Zodiac has been around since 1947, and is known for its innovative designs. In recent years the brand was acquired by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy), but still maintains a strong following among watch enthusiasts. This review gives a first look at the newest Oceanaire models to launch with Zodiac’s 2019 collection.,
The "zodiac watches" is a watch that has been made by the Zodiac company. It is a luxury watch that comes with many different features, such as an automatic movement and a water resistant case. The price of this watch is $1,495.
The Oceanaire Zodiac, a descendant of the well-known and adored Zodiac Seawolf from the 1960s, is worthy of carrying on the tradition. Will it be the last in a long and illustrious line, though? Hopefully not!
In This Article...
Let me begin by stating that The Oceanaire Zodiac receives little respect, which is completely incorrect. Perhaps the large number of Zodiac quartz watches that have entered the market recently have damaged the brand's reputation among certain collectors. Perhaps it's simple watch snobbery, even envy, or the usage of a movement other than an ETA. Or maybe all of the above are true.
But the truth is that when the terms "Zodiac" and "Oceanaire" are spoken together, many watch collectors sneer. Any watch forum is like a hornet's nest when you start an Oceanaire discussion. The critics will concentrate right away on the Oceanaire's Claro-Semag CL-888 movement as a problem, as if they could tell it apart from any other simple automated movement.
Because of the CL-888's enigmatic beginnings, ignorance—like many other forms of human prejudice—may be at fault. The Swiss-massaged Sea-Gull ST16 is said to be its ancestor, although this hasn't been proven to my satisfaction, at least not yet.
Even so, what does it matter? The majority of watch manufacturers presumably don't produce all of their components "in-house." It all depends on how much you trust the myths created by the marketing teams of watch makers.
There should be no more disagreements as this movement complies with Swiss requirements to display the "Swiss Made" label. You'll discover that around 99.9% of the critics don't possess Oceanaires and likely haven't even seen one. They do, however, have strong feelings on the watch.
I'm here to inform you that they are mistaken. Big-Time incorrect, that is. The Oceanaire is a really sturdy item, and at the ridiculously low rates it is presently selling for, I'll even say it is among the greatest watch buys available right now.
Oceanaire Zodiac Lineage
The Oceanaire is an offshoot of the original Zodiac Seawolf, a diving watch that sailors and explorers all over the globe favored in the 1960s.
During the Vietnam War, the Seawolf earned a solid reputation among troops, sailors, and pilots, which gave it some cachet as a tough substitute for the then-current, much more costly Omega and Rolex watches. However, the brand had limited awareness even at that time, and the company's ups and downs after the advent of the quartz period had a negative impact on what little recognition there was.
I have an original Zodiac Seawolf that my parents bought for me as a high school graduation gift in 1970. In reality, the arrangement was that I would only receive the watch provided I attended the ceremony that day rather than going surfing! As a result, we traveled to a little, obscure watch and jewelry store in Manhattan that was close to my father's place of employment. We were patronizing that specific store since the proprietor gave my father's coworkers at the adjacent business a discount.
Though the goal was to locate a decent watch, we weren't specifically searching for a Zodiac. The store owner upsold us and placed a couple Zodiacs on the counter, acting like a genuine salesman. For a 17-year-old nimrod, the Seawolf was love at first sight. It was an outstanding diving watch in those days.
I used the Seawolf constantly for many years and battered the hell out of it, only getting it repaired once after 15 years. Although it has been relegated to my watch box for a while, I still sometimes pull it out, wind it up, charge the lume, and set it loose.
Recently, I started looking for information on the future of the Zodiac brand since I was inquisitive about it one day. It wasn't simple, but I ultimately learned that Fossil had purchased the business founded in Switzerland in 1882 by a man by the name of Ariste Calame (and which used the Zodiac brand name even before it was patented in 1908)).
It's sad that the publicly listed American firm Fossil, which "...is a design, development, marketing and distribution organization that specializes in consumer goods centered on fashion and value," may not be good for the future growth of Zodiac-branded mechanical watches.
Once upon a time, Zodiac was a reputable watch manufacturer. Along with the Seawolf, other highly regarded Zodiac watches include the Autographic, one of the first automatic watches with a power indicator, the Astrographic, which featured hour and minute hands that appeared to be floating above the watch face, the SST with its 36,000 beats per hour movement, and many others. Oh, how glorious were Zodiac's early years!
However, the Zodiac watches that the majority of people are acquainted with are those from the last 20 years or more; they have excellent-quality, very sturdy casings and common quartz movements. The Super Seawolf I possess, which has a gorgeous case, bracelet, and dial that seems to be worth much more than the $90.00 I spent for it, serves as evidence that these Zodiac watches are quite fine.
The Metro Watch Company, the official U.S. Zodiac retailer, sells Zodiac quartz watches on eBay, many of which still have manufacturer warranties. Additionally, there are other Fossil stores located all over the globe that provide Zodiac watches at great costs.
The Oceanaire Zodiac
Which brings us to The Oceanaire Zodiac — the last of a line of mechanical (automatic) movement Zodiac watches. Let’s hope that Fossil will see fit to offer more mechanical Zodiacs in the future. I will give them credit though, because they have indeed been producing some very nice Zodiac quartz watches and have evolved that segment over the last few years.
The Oceanaire, nevertheless, seems to be gradually vanishing from the official Zodiac lineup. Only one white-faced Oceanaire with a white rubber or silicone strap is available for purchase in January 2010. The Oceanaire was produced in a variety of color combinations, including the black face and bracelet in my images, an orange-yellow face with a black rubber strap or bracelet, a black face with orange numerals, and other combinations.
Go for it if you can get any Oceanaire for a good deal, say less than $200! It would undoubtedly be the best watch deal of the decade.
THE OCEANIER This is a substantial piece that is definitely not for everyone. With a weight of 204 grams, holding this infant requires a strong wrist. Although the case back is somewhat bent, the watch can fit more comfortably than you'd anticipate.
The bracelet, which is covered in more detail in the section below about the bracelet, is my major issue. My wrist size falls just in between link lengths, so I've never been able to get the Oceanaire to fit "perfectly," which is necessary for a watch this large and hefty.
But with time, I've become used to it and it no longer bothers me. This is possibly because the curved back and rounded profile over the crystal assist.
The Oceanaire has a gorgeous brushed stainless steel finish with a few polished surfaces scattered throughout, like the two "stripes" that run the length of the bracelet.
The Oceanaire is generally described as having a sturdy feel, and the unidirectional bezel has 120 clicks and works quite smoothly. It has the nicest feel of any watch I possess, even the pricey Glycine Lagunare 3000 that I'll be reviewing shortly, in my opinion.
With all that said, I’m sure The Oceanaire Zodiac isn’t for everyone. But if you’re interested in a large dive watch with “in your face” styling (nothing is subtle about the Oceanaire!) at a very reasonable price (all things considered), then the Oceanaire is for you!
A single Oceanaire, a "white on white" model with a white face and white rubber strap, is now shown on the Zodiac USA website. This must be a new design for 2010 since they sold the black faced bracelet version of the Oceanaire pictured here and a few others in 2008 as well as a black faced Oceanaire with orange numerals and an orange rubber strap.
I purchased this Zodiac at the Zodiac retail price of $495.00 in late 2008 because I really wanted an Oceanaire. However, the Oceanaire has been known to go for as low as $225.00 when brand new, and the Metro Watch Company eBay site periodically offers them for sale at auction with no reserve price, so you could get fortunate and discover one for under $200. For that type of money, I really don't believe there is a finer automatic diving watch.
Don't forget about the hardly used models that are often offered for sale on websites for watch collectors. You could be the fortunate receiver if some owners decide that the Oceanaire's enormous size is a little too much and they "flip" the watch shortly after buying it.
Size and Weight of Watch
Handling the Oceanaire makes you think of the term "massive." The watch weights 204 grams after having enough links removed to fit a wrist measuring 7.25′′.
The case is huge and has a unique form, but it also has a wonderful curve on the rear side that makes it more comfortable to wear than you may expect.
Using a Vernier caliper, the true width of this sample is 45.6 mm across the "9 to 3" axis. The 51.5 mm lug tip-to-tip measurement is really not out of the ordinary compared to some of the bigger diving watches used nowadays.
The Oceanaire is 16.8 mm thick, so it may not fit under the sleeve of a formal shirt, but I can generally use it underneath a baggy casual shirt. To maximize the bling impact, though, short sleeves are optimal!
The watch case's corners are almost level with the borders of the viewable face, which is 34 mm broad when the bezel isn't included. The smooth, user-friendly uni-directional bezel features 120 reliable clicks and is simple to turn. The lume marker is at lume 12.
The way the casing is sculpted to round the big crown is one of the Oceanaire's most intriguing aspects.
The extremely smooth-feeling crown must be removed four or five times to wind the watch, replace the hands, or quick-set the date. The Claro-Semag CL-888 movement has a distinct texture and tone that, in my opinion, is highly professional.
So The Oceanaire Zodiac is definitely considered a large watch and it does have a slightly unusual shape, which gives it charm but also means that it will not be for everyone. Unfortunately, the watch is so rare that you’re most likely not going to be able to walk into a local dealer for a fitment before you buy, so potential owners with less than a 7.125” wrist circumference or so may want to look elsewhere.
The bracelet of the Oceanaire tapers down to 22 mm at the clasp from a 24 mm lug width. I'm not sure how I feel about this. It's not the 24 mm lug width of the bracelet that worries me; I believe this is the proper size for this watch since a 26 mm width may make it much harder for owners to wear at the smallest wrist circumference.
The 22 mm bracelet width at the clasp is the element about which I am most curious. In order to properly balance the 150+ grams of watch case on the hand, I would probably prefer a bracelet that is 24 mm wide all the way around.
Regardless of width concerns, the Oceanaire bracelet complements this flashy watch quite well. The double row of polished offsets on solid brushed stainless steel links provides some flare without going overboard. The polished inlays are almost the ideal finishing touch since the large bracelet would likely seem too simple if it were made entirely of brushed stainless steel.
There is no visible gap between the springbar and the watch case since the bracelet has integrated links that fit between the lugs. The links are tapered, meaning that they become smaller as they go closer to the clasp, with the final three or so links being just at the clasp.
My wrist measures around 7.25′′ (18.4 cm), therefore adding one link would make the bracelet too large, while removing a link would make it too small. The clasp can usually be set exactly since it has 4 micro-adjustment points, each of which is equivalent to the length of one link. However, the Oceanaire bracelet only has three micro-adjustment holes, making it somewhat too tight or loose.
In an effort to find a taper combination that might work, I even attempted switching out several connections, but it was not to be.
A watch this large and hefty should not float about on the wrist, thus I have left the band on the snug side. Because a person's wrist will expand over the day and the Oceanaire sometimes feels a bit too snug for comfort, it took me some time to get accustomed to it. In fact, on certain days I'll wind up with a lovely wrist impression of the diver and sea horses that are symbolized by the Zodiac on the back!
As was already noted, the Oceanaire is also available with a fitting rubber or silicone strap, but I'm not sure which one. The rubber's flexibility may aid to fasten the watch to the wrist more securely while maintaining comfort if the clasp holes line up perfectly. For precisely that reason, I'm a great lover of elastic rubber watch bands.
Even though the Oceanaire may have an additional strap attached, I don't think the watch looks correct, particularly with the large gap that then appears between the springbar and the case. Oval-shaped or "cushion" case watches are more challenging to utilize with accessory bands because, for some reason, they simply seem out of proportion.
Setting the Accuracy and Oceanaire
The seconds hand will halt when the crown is unscrewed and pushed out, allowing the watch to be synced with the "atomic" clock. This is known as the CL-888 movement "hacking."
Due to the recess that was constructed into the watch casing and intended to shield the crown from harm, it is a little challenging to unscrew the crown on the Oceanaire. The crown feels sturdy when it is unscrewed because to the tiny threads. To wind it, draw it out one stop; to quickly set the date (counterclockwise), pull it out the next stop; and to set the hour and minute hands, pull it out the last stop.
I often have to press the crown back in and then draw it out once more to feel the stop positions since the stops have a somewhat muffled sensation. I'm unsure whether it is a problem with only my Oceanaire or if it is a characteristic of the movement. I believe that the sticky, thick O-ring gasket contributes to the muffled feeling as well. When fully extended, the crown stem exhibits a very tiny "wobbly" motion.
The movement has a very sturdy and high-quality feel to it since the date will immediately and firmly snap to the following day at midnight and there is no visible wiggle in the hands when the crown is twisted.
The large sword-shaped hands, which may be adjusted to minute increments if needed, offer an intriguing appeal when swung about the face with the crown.
With this Oceanaire, I have had no accuracy issues at all; it was quite accurate straight out of the box and required no break-in time. It is quite reliable and operates every day within +2–3 seconds at most. Despite the watch being without a COSC certificate, this seems to be within COSC chronometer accuracy criteria. Exceptional precision is also another benefit of the CL-888.
It's fascinating to see how quiet the Oceanaire is. I can push it as near to my ear as I can without hearing anything while it operates. It seems to beat at a rate of 21,600 BPH, or 6 beats per second.
Ability to Read and Face
As observed in the video, the Oceanaire's slightly curved crystal may produce some reflections. It was challenging to capture the watch on camera without a lot of sunlight reflections.
The Oceanaire may be a little difficult to read because of this, the huge white hands, and the white lume's enormous surface area. But many timepieces, except those made for rapid, precise readings, like the so-called pilot's watches, may be argued to fall into this category. I have a handful that can be read in a flash; examples are the Glycine Combat, which I'll review at some time.
However, I have seen watches that are far worse than the Oceanaire, and the readability of this watch isn't awful given that it has such a wonderful wrist "presence."
The date window is positioned at 4:00 and is artfully incorporated into the design. To mirror the other indices on the watch face, the date window has a thin chrome rim.
This Oceanaire variant has a lovely black face with red accents. Strangely enough, there is a very faint sunburst pattern visible in several frames of the movie. On the lighter-colored Oceanaires, particularly the orange hue, the sunburst is considerably more obvious.
Due to the large hands and lume-filled indices, the Oceanaire features superb lume (see photo in the second section above). The lume is also placed quite uniformly, and it resembles paint or a solid coating exactly. It works nicely, although I'm not sure what kind of lume is utilized.
The Oceanaire Zodiac is an unusual, somewhat rare, large dive watch with lots of wrist presence. This is a watch that will definitely get comments. It is very, very solid and the quality is outstanding and well worth the money, in my opinion.
Even while it may not suit every wrist, it is distinctive enough and of high enough quality to merit a considerably higher reputation among watch collectors. But who cares what the Watch Idiot Savants (WIS) think? If the Oceanaire suits you and you enjoy the way it looks, get it, and you'll probably be a Zodiac devotee for life!
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