I’ve always had an affinity for Zodiac as a brand. It will never be confused for haute horology or be the next Enicar (a brand that rose to prominence in the vintage community seemingly overnight), but Zodiac’s vintage lineup hits a lot of the right notes for me. No particular reference hits those notes more than the Sea-Chron. The model you see here was conceived in the late 1960’s and followed a less-versatile Valjoux 72-based chronograph named the Zodia-Chron. The design of the Zodia-Chron was somewhat similar – it featured the smaller-sized hour counter at 6 o’clock – but the watch itself was a slimmer, cheaper version of other late-60’s Valjoux 72 chronos with external tachymeter bezels (such as the Rolex Daytona, Heuer Autavia, or UG Compax), and wasn’t produced for long.
What followed was the Sea-Chron, which utilized a more robust 39mm case, a rotating bezel (either in a badass silver, like mine, or a black bezel), a tachymeter track printed on the dial, and a nicely finished Valjoux 72 movement. Factor in the depth rating of 200 meters, and this was actually an offering that packed a hell of a punch for a nominal price tag back in the day. I didn’t know about any of this, mind you, until I saw one offered in the Hodinkee Shop that sold instantly. From everything I could see, it looked to be an extremely well priced vintage chronograph from a brand I already liked, so my research began in earnest.
In general, my approach is fairly uniform after learning about a new watch reference that piques my interest: dive into as many sales postings, pictures, and articles written about the watch over the years as I possibly can, with a goal of being confident in my abilities to quickly assess and purchase the next example that appears in the market. In this case, the next opportunity came only a couple weeks later in the form of an eBay auction. While the example didn’t have creamy lume on par with the Hodinkee example and had lost the lume pip at 12 o’clock in the bezel, it included the original box and papers and was a very honest looking piece with no signs of tampering over the years. The end of the auction coincided with a wedding reception that I was attending, so I set a snipe bid at a price I was comfortable with and hoped for the best. To my surprise, I recieved the “You Won!” email from eBay during the reception and probably danced with a little more gusto than I otherwise would have for the rest of the night.
This auction win was particularly fortunate, as the seller messaged me the next day to say he had recieved two messages after the auction’s end offering to pay up to 20% more than the hammer price if he would agree to back out of the sale. Here’s to sellers with a moral compass!
The Nitty Gritty
As stated above, the bezel is missing the lume pip that’s normally affixed to the black triangle at 12 o’clock, and the bezel shows a little wear towards 6 o’clock. The caseback also contains a fair amount of superficial scratches, but the original caseback text is present and an absolutely pristine movement lays underneath. Try to find them while you can – you can rarely find a watch with this much to offer for a price tag under $2,500.
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