Three from Zelos

One of the nice things about the proliferation of microbrand watches is the variety. True, many take the safe route, producing conservative dive, pilot, or dress watches from catalog parts, at least until they get their footing; however, many others go full speed in the other direction, making their mark with unique designs and uncommon materials. There is great risk in that approach, but when it is done right, we all benefit. Singapore’s Zelos Watches is definitely one of the risk-takers. They sent a few examples for our recent District Time show in Washington, DC, each of which displayed a different aspect of Zelos’s aesthetic: the Helmsman 2 dual-crown diver, the ZX Titanium Damascus Chronograph, and a yet-unnamed bronze and meteorite pilot.

Zelos ZX Titanium Damascus

ZX Titanium Damascus Chronograph

Sometimes, a watch brand will surprise you with something you didn’t know you wanted because you didn’t even think it existed. That is the way I feel about the ZX Titanium Damascus case.

The ZX series is already a rather impressive piece. Its 43mm wide case features tight, angular lugs that draw the overall length to just 49mm. This 3-eye chronograph runs a decorated, elabore grade Swiss Valjoux 7750 finished off with a custom turbofan styled rotor visible through the sapphire caseback.

Zelos ZX Titanium Damascus case back

ZX dials are multi-layered, with “rocket” semi-skeletonized hands, applied markers and BGW9 lume. Zelos offers several sun-brushed colors, as well as meteorite. This version features a black “reverse panda” dial with white recessed subdials and a white index. A glossy black ceramic bezel tops it off.
Water resistance is 100m and the watch features a domed and anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal as well as a signed and lumed “nozzle” crown that is wider at its base than at its head. It is rather the opposite of what you might expect, and I found it awkward to grip. 

Zelos ZX Titanium Damascus

Buyers can choose titanium or bronze cases, but the real stunner of the bunch is the Titanium Damascus pictured here. Damascus steel is formed when two different steel alloys are forged together, producing a distinctive striated or wave pattern. For this watch, the Damascus technique was used on layered titanium which was then super-heated to generate the intense color.

Zelos ZX Titanium Damascus side

I did not wake up one morning and think, “You know what I need in my collection? A blue and gold tiger striped watch.” But now that I know one exists, I feel just a little better about the world. The effort that went into this watch case is insane, and I’m glad that someone out there is doing it.

Zelos ZX Titanium Damascus wrist shot

The Titanium Damascus ZX automatic chronograph was $1999 and is now sold out; however, Zelos may yet produce a few more and they are considering offering a Hammerhead in this material as well. Regular titanium and bronze case ZX automatics can still be had for $829, or $1099 for a meteorite dial. A lower cost Seiko VK67 MechaQuartz powered ZX is $429, or $649 for the meteorite. There was no MechaQuartz Damascus.

Helmsman 2

The Helmsman 2 is an update to Zelos’s very first model, which I reviewed here back in 2014. The loaner watch had a stainless steel case and a black meteorite dial, and it just one of several variants including meteorite duals and bronze cases. It is ever so slightly smaller than the first watch, measuring 42mm wide, 48mm long, and 15mm thick including the double domed sapphire crystal, but many of the original Helmsman’s trademark elements remain like the scalloped insets on the case sides, the combination of three different surface finishes, and of course, the dual crown arrangement with the rotating internal bezel.

Zelos Helmsman 2 meteorite

Its dial is a multi-layered affair. The internal bezel steps down to a black ring bearing the index and applied markers, finally dropping to the main dial. I always enjoy looking at the jagged patterns of a meteorite dial. This one is darker than most, coming to life as the light glints off its rough, seemingly random cross-hatch. 

Zelos Helmsman 2 meteorite lume

The handset is similar to the old watch’s semi-skeletonized style, but this time, the whole hand is filled with BGW9 SuperLuminova, as are the markers, red-tipped second hand, and the broad band of the internal bezel. It is this last part that makes the most difference. I have criticized many compressor-style watches for having unreadable bezels. Too often they have tiny markings and insufficient contrast, reducing the index to little more than a decorative curiosity. Not so on the Helmsman 2. That luminous band is easily read, day or night.

Zelos Helmsman 2 meteorite side

Like the original, the Helmsman 2 is intended to function as a serious diving watch. It is rated for 300m water resistance thanks in part to twin screw down crowns. Both are signed, lumed, and shaped like that of the aforementioned ZX. Again, they look great, but their inverted shape is not terribly practical.

Zelos Helmsman 2 meteorite back

The caseback bears a high relief stamping of an old-fashioned ship’s wheel bearing the Zelos logo. Behind it, is a familiar Seiko NH35 automatic, a stalwart, 24 jewel, Diashock protected movement that beats at 21.6k bph.

Zelos Helmsman 2 meteorite wrist

Zelos always puts together a nice package. This one includes a rubber dive strap, Horween leather strap, signed buckle, a strap changing tool, and a perforated steel warranty card, all tucked into a handy travel roll. Helmsman 2s start at $649 and meterorite dials models are $849.

Bronze Meteorite Pilot

This last piece arrived as a bit of a mystery. It had some aspects in common with the Zelos Swiss Automatic series but didn’t appear in the lineup. Zelos confirmed that it was a prototype.

Zelos bronze meteorite pilot

The round case is 42mm wide, 50mm long, and 12mm thick with chiseled lugs. It appears to have sapphire crystals front and rear, and it runs a decorated, 17 jewel, 18k bph, Swiss ETA 6498 hand-wound movement.

Zelos bronze meteorite pilot back

Several elements make this one stand out from the crowded pilot watch field. The meteorite dial is a stunning medium gray shot through with bold bands of silver. The gold applied markers are tall and filled with bright lume. Its brushed gold hands open like pincers at the tail and are slotted at their base. This semi-skeletonized theme carries through on the 6 o’clock small seconds that is also red-tipped and lumed. Finally, the watch has a large, barrel-shaped crown that has angular cuts to mirror those of the lugs. Of course, it is engraved and lumed.

Zelos bronze meteorite pilot

I have no idea whether this one will make production, but it will be a fine addition to the Zelos stable if it does.

Zelos bronze meteorite pilot

As always, it was a treat to see what the Zelos team has been dreaming up. Few brands have been as prolific or as creative, and yet, they still manage to keep their prices reasonable. To shop the Zelos collection for yourself, or to get on their mailing list for future releases, visit ZelosWatches.com. ⬩

Zelos bronze meteorite pilot wrist

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