Why Zodiac is the brand that won 2023 Why Zodiac is the brand that won 2023

Why Zodiac is the brand that won 2023

D.C. Hannay

I love this annual exercise, because it forces me to step back and take stock of a brand’s overall output across an entire twelve months. I considered a cheeky take, naming Breitling the winner based on the last-minute announcement of their Universal Genève acquisition, but honestly, we’re some ways away from an actual watch. Last year’s pick for the brand that won 2022 was an easy one for me: Tudor. They released hit after hit in a marathon that lasted the entire year, but in 2023, it feels like they lifted their foot off the throttle just a bit. Don’t get me wrong: the Black Bay 54 is as close as you can get to a vintage Sub, the stalwart Black Bay got some welcome improvements, and the titanium Pelagos FXD diver was a fine release after the dust settled from the anticipatory hype. But still, there were other contenders to consider. The wondrous French microbrand Serica saw a full lineup refresh, with COSC-certified chronometers across the range and a continuous stream of some of the loveliest timepieces available at any price (so gorgeous, I picked up the 5303-3 diver myself). Finally, Italian micro Echo/Neutra made a cataclysmic impact on my psyche with their Cortina 1956 lineup, showcasing their bold design language, exquisite use of colour, and fantastic build quality. But after soaking up the whole of 2023, my pick became clear: Zodiac.

Exhibit A: For a serious watch, they’re incredibly fun

zodiac super sea wolf compression

Rolex (and to a lesser degree, Blancpain) gets the bulk of the accolades when it comes to pioneering dive watches, but Zodiac deserves to be mentioned in the same rarefied (breathable) air. The Sea Wolf made its debut in 1953 along with the Submariner and Fifty Fathoms, so they’ve got equal bragging rights in my eyes. But Zodiac wasn’t one to rest on their laurels.

Zodiac Vintage 2

While still a serious piece of kit for military, scientific, and recreational divers alike, Zodiac was the first to inject a shot of colourful adrenaline into their designs, beginning in the mid-’60s. They showed a fearlessness in their use of colour from then on, and continue that sense of fun today. And now, they’ve become known for some of the best collabs in the watch space, with outrageous combos that sound bonkers on paper, but just plain work on the wrist.


Creamsicle, pineapple, and watermelon are but a few of the delicious colourways on offer, and rest assured, that psychedelic train isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Sure, you can buy a black-dialled Super Sea Wolf, but with combos so vivid, you don’t need to stick to the tool-diver script if you want to stand out a bit.

Exhibit B: Crate digging through a deep catalogue of classics

zodiac olympos field duo

Today’s Zodiac has a catalogue of stone-cold classics, from the many iterations of the Super Sea Wolf, the retrolicious Super Sea Wolf Skin Diver, the Super Sea Wolf GMT World Time, the Sea-Chron diving chronograph, and the pro-level Super Sea Wolf Saturation and Pro-Diver GMT models, but there’s so much more just under the surface, if you’d pardon the diving joke. The brand has an incredibly deep bench of heritage models, most of which are yet untapped in their current lineup. Zodiac made some rather fetching dress watches back in the day, including the Autographic, which included one of the first power reserve indicators. And when the trippy ‘60s ticked over into the funky ‘70s, they were right there with some of the most avant designs on the market, including the SST Astrographic with its “Mystery Dial”, whose hands seemed to float in space. That watch was reissued back in 2018, but here’s hoping it becomes a permanent part of the catalogue. Happily, Zodiac’s striking Olympos dress watch from 1970 has made its way back into the lineup, with several variants on offer, and you can be sure that more retro gems are waiting in the wings.

Exhibit C: The hardest working brand in the biz

Zodiac Super Seawolf Laser Tag Limited Edition Worn And Wound

Finally, Zodiac is my pick this year because (with apologies to James Brown) they’re the hardest working brand in showbiz. They’re putting in the work and sweating the details, from their aggressive schedule of releases that somehow never seem forced, to their evolutionary improvements in product quality. Many in the watch enthusiast community were wary upon the brand’s acquisition by the US-based Fossil Group, but Zodiac has gone above and beyond to earn the public trust. Zodiac remains a Swiss-based manufacture, with their movements coming from STP, part of the Fossil Group. Big strides have been made in the quality department, and Zodiac is promising bigger things in the future, which include the new COSC-certified STP 1-11 movement.


And getting that message out there to watch fans is the team that pounds the pavement day in and day out, on enthusiast podcasts, at watch trade shows, and their many in-store appearances among their growing retailer network. The endless roadshow isn’t something a lot of brands do, but Zodiac are evangelizing the brand worldwide, spreading the good news to such far-flung destinations as Australia, where the Time + Tide Shop is now their exclusive retailer Down Under.

Summary judgment


Zodiac brought the horological heat this year, with several new models released, including the boldly coloured Laser Tag special editions, the murdered-out SSW Pro Diver GMT, and my pick, the new green-dialled Super Sea Wolf Skin Diver, a new variant on my all-time favourite watch from Zodiac’s catalogue. They’ve proven their fearlessness again and again: they’ve got colours, and they’re not afraid to use them. The brand’s quality keeps improving with every new model release, and higher specs seem to be the mandate throughout the range. You can even have your Zodiac in materials like titanium and ceramic, in addition to stainless steel. Their enviable back catalogue is an almost bottomless well of inspiration. Finally, their team is spreading the Zodiac gospel far and wide, showing the collector crowd that they’re listening, and using that feedback to improve. I feel now (having won over the hardcore watch enthusiast) is the time for Zodiac to ascend to the next level, and into the greater public consciousness. It’s my belief that the brand should be mentioned in the same breath as other prestige Swiss brands, and they deserve it. All these reasons are why I can say, without reservation, that Zodiac is the brand that won the year for me.