July 28, 2017
by Zen Love
Resurrected from the Zodiac archives, the Jetomatic introduces a new collection of pilot-style watches and was one of the important releases this year for the Fossil-owned Swiss brand. It is competitively priced, and its movement has an unusual feature in something called a swan neck regulator – but we’ll come back to that. To me, the Zodiac Jetomatic offers a straightforward tool watch, a piece of Zodiac brand personality, and a movement to get watch enthusiasts’ attention.
Right away, its name tells you that the Zodiac Jetomatic is aviation- and vintage-themed (seems like everything in the 1960s was something-o-matic). The looks of the watch also do a good job at communicating those things. From the sword-shaped hands, pointy hour markers, and contrasting chapter ring to the big “onion” crown, this is clearly a “pilot watch” but without looking a lot like other popular pilot watches, which is a positive thing, in my opinion.
Any brand that can succeed with both a dive and a pilot watch collection is in a good place. And modern Zodiac has, aside from the Astrographic (reviewed here), been strong on vintage-themed dive watches with the Super Sea Wolf (hands-on here), the Super Sea Wolf 68 (reviewed here), and the Sea Dragon (hands-on with the chronograph version here) collections. As with other Zodiac lines, the Jetomatic is the rebirth of a vintage model, even though many past watches that shared that name (or Jet-O-Matic) look nothing like the 2017 Jetomatic.
Alongside the standard production Jetomatic collection that has more modern updates, Zodiac also released a limited edition that is said to have been “reverse-engineered” to faithfully recreate a 1960s Zodiac Pilot watch. So, though Zodiac hasn’t provided images of the original that the new models are based on, we can get some idea by looking at the limited edition model that has a smaller 40mm case, sloping chapter ring, raised mineral crystal, and solid caseback. For reference, it is also COSC-certified and costs more, with a price of $1,495.
The non-limited models come as four SKUs with different dial and strap/bracelet styles. The one you see here on a bracelet (with a nice, thin butterfly-style clasp) with a mostly monochromatic dial of black with off-white is the ZO9107. All have 42mm-wide, 14mm-thick steel cases with 100m of water resistance. The flat sapphire crystal and good contrast on the dial, not to mention the ample application of Super-LumiNova, help keep legibility very good. The lume is one of the watch’s strong points, and you’ll see I had some fun taking pictures of it.
Overall, the Zodiac Jetomatic has a good look on the wrist and a lot of versatility. Looking more closely, here I will note that the case and bracelet have an industrial quality to their finishing with some sharp edges. This doesn’t mean any actual poking or wearing discomfort, but it prevents the watch from feeling as refined as it perhaps could. That combined with the flat, printed dial give the Zodiac Jetomatic a very straightforward, utilitarian, tool watch vibe. I know that this is how many pilot-style watches are done and that legibility is the main point, but it often left me wanting more to look at. While not an absolute requirement, depth and three-dimensional elements on a dial are something I tend to look for because of the interest and sense of detail it can add to the wearing experience.
The STP 3-13 movement in the Zodiac Jetomatic, on the other hand, goes a long way in adding to the interest as a complete package. For a basic movement in a watch at this price level, it looks pretty good through the display caseback, with lots of perlage and blued screws. The STP 3-13 is a variation of STP’s basic 1-11 movement that is close to an ETA 2824-2 clone. As we discussed here in our visit to the STP manufacture, STP is the “Fossil Group’s answer to ETA.” That means that they are making mass-produced Swiss Made mechanical movements in volume to supply a range of companies in and outside their own group.