 4 Hertz that offers greater overall stability. Wear it every day and you won’t suffer the short power reserve.
Wearability varies between the steel bracelet and the rubber strap. Although, as we said, the steel bracelet has stepped the bracelet game up in this segment by displaying some impressive finishing on its links, its overall wearability is yet to show such improvements. Although I am by no means a hairy dude, especially not on the flipside of my wrist, I was frequently experiencing hair-pulling with the bracelet — I am not even sure when was the last time I felt this uncomfortable pinch. Maybe you’ll be luckier with it — or maybe wearing it more loosely will help those who prefer wearing a steel bracelet watch a bit loose. Lastly, the pin in the folding segment of the clasp is welded on in such a way that it oddly protrudes out of the clasp and towards the wrist — at first I thought that was the culprit pinching and scratching the flipside of my wrist. As it turns out, it’s not the one to fault, but it sure doesn’t help either.
The rubber strap has proven much more comfortable. It is supple — could be a bit more flexible still, but it is by no means bad — and with the pin buckle it is way better on the flip side too. Big plus point of the strap are the massive rectangular spaces and holes that help air to circulate between the strap and the skin: I never experienced excessive sweating or discomfort one often feels on rubber straps with solid backs.
Zelos has done a decent job by going for the nicer-looking steel bracelet and by supplying a suitable and usable rubber strap on a high-quality buckle. The rubber strap’s texture could be nicer on the front, but then again, supplying super expensive bracelets and straps is far, far from being the norm in the sub-$1k segment. I’d suggest giving the bracelet a try, then switch to the rubber strap for the beach… And later on, invest in a nice leather or rubber strap from a renowned supplier.
The Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m is one heck of a strong offering at $899. The presentation is neat and the case, dial and movement are as strong as one could ever hope for in this segment. Really, it is hard to over-stress just how impressively made the case and dials are, down to the polished edges of the steel case and the applied indices all over the dial. Fine-tuning wearability and comfort are where Zelos and its bracelet supplier needs a bit more experience, but they aren’t far from nailing it.
Available in a host of dial colors and materials, including meteorite dials and bronze cases, prices for the Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m range between $849 and $1,099. This particular Zelos Horizons V2 GMT 200m in teal retails $899. You can see other variations and their prices on the brand’s website.
>Model: Horizons V2 GMT 200m Teal
>Price: $849 – $1,099 USD
>Size: 40mm-wide, 12.50mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Any time when in the mood to wear something durable and fun.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Value-conscious sports-watch lover looking for a classic, but fun all-rounder.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautifully made case and dial, lovely color that really makes it fun to wear.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Bracelet needs wearability improvements.