May 23, 2013
by David Bredan
Zodiac is a Swiss brand with considerable heritage being founded in 1882 as Ariste Calame and registered in 1908 as Zodiac. Today the brand is continued under ownership from the Fossil Group. Zodiac had been a well-established manufacturer with quite some following thanks to its coveted lines of watches such as the – sadly discontinued – Sea Wolf, first introduced in 1953. Fossil, being the fashion-watch manufacturer giant as it is (making watches for DKNY, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors and many others), gave Zodiac a go in the fashion-watch market. Now, with their newest Limited Edition Sea Dragon collection, they are about to follow two of the latest trends of the industry: retro styling and vibrant colors.
We have not heard from Zodiac for quite some time now, and it’s true that there have been some ups and downs in their previous collections. They have been doing some very modern and generously sized (50-52mm) timepieces lately, like those in the Special Ops or the Sea Dragon collections. Bringing out a vintage-inspired edition, like this LE Sea Dragon, certainly shows that the brand wants to discover and build on its heritage better than it had done previously.
The case and the dials are inspired by the designs of vintage chronographs and are hence strongly reminiscent of some all-time greats like the Heuer Autavia, the Breitling Datora or some Wakmann chronographs of the ‘70s. The 42mm stainless steel case is equipped with a rotating bezel, it is water resistant to 100 meters and it has a sapphire front covered with anti-reflective coating. The solid case back will be etched with the edition number. The retro craze, however, stops right there as all five models come in boldly different colors with matching anti-allergenic rubber straps. I believe that Fossil got what they wanted: such fresh and youthful tones, along with the rubber straps paired with the undeniably retro aesthetics could prove to be exciting for their target demographic – one that gives distinctly higher priority to fashion trends than to the authenticity of vintage designs.
Inside the watches are Swiss made Ronda 5021 quartz movements which, beyond the sub-seconds, have a 30 minute chronograph and date function. Of course Fossil could have equipped these watches with a mechanical movement at a higher price – and hence improve brand authenticity amongst the watch enthusiastic community. Clearly, that was not the intention of Fossil who are rather going upmarket with the ‘Fossil Swiss’ line of watches and are trying to enforce Zodiac’s place on the wishlist of an audience that is more fashion-conscious, than the hardcore watch enthusiast. Nevertheless, there is an appeal to these watches.
Only 1,000 copies will be made of the ‘all-black’ model, while 500 will be available of each of the other four colors which are orange on dark blue, red, yellow and light blue. The exclusivity of the Limited Edition will be enhanced by the special collector’s box with a “Zodiac Limited Edition” plaque and commemorative brochure, as well as the fact that they will be available from the website of Zodiac only. In addition, a complimentary interchangeable strap will be available by request via the website. Price will be $595 for all models, which sounds like pushing it a bit, even considering the extras involved and that it is a limited edition. Whether or not these could have been successful as a non-limited collection – with fewer extras and a lower price – we will never know, but I believe it could have improved brand recognition as a proper, fashionable collection for the summer.
For the die-hard, cult followers of the brand, this limited edition could be cold comfort, but with its trendy colors and retro-chic appearance it could still intrigue many. I feel that it could be equally interesting for those following the latest trends as well as to those who have always wanted to have a vintage watch but were afraid of buying a several decades old watch for daily wear. If this watch manages to keep its fairly straightforward promises of being a retro-styled, yet fresh looking and quality made timepiece, then it just might prove to be a quick sell-out. Anyhow, if Zodiac’s new go at retro styling manages to pull that off or not is still in question and it’s something we could only tell after we get some hands-on time with one of these. Again, price is $595, and these will be available at zodiacwatches.com