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Lesser known watch brands: Zodiac

by Michael Weare
22 October, 2012
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Zodiac Collection

We regularly focus on a watch brand that is quietly and efficiently creating quality watches but without the harsh glare of publicity afforded to the likes of brands such as Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, Omega or TAG Heuer.

Ariste Calame, Zodiac Watches founder

One such brand is Zodiac, no newcomer to the Swiss watch scene, this little known yet also iconic brand has been around since 1882. It was founded in that year in Le Locle by Ariste Calame, the son of a watchmaker. The young Ariste had a burning ambition to create the most precise watch of all time. His first effort was a pocket watch which was the catalyst for a string of successes. Noted for high quality and technical accomplishment, Calame’s company was soon one of the fastest growing in Switzerland.

Ariste Calame patented the brand ‘Zodiac’ in 1908, the same year that Rolex became Rolex, and four years before Georges Favre-Jacot named his brand Zenith. At the time Zodiac manufactured its own calibres and movements used in their pocketwatches.

Zodiac notable achievements

1924: Zodiac introduced an extra flat pocketwatch using calibre 1617.

1930: The company introduced and patented a unique shock proofing system using a z-shaped spring clip over the balance.  They also launched one of the world’s first automatic watches.

1932: One of the world’s first analogue quartz watches.

1949: At Basel, Zodiac was one of only two watches to have a power reserve function.

Zodiac Sea Wolf

1954: Zodiac introduced the Sea Wolf, one of the first serious diver’s watches to be mass marketed. The patented crown/stem system ensured water resistance to up to 750 metres. This watch went on to become a favourite collectors item among many watch aficianados.

1962: The Zodiac Aerospace Jet is launched, a watch with 24-hour hands which only traverse the watch face once in any 24 hour period.

1968: The first electronic Swiss watch is introduced, the Dynotron.

1969: Zodiac launches one of its most famous watches, the Astrographic. This watch features hour and minute hands which appear to float, while a small red moon circles the dial, counting the seconds.

1970: This year sees the launch of the first Swiss analogue quartz wristwatch the Beta 21 calibre

1977: Introduction of the first LCD watch to obtain an official chronometer certificate.

2004: Following a re-launch in 2002, Zodiac launches a vintage inspired series of watches, the Sea Dragon and V-Wolf, contemporary watches with a retro feel.

2007: Zodiac launches the ZMX -01, a watch designed for harsh environments, this is the first in Zodiac’s new direction of watches for professional use.

2010: Zodiac releases the ZMX-05 a diving watch which is a modern reinterpretation of the famous Sea Wolf model of the 1950s.

The Zodiac Killer

Sketch of the Zodiac Killer

Probably not something the Zodiac marketing department want to advertise, but the Zodiac brand is indelibly linked to a legendary – and still unidentified – serial killer. The Zodiac watch cross-circle symbol was the same symbol used by a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the late 1960s. The Zodiac killer coined his name in a series of taunting letters he sent to the press which he signed using the Zodiac watch symbol. Zodiac suspect Arthur Leigh Allen wore a Zodiac Sea Wolf, which was a popular US Navy Seal watch at the time.

 

Zodiac today

Zodiac ZMX 05 Diver

Zodiac ZMX 01 Chronograph

Zodiac ZMX03 Special Ops

On October 1, 2001 Fossil Inc. acquired the worldwide rights to the Zodiac brand name for approximately $4.7 million for use in connection with watches, clocks and other timekeeping devices.

In April 2002, the new Zodiac line was introduced at the Basel Watch Show in Switzerland, with the notable absence of any Sea Wolf model for the first time in 50 years.

Today Zodiac has defined its niche as the primarily male Diver, Aviator, Adventurer, Racer and Professional/Special Ops market. Watches tend to be priced around the $650 – 750 mark and are powered by Swiss made quartz chronograph movements.

 

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

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