The automatic Zodiac Sea Wolf with a calendar and “shovel” hands has been on my wish list for a long time. One finally came to me recently, and it came untouched, with not even a scratch on the lugs or a crack in the bezel. It’s safe to say that it doesn’t get much better than that.

About two years ago, I wrote a story about my sunshine Zodiac Sea Wolf 1781W, which rightfully belongs among the most desirable vintage Zodiac watches. Design-wise, it is pretty far from the original Sea Wolf, but the radiant orange with light blue bezel makes it an ultimate vintage summer watch.

Image: Wanna Buy A Watch?

Discovering the shovel-handed Zodiac Sea Wolf

It may have been a year or two since I first bumped into a Sea Wolf 722-946B with a white dial and shovel hands. And what a different aesthetic it offers! I like how it looks more muscular than early models and not as “simple” as the orange 1781W. By the way, if you’ve ever thought of pivoting your collection towards one brand or even a specific model but struggled to choose one, here you are. If you start lining up all the Sea Wolf variants, you get a pretty eclectic collection of refined shapes, colors, styles, and even functions. And yes, Zodiac made the shovel-handed Sea Wolf with a black dial too.

Vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf 72B

Zodiac calibers 70-72 and 72B

The early AS 1624 movement that Zodiac used had an 18,000vph beat rate and lacked hacking seconds. Around 1961 or ’62, Zodiac introduced the 70-72 caliber, which is the movement in my orange Sea Wolf 1781W. The base caliber was a hand-wound AS 1687/1688 with an added automatic-winding mechanism jointly developed by Doxa, Eberhard, Favre-Leuba, Girard-Perregaux, and Zodiac. The 70-72 movement had a faster 21,600vph beat rate and hacking seconds, but it still required a lot of fingerwork to set the date.

Vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf 72B

If you look closely at today’s featured Zodiac Sea Wolf and focus sharply on the crown, you may notice that it sits slightly off of the case. I was unaware of that, and I definitely didn’t expect to find it on a dive watch, but it is thanks to my favorite and comfortable quick-set date system. The date wheel jumps into the next position by simply depressing the crown. That’s why the caliber in this watch is called the Zodiac 72B.

A manual as a bonus

I know this date-setting system from my Mondia Top Second and Seiko 7016-8001 flyback chronograph, and it works like a charm. You need to push the crown in quite hard, but the date jumps at the moment of release. It underlines the overall feeling of durability and robustness that you get from the first moment you handle the Sea Wolf. I got this watch in an original Zodiac signed sleeve with a set of brochures. The one you see in the picture above is a manual on how to set the date, including a visual alert to avoid setting it between 9:00 PM and midnight to avoid damage.

If you want to learn more about the Zodiac 72B movement, Aaron from AMBwatches wrote an interesting piece on his love/hate relationship with it. He explained, “…this movement has a few peculiarities that can make it incredibly frustrating to work with. It has something called an offset cannon pinion. The cannon pinion is the piece that transfers motion from the wheels below to drive gears up top and thus the hands. While there are other movements that have offset cannon pinions, few have the number of problems I have seen with these. Since this is a two-piece mechanism, the most common problem is a total loss of friction between the components. This leads to the unbelievably annoying problem that the mechanism works perfectly, but the minute and hour hands won’t advance.” It seems Aaron found a bit of “magic” happening under the case back.

Vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf 72B crown

Side note

Speaking of the case back on the Sea Wolf, I could not open mine. Sometimes I can’t open a watch’s case, and in those situations, I’ve learned the hard way not to proceed. It’s easy to lose my temper and force it open, but that usually results in a damaged case. Sometimes I do indeed have to go and get the help of my trusted watchmaker. However shameful it feels when you realize you can’t open a simple snap-on case back, I’ve learned to control myself and ask for help, even if I’ve carefully and successfully opened hundreds of watches before.

I was surprised to read in Aaron’s article that many parts needed annoyingly high added pressure to move them. “It also has a case back that is damn near impossible to get open,” says Aaron. Well, I understand that sentiment completely.

Vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf 72B

The bezel

Finding a solid vintage Sea Wolf with a nice bezel is quite a challenge. To see this pale gray Bakelite beauty in pristine condition with no brass peeking through the edges is incredibly rare. The bezel on the Sea Wolf is a utilitarian piece of art. The busy 15-minute markings with small triangles highlighting each third minute perfectly contrast with the rest of the bezel. This makes it divinely clean. The only printed number — 30 — is that game-changing element. It’s a solitaire you can’t overlook, a daring, almost outlandish element that makes you think. At the same time, this number gives the watch a lively soul and a crucial sporty feeling.

Final thoughts

I love the rugged feeling that the Sea Wolf provides once strapped on the wrist. It may sound funny, but it reminds me of the “tank-like feeling” that Rolex watches have. I do not intend to compare the two, but there is something about this watch that makes you feel it will endure whatever you let it face. I admit, I still fancy the white dial more than the black one. Still, when an opportunity to snap up a Sea Wolf in NOS condition on an original Tropic strap with a Zodiac buckle came, I didn’t blink an eye even once before I purchased it. Happy hunting!

P.S. — To my greatest surprise, the white-dialed Sea Wolf featured further above is still available. There are even two of them listed at the same dealer!