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ZODIAC Sea Dragon

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September 14, 2008 03:50AM
I have a vintage Zodiac SST, which I love, and vintage Zodiacs seem to be well regarded by watch enthusiasts. Opinions on newer, Fossil-era Zodiacs seem to me more mixed, whether on the basis of styling or quality. I've not seem a lot of formal reviews of newer Zodiacs and technical information can be hard to come by. So, I'd like to offer here a review of a watch I like very much, my Zodiac Sea Dragon chronograph (Z02216).
The original Swiss firm of Zodiac was founded by Ariste Calame in Le Locle in 1882, though the brand name "Zodiac" was only employed after 1900. Though they used ETA or AS movements and ebauches, which they modified, Zodiac lays claim to a number of horological firsts, including (at the same time as Jaeger-LeCoultre) the first wristwatch with a power reserve indicator (1948), the first Swiss electronic watch (1968), the first Swiss analog quartz watch (1970), and the first COSC certified LED watch (1977). They also produced a number of interesting timepieces from a collector?s perspective, such as the Sea Wolf, the Astrographic, and the (affordable!) 36000 bph SST hi-beat autos.
Nevertheless, Zodiac was a victim of the Swiss watch market collapse of the 1970s. In 1979 it was acquired by Dixi-Mechanique, though the Calame family remained principals until 1990. At that time it was acquired by Willy Gad Monnier (formerly of Tag Heuer), under whom it went bankrupt in 1997. The brand and remaining stock were purchased by Genender International in 1998, from whom it went to Fossil Inc. in October 2001. Fossil revitalized Zodiac as their high-end, Swiss brand, and introduced an all-new product line at Basel 2002.

The Sea Dragon was introduced at the Basel Watch Show in 2004 and is still in production. It is available in both chrono and non-chrono models, and on solid bracelets, "Caoutchouc" rubber straps, and (at least formerly) on leather straps. My example is a chrono on a black leather bund. Some specs:
42.5mm wide (w/o crown)
46mm wide (w/crown)
48mm long
22mm lugs
Wt: 146g (w/o band)
100m WR
mineral crystal
two-way rotating bezel
screwed case back
lumed hands and indices

The movement (borrowed pic) is a Ronda S.021.D, based on the Ronda "Startech" Cal. 5020B chronograph (10 jewels, gilt). The apparent differences are the small date (at 6:00) and the removal of the 12hr sub counter. What remains is a sub seconds, sub minutes (30 min counter), and center stop second (1/1 sec), with accumulated and interval chronograph timing. The battery is a Renata 395/SR 927 SW (54 months). The movement hacks and has a 70% power savings with stem pulled.

The case is polished stainless steel on the sides, but on the top, below the bezel, it is finely brushed in a very nice sunburst pattern. The bezel is thin and, while snug, turns quite easily. The crystal is raised above the bezel perhaps 1.5mm total and is slightly domed. While more prone to chips, it is highly aesthetic. The dial is printed with a tachymeter scale, with applied indices and logos. Everything lines up properly and the lume is decent. The chrono pushers are standard and the crown does not screw down. But it is a very nice crown. It seems to be machined out, with an inlaid logo. It is at any rate glassy smooth.

The case back is one of the first things that struck me about the watch. It is deeply and very nicely etched with (naturally) a sea dragon. The bund strap is also first rate. It's well padded, nicely stitched, pleasantly grained, and extremely supple and comfortable. I don't have a photo of the buckle, but it too is nicely machined and first rate. Still, if I had it over I might have purchased the bracelet model, since they too look to be very nice and do not cover the gorgeous case back, like the bund does.

Verdict: I purchased my Sea Dragon new 10 months ago for about $100 shipped. For the price, I think the value is very good. I love the retro styling, the substantial size and heft, and am pleased with the fit and finish. The movement is quite good, though I wish Zodiac had simply used the standard Ronda 5020B movement. But, that said, for me it is a definite keeper.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/28/2010 10:47AM by Reto.

ZODIAC Sea Dragon Image Attachments

cgrif13858September 14, 2008 03:50AM

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