In the second part of 2019, Zodiac quietly released the first “blacked-out” version of its popular Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Automatic watch with the reference ZO9276. Internally, this watch is mostly known as the “Super Sea Wolf 53 Black.” The timepiece offers a new dial-color treatment as well as stainless steel case and bracelet that have been thoroughly PVD-coated in black. The underlying steel surface treatments remain the same, with the polished and brushed surfaces still rendering nicely in the all-black color.

Why black? Aside from the fact that “all black” watches are rather popular with some watch consumers, from a designer’s perspective, there is another goal. Taking a core design and offering it in new colors is an interesting test to see how versatile and robust a core design is. By that, I mean the notion that if the Super Sea Wolf 53 case looks good in polished steel, as well as black-coated steel, it is a robust and versatile design. This is contrary to many watch cases that are less aesthetically robust and might look great in all-black, but not as nice when in natural steel (or vice versa).

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Most entirely black-coated watches end up having a very military or tactical look to them. Black watches became popular as timepieces that did not reflect light, thus making them ideal for many tactical purposes. The result is that many of today’s black watches still look as though they are intended to be worn by some commando. I would not say that is the case with the Zodiac ZO9276. With its aquamarine text and seconds hand, there is more of a friendliness to this timepiece, as opposed to the combative tone we see in many timepieces destined for the wrists of real (or imagined) commandos.

Zodiac played with the luminant and dial colors in order to create high-contrast regions that are good for legibility. On that note, legibility for the Super Sea Wolf 53 Black is very high, but it bothers me somewhat that the main 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock hour markers are so disproportionately larger than the other markers. This just messes with the overall symmetry and balance of the face in a way that is more emphasized by the contrast experienced on this blacked-out Super Sea Wolf 53 Black versus other Super Sea Wolf 53 non-black watches with the same exact dial design (save for different colors).

Contrast is funny like that because while it can help legibility in almost all situations, too much contrast can lead to harshly contrasting colors… which leads to an erosion in overall elegance. What does work particularly well on the Super Sea Wolf 53 Black is the black-colored 40mm-wide case and matching bracelet. It is uncommon, to say the least, to find bracelets like this in black because of the fact that each individual piece of the bracelet should be individually coated. I’m not sure what process Zodiac used (since this watch sells for only a modest premium over the non-black models), but the black coating on the steel bracelet is very uniform and helps breathe new life into this bracelet design.

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While we can come to various conclusions about appeal of the dial on the Zodiac Zo9726, I think pretty much everyone can agree that more blacked-out Zodiac watches should be considered since the effect is appealing and Zodiac seems to have the ability to price them fairly.

Over the dial is a sapphire crystal, and over the uni-directional rotating bezel is a mineral crystal. The case is 13mm-thick and, as a diver’s watch, it is water resistant to 200 meters. Inside this, and other modern Super Sea Wolf 53 watches, is the in-house-made caliber STP 3-13 automatic mechanical movement (produced by STP, which is a Fossil Group company) that operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. In my opinion, this is a pretty high-grade movement given the overall price of this timepiece.

For now, an all-black Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Automatic watch will only run you $100 more than the exact same model in a natural steel case. As I said, that is a pretty good value, overall. Price for the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression Automatic Black Stainless Steel reference Z09276 watch is $1,395 USD. Learn more at the Zodiac website here.

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