I own many watches – too many by any rational measure. As I became an enthusiast, I quickly abandoned the idea that I just needed a single watch to tell time. At first, I justified them by purpose, then by quality, then by movement, but as my collection climbed into the double-digits, I had to accept that it was really about something else. Watches are about expression. They are a form of jewelry, largely divorced from logical purpose but each a unique object of desire. It was a liberating realization that let me do two things: accumulate watches with no regard for actual need and appreciate watches that push the boundaries of what I might normally wear. The Zelos Cosmos is one of those watches.
At first glance, the Cosmos looks like a variant of the Chroma dress watch, but although both watches share a similar cylindrical shape and channeled, concave sides, the Cosmos is significantly larger, measuring 45mm across. The surface is brushed except for a black ring at the very top. A signed crown at 4 o'clock mirrors the grooved case. While it looks good, the grooves ringing its edge offer no grip. I had no problem setting the watch, but winding was a bit tricky. The watch carries a 50m water resistance rating, which should be more than suitable for daily wear.
Integrated lugs keep the footprint small, but they also accentuate its height. The Cosmos is only 13.5mm thick, so even though you might wear it under a short cuff, it appears to tower over your wrist. The black crocodile grain leather strap is 22mm wide, notched to fit its 20mm perch. White stitching gives it an appropriately sporty look, and in true Zelos fashion, the signed stainless steel buckle is a unique design with a frame that is sinuously curved and cut away.
There is no bezel on this watch. Instead, a thick slab of sapphire crystal that extends right to the edge. The crystal is double domed, anti-reflective, and beveled at the edge. It's an impressive element, and that is just the beginning. Beneath it is a screwed down sapphire ring with applied polished hour markers. An inner sapphire ring carries a laser etched minute track. The bottommost layer is brushed metal.
The dial alone would make the Cosmos an impressive watch, but the hands put it over the top. They are delicate, laser cut discs of paper-thin metal. The minute disc has long, skeletonized arms like ship's wheel. The hour disc shows only a triangular head. The second disc is hollowed into thirds and bears the Zelos logo at its center. I loved the way the hour markers appeared to float on the glass, and the minute track's ghostly bars and numerals peeking through the arms of the hour disc.
Many disc watches have Miyota movements, and indeed the Cosmos was originally designed for a 9015, but the finished product runs a Swiss ETA 2824. This high beat (28.8k bph), hand winding automatic is relatively uncommon among affordable watches. The display case back allows only a peek at the gold plated unit through the spokes of a disc engraved with the watch's production number.
Cool as it may look, you might wonder whether it is a practical time teller. This is a risk designers take when they decide to get creative with dial layouts and discs. Oftentimes, ambitious concepts make for unreadable watches, and despite what I said earlier about watches being more than just portable clocks, I still want them to retain that core function. Any watch that doesn't is a mechanical bracelet. Maybe that would be great, but it wouldn't be a watch. I am pleased to report that the Cosmos suffers no such handicap. The hour and minute hands are clearly delineated in black, standing in sufficient contrast to the silvery surfaces below them. Granted, they are small and the tiny hour hand can get lost behind the spokes of the minute disc, but it is something to which you soon grow accustomed. The second wheel is the least practical of the group since it has no hand at all, but it is still possible to track by focusing on one of three notches cut from its perimeter. You won't get pinpoint accuracy, but the Cosmos is hardly a stopwatch.
I had the opportunity to see a black and rose gold version with red hands as well as the steel review sample, and neither proved challenging to read. There is also a black dial version with blue markers. Bear in mind that there is no luminous material on any of them, so they are nearly impossible to read in low light.
Microbrands are great when they make the watches we've always wanted at prices we can afford, but they are at their best when they take risks that larger, more established watchmakers will not, and produce watches we didn't know we wanted. And that, my friends, is the Cosmos. I was intrigued when I saw the first renderings, I appreciated the look when I saw prototype photographs, but I fell in love with it when I had it in on my wrist. The layered glass dial, spidery discs, and sculpted case are beautiful. The Cosmos is a fantastic concept piece with a quality movement, but best of all, it is affordable: $849 at full price, now on sale for $649 – nearly half that of a Miyota 8210 powered SevenFriday. For a watch like this, that is an absolute bargain.
For more information or to purchase your own, see ZelosWatches.com.