Finding the groove with Zodiac's traditionalist dive watch.

Since dive watches hit the mainstream seven decades ago, the genre has splintered into a thousand spinoffs. Hydrophilic horophiles now have their pick of a myriad variations on the aquatic theme—retro, dressy, bedazzled, you name it, offering a kaleidoscope of modern interpretations based on the original platonic ideal.

Sticking to the O.G. aesthetic is Zodiac’s Super Sea Wolf 53 Skin, a straight up dive piece that’s millimeters away from being modern reissue of one of the brand’s earliest efforts. The skin diver-themed fundamentals are there: a modestly proportioned 39mm case in 316 stainless steel, balanced with a 20mm band in black Italian rubber that fastens with a single (thick) prong.

Watch Analog watch Gesture Clock Watch accessory

What appears to be a fairly simple design reveals thoughtful details upon closer inspection, including a subtly textured black finish on the dial, brushed metal finishes on the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock insets, and a sparing use of orange accents on the Super Sea Wolf logo, second hand, and 12 o’clock bezel marker. Behind the cleanly carved caseback is an STP 1-11 automatic movement, which bears close resemblance to ETA’s 2824-2 and Sellita’s SW200-1. The STP 1-11 is a date-free version of the Fossil-owned brand’s in-house Swiss movement, and has a 44-hour power reserve.

Watch Analog watch Gesture Finger Flash photography

First Impressions

Initial impressions say a lot about a watch, but when I saw the Super Sea Wolf 53 Skin for the first time, it was influenced by another timepiece I’ll review in a separate writeup: the Super Sea Wolf Compression. The latter is a flashier watch boasting a stainless, jubilee-style bracelet, a flashier bezel, and a date window.

Especially against the more polished Compression model, it took a moment for me to get an objective idea on whether I genuinely vibed with the 53. The large, white triangular indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock initially stood out behind the sapphire crystal, seeming a tad out of proportion within the relatively diminutive dial. However, get steeped on Zodiac history, and you’ll find that these styling cues go way back to some of the brand’s earliest dive watches, the first of which debuted in—you guessed it—1953. The signature detail is like the sloped rear end of a Porsche 911 or the arced silhouette of a Volkswagen Beetle, an intrinsic design element that differentiates the product from the crowd. And while the simple, tropic-style rubber band was instantly appealing, I felt the gap between the lugs and the case to be a smidge too spacious.

Watch Clock Hood Tints and shades Font

However, the true test would come from wearing and experience the watch in the real world, alongside a couple of vehicles on loan for media use that entered my garage for separate writeups.

Seeking Analogue

The first vehicular counterpart to play against the Super Sea Wolf 53 was the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Platinum Edition, which initially appeared to be a solid match for the Swiss timepiece. Though the Bratislava-built SUV might appear a bit dear with an as-equipped MSRP of $105,880, the amount is actually on the low end for Porsche, and somewhat commensurate to the Super Sea Wolf 53’s modest $1,195 suggested retail. Also in spirit with the Porsche is the Zodiac’s mostly monochromatic design aesthetic, action-ready movement, and no-nonsense functionality.

Watch Hand Analog watch Hood Automotive lighting

The two played nicely in spirit, with the Porsche’s knurled switchgear and Zodiac’s low-key style seemingly hitting it off on a cerebral level. But it wasn’t until a mammoth Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2 rolled in that I found an even closer mechanical soulmate to the simple dive watch. Sure, the Chevy is a domestic truck while the watch’s guts are Swiss. However, the pickup is also an American icon whose direct lineage is easily traced to its C/K ancestors—which kinda reminds you of a certain serial killer-sounding watch brand. The high-riding truck is powered by a stonking Chevy 6.2-liter V8 that should outlast the apocalypse; similarly robust is the Zodiac’s Incabloc-enabled shock absorption. Also simpatico is the truck’s rough ‘n’ ready aesthetic, particularly the perforated vinyl on the rear seats which complements the Zodiac’s dive-oriented priorities to a tee.

Watch Analog watch Product Clock Everyday carry

Real Neat— But Real Deal?

Spending time with the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Skin is like getting acquainted with a classic, with none of the quirks of a vintage timepiece. It faithfully pays homage to its predecessors with a gimmick-free package that feels substantial, honest, and minimalist. While the design details like the somewhat large triangular indices aren’t for everyone, I found that they grew on me the more I wore the watch. Driving a ginormous Chevy pickup truck up U.S. Route 395 from Bishop, California to LA (literally) drove home the understated functionality of this 1953-inspired watch. However, on the topic of function, it should be noted that serious divers might find its 200 meter depth rating insufficient. If exploring oceans is your thing, you might want to check out heartier Zodiac strains like the Super Sea Wolf Pro-Diver Automatic, which claims a COS-C certified movement and an ISO certified depth rating of 300 meters.

Watch Clock Material property Analog watch Electric blue

That said, for most enthusiasts seeking a simple dive watch with historic credentials, appealing simplicity, and an approachable price, the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf 53 Skin packs an endearing package that’s not dissimilar to the honest appeal of an American pickup truck, or even the Teutonic sparseness of a German sport utility vehicle.

Watch Analog watch Clock Automotive design Grey