When last we reviewed a Zodiac replica watch, it was of the highly anticipated Sea Wolf 53. With this replica watch, Zodiac brought back a diving legend; a replica watch with a true cult following, historical gravity and style to spare. And they did it right.
Continuing their revival of heritage models, Zodiac followed up the Sea Wolf 53 with another model from the same family, the Super Sea Wolf 68. Bigger, bolder and meant to dive deeper, the original Super Sea Wolf 750 was one of those late 60’s and 70’s barrel shaped divers that was racing for the bottom, so to speak. With a water resistance of 750m and a locking bezel mechanism, it was a functional tool replica watch. The 750’s are actually more coveted than the original 50’s Sea Wolfs, bringing in $1-2k on the vintage market.
It wasn’t a grotesque, over inflated, dolled up version of a classic, but rather a modernized version of the original that kept all the right aesthetic cues while giving it a beefier, but still very modest 39mm case (up from the original 35mm), and a water resistance of 200m, letting you use the replica watch as originally intended.
With the modern version, Zodiac stuck very true to their source material, but re-built everything from the ground up, achieving a water resistance of 1000m. The case, dial and hands are straight out the books, but more interestingly, so is the cool locking bezel which is possibly the replica watch’s best feature. Additionally, on the blue-dialed and LE models, they included a remarkably well crafted Milanese bracelet. Like the Sea Dragon and Sea Wolf 53, the 68 is powered by Fossil’s STP1-11 movement, their answer to the ETA 2824. The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 68 is also the highest priced of the set, reflecting the build and engineering, with a starting price of $1,395 for the black dial on rubber, jumping up to $1,595 for the blue dial on mesh, and topping out at $1,995 for the LE COSC model.
The case of the Super Sea Wolf 68 is the star of the show. It reeks of the 60’s in the best ways, but is built like a rock. Before even getting into it, people often see this replica watch and say wow, looks like the Squale 101 atmos, which in the sense that they are recreated 60’s divers with barrel shaped cases, high water resistances and very similar bezels, is accurate. But to call the Zodiac a copy is not accurate.
Moving on… The Super Sea Wolf 68 was gigantic by 60’s standards and remains pretty darn large for today’s as well. The barrel measures 44 x 50 x 16mm and 45mm at the bezel. The mid-case, which has a satin, bead blasted finish, is almost egg-shaped, having classic bowing barrel sides, as well as rounding on the hooded lug. The whole thing curves and flows, with soft lines and an ergonomic undercut that speaks to the original. The case is quite dramatic from the side, with a tall conical case back, slim and curvy mid-case followed by a cylindrical bezel.
A keen eye will notice that the bezel sits above a gap, which is part of the ingenious mechanism at work. In terms of design, the bezel feels very vintage. It’s thin, with an acrylic insert that give is a nice gloss. On the side of the bezel are deep teeth, allowing for easy grip. The coolest part is how it works and feels. The bezel locks in place, and in order to engage it, you must press it down, hence that gap. Once pressed, it jumps around precisely with a 60-click uni-directional ratchet. To put it simply, it’s one of the nicest bezels I’ve felt, with just an all around solid feel and a very accurate mechanism. When it’s locked in place, it’s not going anywhere, giving the replica watch a very solid feel. The Squale 101 has a very similar mechanism, though I recall it being a bit looser feeling, and that when locked, could still be turned without too much difficulty.
These replica watches were both products of the same technology race in the late 60’s to create wild, tool divers. They weren’t alone in this either. Just look at the Omega PloProf, Jenny Caribbean, Rolex SeaDweller, Doxa Sub300T and many others. All of them were pushing the envelope. In fact, the original Super Sea Wolf 750 case was made by EPSA, the same company behind the famous Super-Compressors. Zodiac wasn’t the only brand to use it either, just check out the Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox Polaris II. So, if you really want to play the “they copied them” games, you’re going to need a time machine to lodge your complaint.
The caseback of the Super Sea Wolf 68 is a thick slab of steel that screws down with typical case wrench marks. The thickness is no surprise given the replica watches depth rating. It’s conically shaped, which helps it sit in the wrist a bit more comfortably. In the center of the case back is a very deeply etched Zodiac logo, which looks great. Around it are a few expected details about the replica watch.
The dial of the Super Sea Wolf 68 is bluntly simple, staying very true to the original. On the model received, the dial surface is a sunburst blue. It’s a bright sky blue that catches the light, creating triangles of dark and like across the dial, giving it a metallic feel. The primary index is simply a series of applied rectangles at every hour. Rather than the typical polished steel, the markers are matte, bright orange and filled with white lume (likely C1). The marker at three is missing in lieu of a date window with matching orange border and white date. While the look of the date integrates well, the location is just a bit too far to the left. This is because of the movement, but the position nevertheless irks me. To their credit, it does appear to be like that on the originals as well.
The last dial element is a minute/second index on a chapter ring that stands high above the dial. The ring is all black, with white lines for the markers. It’s very simple and helps you align the bezel. The bezel insert is also black with white, lumed markers. It has a very simple, stripped down vintage style that is quite appealing. You have lines at intervals of five, with numerals at 15, 30 and 45. For the first 15 minutes, each minute is marked with a smaller white line.
The handset is a curious play on the bold plongeur style and faithful to the 750. The hour hand is a very small post shape in polished steel with lume filling. The minute hand is then a giant snake shape in bright orange. The two hands couldn’t look more different, and all of the emphasis is on the minutes, which is typical for a diver. The second hand is then a polished steel stick with a lumed rectangle towards its tip. The lume quality on the replica watch is good all around.
To be honest, while legible and executed with care for the past, the dial doesn’t really do it for me. Perhaps this is more a critique for the designers in the 60’s than now, but it just feels under-designed. Additionally, the sunburst blue/orange combo isn’t really to my liking. It’s touch too much color, and frankly looks a bit cheap and plastic compared to the sophistication of the case. Admittedly, bright colors were often in play in 60’s and 70’s replica watches, so there is a reason for it, but I definitely think matte black or gray would just work better. The bezel, in contrast, is kind of perfect. The thin lines have a technical feel that works with the technological aspects of the replica watch. All together, not sure if they create a congruent design.
There is a fair bit of text on the dial. Under the twelve marker is an applied Zodiac logo, followed by “Zodiac” in white sans-serif type, and then “Super Sea Wolf” also in white, but in an italicized script. The script is a bit odd, but truthful to the original. Above six, in then reads “Automatic” in italicized white all caps, and the “1000m / 3280ft” in orange. So, there are four lines of text and four different typefaces… it’s a bit much, though nothing is too big or loud.
The Milanese mesh bracelet they outfitter the Super Sea Wolf 68 with is a work of art, though with one unfortunate flaw. The first cool aspect is that it’s 20mm at the lugs and tapers to 18mm by the clasp. Tapering mesh is not common at all, and has a very nice effect. The mesh itself is 3.5mm thick, with a very tight weave giving the feeling of being indestructible. Yet despite its sheer density, it still flexes well.
The clasp is one of the beefiest and most solid I’ve ever seen, and that includes luxury replica watches several times the price. It’s made of thick steel that has been very well machined and finished. It’s brushed on the top and sides and has polished bevels for a glint of light. The lock features the Zodiac logo and flips over, then snaps in place with a very reassuring sound. Once closed, there is no fear of it opening as it is very sturdy. Tucked away underneath is an extension mechanism that adds about a centimeter to the length of the mesh.
Sizing the mesh is easy too, as it features some incognito links towards the clasp. Rather than being plain steel blocks, they stamped in the texture of the mesh. At a glance, it looks like it’s all mesh, though closer up you can see it’s just a pattern. They feature pins that are easy to push through with a bracelet tool. But, and here is the unfortunate flaw, even after removing all of them, the mesh was still too big for my 7″ wrist. It wasn’t grossly huge, but it was bigger than I found comfortable, especially with such a large replica watch, as it didn’t sit in place. I would likely have wanted to take out one more link. I don’t have the biggest wrist on earth, but it is average, and I know for sure plenty of guys and girls have thinner wrists than I do… so I see this being a potential issue for the replica watch.
The Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 68 is the logical continuation of the heritage pieces Zodiac is releasing. They did a very good job recreating, staying faithful to the original and making sure quality wasn’t spared. The build of this replica watch is noticeably good. The bezel is perfect, the bracelet is brilliant and all of the components look as they should. My issues with the replica watch are more personal taste than anything else. The dial doesn’t excite me, but that might be true for the originals as well. The blue is then too much color and too bright, but the replica watch does come in black, and the LE COSC model actually has a funky, textured dark gray dial, so you can get around the blue issue. The bracelet not fitting was probably the biggest disappointment since it was so attractive and well made.
The price of $1,395 – $1,995 is not surprising given the price of the Sea Wolf 53 and how they are positioning this brand. It’s a Swiss made, mechanical dive replica watch that is available at retail, so that comes with a certain tag. And with that said, the build quality does match the price. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an easy pill to swallow, and the Fossil STP1-11 movement doesn’t have the caché that ETA, Sellita or Soprod have, which are movements you’ll find in this price range.
The Super Sea Wolf 68 is a large replica watch, but big barrel replica watches never wear as big as they sound. The lack of traditional lugs makes the replica watch site more easily on top of the wrist, with no overhang issue. That said, it’s obviously a bold replica watch, but the size is doable on a 7″ wrist for sure (though you’ll have to change the strap as noted above). It’s noticeably heavy on the mesh as well, coming at at 189g with all of the removable links taken out. That said, if the mesh fits, it’s so gorgeous you’re going to just deal with. Since it didn’t fit me, I put it on one of our blue Model 2s to get a tighter fit, and found the replica watch immediately more wearable. It looks quite good on leather, and the vintage style and taper of the Model 2’s worked with the design.
Aesthetically, it’s a funky replica watch. It looks vintage if you’re a replica watch person, but likely just bizarre if you’re not. It’s obviously very sporty, but because of the soft lines of the case, doesn’t come across as an aggressive piece. Generally speaking, it’s pretty versatile for a casual replica watch, though the blue and orange will need to be considered with the rest of your attire. For me, they didn’t click with my usual style.
In the end, if I had to pick between the 53 and the 68, the 53 would win hands down. Slightly better price aside ($1,295 vs $1,395), the 53 is the more wearable and iconic product. It also fills a bit of a void for a smaller sized sport replica watch. One that delivers vintage style, but is ready for adventure. The 68 is more of a show piece, and certainly a cool technical achievement for the brand, but when it comes down to wearing something everyday, loses out on style and practicality. I mean, if the 68 does it for you, and you want to rock a big barrel everyday, then you’ll be very happy with it, but for me the 39mm 53 is wear it’s at. That said, if at Basel 2016 or down the line, they take the 68 and go Super Sea Wolf Chrono with it, copying the Valjoux 72 3-6-9 layout of the original, then I might change my tune.