In 1882, Ariste Calame founded a workshop for the production of special watches in Le Locle, Switzerland. The original name of the company was Ariste Calame and would later become Zodiac. The name "Zodiac" was used early but was not registered until 1908. The founder's son, Louis Ariste Calame, was sent to watchmaking school, and then began to participate in the business in 1895, and took over the business that year.
The first flat pocket watch was launched to the public in 1928, and used the unique Zodiac calibre 1617 movement. In 1930 the brand designed and produced the first automatic sports watch, and then produced the popular Zodiac Autographic. The Autographic was self-winding with a power reserve gauge, an unbreakable crystal, and a radium dial, and was also water and shock resistant. In 1953 Zodiac introduced the Sea Wolf as the world's first purpose-built "dive watch" manufactured and marketed to the masses. the original Sea Wolf, and its successor, the early-1970s Super Sea Wolf, are widely considered two of the most iconic commercial dive watches in history. With a patented crown/stem system and improved case back design, The Super Sea Wolf's water pressure rating increased from its predecessor's 200-meter rating to 750 meters. When the 750-meter-rated Super Sea Wolf was introduced in the early 1970s, the U.S. Navy SEALs adopted it, as Zodiac announced in magazine ads of the day.
In the century of its life, Zodiac offered a number of firsts including:
- first flat pocket watch (Caliber 1617, 1928)
- first automatic sports watch (1932)
- first commercial civilian dive watch (Seawolf 1953)
- first Swiss electronic watch (Dynotron, 1968)
- first 36000 BPH movement (in partnership with Longines, Zenith, Eterna, A Schild, Favre-Leuba, and GP, 1968)
- first LCD chronometer (1977)
1990s to date
In 1990 Willy Gad Monnier purchased the Zodiac brand, but this company, Montres Zodiac SA, went bankrupt in November 1997. In September 1998 Genender International, Inc. purchased the Zodiac inventory including their trademarks and registrations and other assets.
The Zodiac watch cross-circle symbol was the same symbol used by the serial killer who terrorized 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. The popular Zodiac Sea Wolf model was featured in the 2007 film Zodiac, which was directed by David Fincher and was based on Robert Graysmith’s non-fiction book of the same name. In both the book and the film, a Zodiac Sea Wolf was worn by murder suspect Arthur Leigh Allen.
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