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Zodiac Sea Wolf ‘Topper Edition’ Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Here’s a neat bit of trivia: adjusted for inflation, a Zodiac Sea Wolf costs now, almost exactly what it did back in 1953 when the brand’s signature dive watch was released. Now, even as imprecise as most modern inflation calculators might be, the fact remains that there are precious few Swiss watch brands that are as faithful to their vintage archives as they are to their original value proposition. A quick look at Zodiac’s competition during the pioneering days of sport diving – specifically Rolex and Blancpain – tells the rest of the story.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Co-Designer Eric Singer proudly showing one of the three watches in the new capsule

We were recently on hand for the unveiling of the latest chapter in that ongoing Sea Wolf story: a colorful and affordable three-piece capsule collection of archive-inspired watches designed in part by Eric Singer exclusively for Topper Jewelers in Burlingame, California. As the drummer (the “timekeeper” in his words) for the long-running rock band KISS, Singer also happens to be a noted watch collector with a keen eye for design – a sensibility that not only earned him a spot on the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Genève (GPHG) judging panel, but one that’s seen him help with the design for multiple Zodiac dive watches. It’s the second time he’s collaborated with Rob Caplan at Topper Jewelers on designing a limited-edition series of Sea Wolf watches, and this go-around is arguably their strongest effort yet.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

What’s interesting about the new ’Series II’ collection is that though each model adheres closely to the spirit of the original Sea Wolf, none of them are exact reproductions of anything in the brand’s archive. This enabled the design process to utilize the same case platform for each – Zodiac’s ‘Compression’ style case (bear in mind that though this is Zodiac’s historical term for this case, it’s not to be confused with a true, twin-crown “compressor” style case), which measures a svelte 40mm by 11mm thick, with a 48mm lug-to-lug distance and 20mm between the lugs. . And with a screw-down crown and caseback yielding 200m of water resistance, it’s as capable as it is comfortable on a wide variety of wrists.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Hands-on images by Zach Piña

Singer was quick to point out that despite being 100% original, all three models carry enough of the distinct Sea Wolf DNA and direct design elements from past vintage models, that they could be misinterpreted for direct re-issues. One primary goal of the capsule was to revisit the quirky bezel design and colors of one of the rarest Sea Wolf watches in the archive: the checkered ‘Rally’ bezel variant. It’s highly possible at the time that this bezel was inspired by another dive watch bezel of the time: the Jenny Caribbean 300, which displayed a full decompression table within its 60-minute counter that a diver could use to determine when he would need to surface after spending any given amount of time at his pre-determined depth. Since this design was patented, it almost looks as though Zodiac simply omitted the decompression table, leaving behind a cool, taxicab-inspired motif.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Regardless of origin, the classic ‘Rally’ unidirectional rotating bezel has been faithfully reproduced here in two cheerful tones of yellow (ref. ZO9272) and blue (ref. ZO9273) and built with a highly scratch and fade-resistant mineral glass top ring, which nicely complements the accent colors on each respective dial. One design challenge unique to both of the ‘Rally’ variants was the manufacture of a new oversized luminous seconds hand – custom-built for this specific project to neatly match the color and style of the shovel hands and hour markers found on these dials.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

The third watch in the series, ZO9208 – nicknamed ‘White Wolf’ by those in attendance at the launch event – is perhaps the greatest departure from any specific archival model. It gets its nickname from the gloss-white mineral glass bezel, designed to evoke the ‘ghost bezel’ effect found on many vintage Sea Wolf watches, whose blue or yellow bezels would fade to a bright white after years of hard wear and prolonged sun exposure. It also marks the first time that Zodiac has equipped its ‘flag dial’ (denoted by the triangular 12-3-6-9 hour markers) in this modern Compression case. The end result is a stark contrast to the austere, tool watch aesthetic found on both the previous brushed stainless steel or bead-blasted titanium variants.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Unlike the Rally references, which both receive Zodiac’s jubilee style bracelet with its expanding clasp, the White Wolf gets a rivet style oyster bracelet (sadly, not real rivets like the Tudor Black Bay) that features an extremely clever adjustment system. Both ends of the bracelet are secured via traditional means – a sturdy bi-folding clasp with a flip lock, but each link on opposing sides of the clasp are spring-loaded, enabling automatic adjustment throughout the day.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

All three of the ‘Series II’ watches are powered by the same caliber: Zodiac’s Swiss-made automatic STP3-13-3, made by Swiss Technology Production. Technically speaking, this could be referred to as an ‘in-house’ manufactured movement (in the same vein one might refer to Swatch Group cousins Longines or Certina who use movements built by fellow Swatch partner ETA) as both Zodiac and STP are owned by Fossil. With 44 hours of power reserve and COSC accuracy, it’s on par with what you’d see from a chronometer-certified 2824. However, this particular movement comes with one additional upgrade in the form of a swan neck regulator; which enables a greater degree of micro-regulation to the watch’s beat rate – thereby potentially increasing its accuracy long-term, once properly adjusted. On a surface level though, most vintage Zodiac divers were equipped with a date, but dive watch purists will appreciate that this is a no-date movement, preserving the classic symmetry found on both dial expressions of the Sea Wolf.

Zodiac Sea Wolf 'Topper Edition' Series II Watches Designed By Eric Singer Hands-On

Singer’s watch for the evening: another no-date Compression-style Sea Wolf designed for Topper Jewelers earlier this year

Each piece in the series is limited to 82 pieces and can be pre-ordered right here for a small deposit at Topper Jewelers. Expected delivery for these models isn’t until Spring of 2019, which may seem light years away, but Topper wanted to initiate the pre-order phase before Singer heads out on KISS’ epic ‘End of the Road’ tour – a three-year, 44-date global victory lap, which gets underway in January. The total price of each Sea Wolf will be $1,495, which is a very slight premium on Zodiac’s standard existing bracelet-equipped variants. zodiacwatches.com

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  • I like it! Nice and restrained design without the need to plaster his name all over the place (I’m looking at you Kravitz)

  • Leonarr

    Being designed by a celebrity doesn’t really interest me, but the designs are nice. Good that they didn’t add much additional text like putting “L I M I T E D E D I T I O N – D E S I G N E D B Y . . .”
    on the dial or something.

  • Berndt Norten

    I
    Wanna rock this watch all night
    And party every day

    • Here comes Eric, gonna tell you the story
      Hand me down my walking shoes
      Here come Eric with the power and the glory
      Watchbeat the talking blues

      • Berndt Norten

        He got spring drive action
        He got the motion
        Raymond baba looba baba whatchu say?

    • egznyc

      A KISS is just a KISS
      A smile is just a smile …

      But Twisted Sister wants to rock (rock!)
      Turn the power (reserve) up
      I’ve waited for so long so I could wear my favorite watch so let’s go!

  • hatster

    Put it on a leather strap and I might just bite….. but equally I might end up damaging that bezel, knowing my luck. I still remember the ding on my Monza case at Heathrow airport a few years back #scarred

  • Martin Pitt-Bradley

    Putting a vintage SeaWolf next to a vintage Seamaster, the Zodiac was clearly the better watch. Today, I want to be a fan of this price point/quality, but the styling just looks awkward (to me)

  • Rick

    Interesting watch and nice review but I didn’t see the lug length measurement here. Did I miss that important detail?

    • 20mm lug width, and 48mm L2L – nice and compact!

  • PR

    Fun stuff, I think all three will look terrific on NATO straps.

    • I had one of the original re-issue ‘flag dial’ Sea Wolfs (in brushed SS) from a few years back, and immediately ditched the bracelet in favor of a camo nato 24/7. Perfect nato watch indeed.

  • I remember the spring loaded links from my 1987 Chronosport UDT. They worked well, but were the first things on the watch to break.

  • Totally agree. Funny thing, Eric quietly acknowledges that these types of celebrity endorsements and collaborations exist, but seemingly does everything to keep from falling into that trap. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool watch guy, and genuinely appreciates the same types of authenticity in watch design as the rest of us.

  • Watch Show and Tell

    I am excited about this project because it demonstrates that collectors are not only interested in exact reproductions of the originals, but also in modern interpretations which reflect our love and appreciation for vintage design. We have to applaud Eric and Rob’s decision to eliminate the date window, I would think that it is a risky move since a lot of folks like to have a date on the dial; however, something special about vintage Zodiac models is their eye-catching hour markers, so eliminating the date window brings symmetry back to the design. In my opinion based on this and previous projects, Eric Singer and Rob Caplan are true vintage watch aficionados with great respect for horological history and heritage. Ambitious projects like these keep collectors engaged and energized by giving us a voice.

    • Couldn’t agree more – there’s nothing terribly exciting about a 1-for-1 remake. Huge part of what left me so cold on Omega’s 60th Anniversary Trilogy collection.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Was Kiss a pop group?

    • ‘Love Gun’ was definitely a rock album, but it was followed up by ‘Dynasty,’ which was at best a misguided attempt at disco.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Disco was my thing.

  • I definitely bumped to ‘Detroit Rock City’ and ‘Love Gun’ back in the day…

  • Jon Heinz

    Not feeling the rest, but I’m really feeling the one with the solid white bezel and non-sunray dial. The “white wolf” I guess they call it.

  • Jeremy West

    “…it’s not to be confused with a true, twin-crown “compressor” style case…”

    For point of clarity, not all EPSA super compressor watch cases were twin crown…only some. And, these were the later cases. The first compressor cases, starting back in the early 50s, were single crown. Just wanted to clear that up.

    Great write up and I’m sold on the White Wolf. I love that it’s no-date! A date window would NOT have worked here.

    • Yomamma

      True enough, all Sea Wolf and Super Sea Wolf cases up through the mid-late seventies were made by EPSA. The “Compressor” originators. In fact all the original single crown snap on case back Sea Wolfs were Compressors. The name derived from compression acting on the case back increasing water resistency as depth increased. Not sure why all the dual crown EPSAs and non EPSAs seem to be synonymous as compressors.

  • Chris Canady

    Absolutely love the White Wolf. Awesome modern interpretation on the original “sun bleached” black dial Sea Wolfs with the blue bakelite bezels. I like the originals with the faded bezels but always thought the white face with blue was the better combination when still in non faded condition. For me, as a vintage Zodiac collector, this is great and as far as design I consider this a bit of an improvement.

  • Nicholas Barkly

    Great looking watches. 40mm is far too small for these .
    If they were close to 44mm ,maybe. 46 plus , definitely.