Quick, name the three companies who introduced the first dive watches to the world in 1953. Blancpain, Rolex and…
The first two are easy. The Fifty Fathoms and Submariner are household names to watch enthusiasts and divers alike. But the third company, Zodiac, fell on hard times in the 1970s and was all but forgotten for their seminal contribution to subaquatic timekeeping. That’s a shame, because it was their Sea Wolf in 1953 (beating even the Rolex Submariner to launch) that became a diver’s go-to piece from that decade right up through the Vietnam War, when American GIs and Navy divers were relying on them in the humid jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Sea Wolf emerged from a long dormancy last year when a resurgent Zodiac introduced an historically accurate reissue of the watch to much fanfare. Dubbed the Super Sea Wolf 53, the watch looks and feels every bit like its historical forebear with its thin engraved metal bezel, narrow angled lugs, funky dial markers and triangular hands. The original was a mere 35mm in diameter; Zodiac wisely sized the new one up to 39mm. Its 200m water resistance is the same as it was in 1953 (it was enough back then and is enough today). The watch comes on a suitably retro five-link steel bracelet that drapes on the wrist like the ones so many ’60s dive watches were fitted with.
The Zodiac name is now owned by the Fossil watch company, which is better known for its shopping-mall stores and cheap fashion watches. But the company has gotten serious about watchmaking, opening its own movement factory in Switzerland to produce mechanical calibres for several of its watches. For the Super Sea Wolf 53, Zodiac chose a self-winding STP1-11 calibre that can, for all intents and purposes, be called “in-house.” This movement is visible through a clear screwed-in case back that is nearly the only departure from the snap-on case backs of yore. All in all: the Sea Wolf is back, and it’s hungry.
Movement: STP1-11 self-winding mechanical
Case: 39mm stainless steel
Water resistance: 200m
Functions: Time and date, elapsed time bezel
Strap: Steel bracelet