November 12, 2016
by Ariel Adams
In early 2016, Zodiac released this Sea Dragon Chronograph collection, which currently represents the most high-end Zodiac watches available. There are a few standard-edition Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph watches available, as well as two, more expensive, limited-edition models that offer unique color palettes as well as a special steel bracelet option for one of them. The Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph watch is based on the three-hand Sea Dragon models, of course. A nod to vintage models from Zodiac’s past, these watches feature a quasi cushion-shaped case and a hip, sporty style.
While the three-hand Sea Dragon watches are 39mm wide, the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph is larger at 42mm wide (and water resistant to 100 meters). Moreover, the cases are 17mm thick, versus 13mm thick for the three-hand models. Case finishing is similar, but with the different proportions, the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph wears much differently.
From a movement perspective, the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph uses a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. If you recall, the Sea Dragon three-hand makes use of a Swiss STP movement which is produced by a company that (like Zodiac) is part of the Fossil Group. STP does not yet make chronograph movements, which is why Zodiac decided to use ETA chronograph movements. The Valjoux 7750 (4Hz operation and 48 hours of power reserve) is a common but robust movement that feels appropriate for this design and style of watch. Zodiac makes full use of the 12-hour chronograph as well as day/date indicator windows on the dial. The movement can be seen through a sapphire crystal window on the rear of the watch.
The appeal of a watch like the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph is mostly about design. It doesn’t use exotic materials or have any standout technical features, but it is a very decent way to get that colorful 1970s sport chronograph watch style in a package that isn’t too wildly priced. Other brands have sport chronograph watches which are a nod to this era, but they typically go for a lot more money. With that said, the limited edition version of the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph (the reference ZO9916) on the bracelet does near prices outside of what many people are accustomed to spending on today’s Zodiac watches at a price of around $3,500. Having said that, the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph collection of watches has a starting retail price of (just) under $2,000.
What I like the most about the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph is the dial design. There are five different variations, which mix bold colors that would fit nicely into the seating cabin of traditional American muscle cars. The subdials are cushion-shaped to match the case shape, and the variety of textures and materials is interesting and mostly pleasing to the eye. The curved sapphire crystal makes it hard to take glare-free pictures of the watch, but in person these are interesting watches to wear on the wrist.
Hand lengths and overall face element proportions are good, so despite the exotic looks, the hands, subdials, and markers are all pretty easy to read, making for good legibility. You’ll notice the inner tachymeter scale around the main dial, which is mostly there for aesthetics – but it works really nicely. I personally like the metallic blue dial on the reference ZO9914, and the black and red dial on the limited edition Z09916 the best. Fans of brown tones will probably find a lot to like in the ZO9913.
In addition to a few strap options, as I mentioned, there are two bracelets available for the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph. The limited edition ZO9916 has a “racer-style” steel bracelet with portholes and then smaller links in order to size it better. The non-limited ZO9914 and ZO9917 models have three-link style steel bracelets similar to those on the three-hand Sea Dragon models.
The other limited-edition version of the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph is the reference ZO9915, which comes on a grey hand-glazed alligator strap and also has a pretty cool-looking dial in dark gray with red and cream accents, as well as a second strap option. Both of the limited-edition Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph models come with two strap or bracelet options and special packaging. The ZO9915 comes with a natural brown calfskin leather with contrast pick stitching, and ZO9916 comes with a black leather moto-inspired strap similar in execution to the bracelet with a red lining. What also sets the limited edition models apart, and helps partially explain the price difference, is that the movements inside (also 7750 calibers) are COSC Chronometer certified.
Zodiac’s Super Sea Wolf 53 and Super Sea Wolf 68 watches are still the start of the current Zodiac brand for their distinctive styles, dive watch durability, and use of STP mechanical movements… at very reasonable prices. The Sea Dragon and Sea Dragon Chronograph are a bit more niche in their appeal – but that makes them all the more gratifying to those people for which they have the most aesthetic appeal. Prices for the Zodiac Sea Dragon Chronograph are US$1,995 for the ZO9913 on the strap, $2,195 for the ZO9914 and ZO9917 on the bracelet, $2,695 for the limited edition of 82 pieces ZO9915, and $3,495 for the limited edition of 18 pieces ZO9916. zodiacwatches.com