For as long as I can remember, I have been oddly intrigued by the waterproofness of any and all objects. From rubber duckies and G.I. Joe and He-Man in my childhood bathtub (not really meant to be waterproof but tell that to a 3 year old), to waterproof disposable cameras and the bright yellow waterproof Sony Walkman of my adolescence, I just couldn’t get enough. Perhaps it was growing up in Florida surrounded by water and boats, or maybe something more ancient and primal, but the idea of being able to take literally anything underwater and not ruin it still fascinates me to this day.
Watches were a pretty early entrant to this category for me. I vividly remember being told that my brand new, birthday-gifted Casio F-91 didn’t need to be removed when I went swimming. Shocked and awed, I probably went swimming every day for a month, just to put on my goggles and marvel at my watch functioning UNDER THE WATER. Sometimes when I get a new diving watch, I immediately run it under the faucet for a few seconds, just to see, and the curiosity is just as fresh as it was on my tenth birthday. I recently took up SCUBA diving, and, on my first real-world dive, probably spent as much time staring at the ticking away of my Seiko PADI Turtle as I did looking at any wildlife or air gauges.
Given this lifelong obsession, it stands to reason that for about the last six months I have been harboring a steadily increasing desire for a big, chunky, deepwater diving watch. Something more substantial than the typical 200-300m water resistance that comes with most of them. This desire is largely pointless as, like 99.9% of humanity, I will likely never reach anywhere near those depths, but the heart wants what it wants.
The obvious first choice in this category would be the fantastic Rolex Deepsea. 44mm and rated to 3900 meters, it ticks all the boxes except one: affordability. With a list price of $12,550 USD, it is dropped from the list as quickly as it was added. The same thing goes for the deepwater offerings from Breitling and Blancpain. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional is not even for sale to mere mortals. All really nice pieces, but a little too spendy or unavailable to me, for what will not be an everyday wearer, but more of a whim watch.
That leaves me with only a few options that I could find. The Sinn UX models are very cool with their oil-filled cases, but not very aesthetically appealing to me. Kansas-based Raven watches are re-issuing their Deep Tech 2500m diver and this was the frontrunner for me for a while, but at $1100, it’s still a little more than I want to spend on a watch in this category at this stage in my life.
Cue the perfectly-timed release of the Zelos Hammerhead 2, the answer to my prayers to Poseidon.
Zelos is a Singapore-based, one-man watch brand run by Elshan Tang. Founded in 2014 with the ethos that great timepiece designs should not be confined to luxury brands, Zelos has been putting out interesting and unique, well-designed watches using uncommon materials like bronze and meteorite ever since. They first entered my radar with the release of the Horizons GMT earlier this year. The meteorite-dialed, bronze-cased, ETA-based GMT was a near-instant buy for me, and has been in steady rotation ever since.
The Hammerhead 2 is the evolution of the previously-released and very popular (and now all sold out) 44mm, 1000m diving watch. The Hammerhead 1 was released in 2016 in a variety of colors and interesting materials, including bronze, titanium, and a patterned Damascus titanium.
This new evolution features the addition of a helium release valve, and a slightly refined case shape. The 316L stainless steel or CUSN8 Bronze case is a tonneau-adjacent, slightly brutalist shape, with sharp angular lines and alternating brushed and sandblasted finishing. Under a loupe the finishing looks great and I could not find any imperfections. It has quite a bit of heft, weighing in at 235 grams. It’s 44mm across, but with the 48mm lug-to-lug it wears much smaller. To me it feels even smaller than some 42mm watches I have. It has a screw-down crown and a solid steel caseback engraved with the namesake hammerhead shark, or an exhibition caseback, depending on which movement you choose. The 120 click, unidirectional diving bezel is ceramic, bronze, stainless steel or meteorite, depending on your model. The stainless steel models ship on a bracelet that I can most accurately compare to the Rolex President bracelet, with three semi-circular links per row and a signed clasp, it’s a nice change of pace from the industry-standard Oyster knockoff. The bronze version comes on an Isofrane-style rubber strap, also with a signed buckle. Stainless steel buyers also get the rubber strap as a nice bonus.
The dials come in a multitude of colors and materials. The plain color dials have a sunburst effect that looks very nice and plays with the incoming light. There are also meteorite and forged carbon options, for those of you seeking something a bit more exotic. The hour markers are lumed rectangles bordered with silver, and it has an unobtrusive, color-matched date wheel at 6 o’clock. I want to point out that the color-matched date wheel is almost unheard of at this price point, and it is a detail that I very much appreciate, as a noted anti-date window crusader. The hour and minute hands are very wide and paddle-shaped, plenty of room to hold plenty of lume, which is what I want to discuss next.
That lume. The Hammerhead 2 is a dual lume affair, with C3 and BGW9. It has lumed hands, hour markers, chapter ring, bezel, and even the screw-down crown, and it is quite a sight to behold. The first time I saw it fully charged it actually surprised me and I said “whoa!” out loud to no one. If you need a watch for a rave in Ibiza, Zelos has you covered. This is certainly the brightest and most lumed watch in my whole collection, by a landslide. Again, quite impressive at this price.
The movement is your choice of the Seiko NH35 or the ETA 2892, both solid “workhorse” movements. Both delivering 21 jewels, the Seiko is a 21,600bph, 41 hour power reserve movement, with a claimed accuracy of +/- 20-40 seconds. There is a $300 premium for the ETA, raising your beat rate to 28,800, power reserve to 50 hours, and accuracy to within +/- 5-20 seconds. That also gets you a sapphire, exhibition caseback. All the better to see the custom, bronze-colored rotor adorning the movement.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the levels of customer service that Elshan and Zelos have achieved. There is a Facebook group called Zelos Timekeepers which consists entirely of fans of Zelos watches. I would guess that at least 25% of the posts in the group are stories praising Elshan’s commitment to customer satisfaction. There was a recent issue with a bracelet he had shipped with the Swordfish, Zelos’ 300m diver. Some customers were finding the clasp a little too small and having issues fitting it around their hand when fitted and unclasped. Elshan immediately addressed this to the group and said there would be a solution. In a matter of what seemed like days he had had a larger clasp manufactured and sent out to customers, free of charge. I can now personally vouch for this as well. I actually ordered 2 of these, as I could not decide on the color, telling myself I would sell whichever one I decided against but knowing there was a decent chance I would just keep both. My second choice was the forged carbon dial, and while I understand that material results in one-of-a-kind, unique patterns, like a tie-dye shirt, mine was a little lackluster and featured what kind of looked like one large smudge. I took a few photos and reached out to Elshan to see what he thought, and he immediately said he would pick out another for me and ship it straight away, no more questions asked. That he manages to achieve the level of customer service that creates semi-rabid, long-term fans, all while being a one-man show is pretty remarkable. It is my second Zelos and most likely will not be my last.
My deep-sea diver itch has most definitely been scratched by the Hammerhead 2. It has also shown me that this category of watch is much more wearable as an everyday watch than I would have previously thought. This watch offers a tremendous value for the money, more so than anything I have seen in quite a while. Now I just can’t wait to get it out in some deep water and stare at it for a dangerous amount of time.
Available now at Zeloswatches.com $449-999 USD, depending on movement and material.
1000m Water Resistant with Helium Escape Valve
Alternating Brushed and Sandblasted Finish
Ceramic/Bronze/SS bezel inserts depending on model
High Double domed Sapphire with inner AR coating
44mm Case excluding crown. 22mm Lug Width
48mm Lug to Lug length
17mm Height, 15mm excluding crystal
Seiko NH35 Automatic movement or ETA 2892 with Sapphire display back and custom rotor
120 Click Unidirectional bezel
C3 Lumed Screw Down Crown
C3 and BGW9 Lumed Bezel, Dial and Dual Lume Hands
Acacia Wood Box
Steel Bracelet with Screw pins
Custom Rubber strap and Steel Buckle