Zodiac and the Story Behind the Curious Point Series

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Most watch collectors will at least have a passing knowledge of recent Zodiac history. After a successful period that started roughly in the 1950s and continued through the ’70s, the brand, like so many others, faltered during the Quartz crisis. In the decades that followed, Zodiac went through a number of deaths and rebirths. In 1990, it was brought back from the abyss by former Heuer Finance Director and one-time TAG Heuer CEO Willy Gad Monnier, only to go bankrupt again seven years later. Genender International, Inc. was next in line, purchasing Zodiac in 1998 only to discontinue most of the brand’s running catalogue, which saw the end of nearly all automatic offerings. Then in 2001, Fossil Inc. stepped into the picture. Though Zodiac sat in purgatory for several years following that acquisition, in recent years we’ve seen a push to bring the brand back on the right track, with some smart management taking full advantage of Zodiac’s back catalogue and reissuing some of the brand’s greatest hits.

Zodiac_RedPoint
Zodiac Red Point diver; Photo credit: Rocky555, WUS

But this article isn’t about what Zodiac is up to today. Instead, we’re going to a look at the Monnier period and the watches it spawned. Though the information is somewhat scarce with regard to Zodiac’s inner workings during this period, there are scatterings of knowledge across the Internet with regard to some of the watches Zodiac released during this time in the brand’s history.

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With Monnier at the helm, Zodiac was a very different company from what it was in its mid-century heyday. As I wrote above, Monnier came from TAG Heuer, with the two reportedly departing on bad terms. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Monnier borrowed heavily from TAG, resulting in watches nearly identical to designs found across TAG’s catalogue. This sparked a small rivalry between the two firms, and that competition eventually made its way to the sales floor, with the new Zodiac catalogue being positioned in direct competition to TAG’s, but at a slightly lower price point.

Most of the collections from this period are long forgotten, except for one: the Point series—generally referred to as the “Dot” series among collectors.

VintageZodiacPointAd
90s Zodiac ad

With the Point series, Monnier sought to create a tiered system of technical watches, with a specific focus on divers and chronographs. The three tiers were Red, Gold, and Silver.

The distinction between the three tiers is somewhat unclear. Some believe it to be one of quality, with differentiating factors being things like the type of crystal (e.g. acrylic vs. sapphire), band, and movement finishing. An analogy would be the way some car manufacturers tier different brands, i.e. Lexus being a luxury vehicle division of Toyota; both are very reliable, but one certainly offers a much more luxurious product. Others think it to be a somewhat arbitrary separation based on a tiered pricing strategy, since there was often large overlap between the different lines. The ordering of the three lines is also debated. Nevertheless, to create a clear visual distinction, each watch in the Point series was branded on the dial between four and five with the appropriately colored dot.

The Red Point watches were labeled the “Professional Sports Watches” line. Available in both men’s and women’s styles, the Red Points were considered the workhorses of the line. Many of the Red Points were divers, available in both automatic and quartz varieties. Aesthetically, they pulled heavily from vintage ref. 980 Heuer divers and what would eventually become TAG’s 1000 Professional series. Today, dials are most frequently seen in black, but there appear to have been white, blue and fully lumed variants as well. There were also multiple case finishes, among them stainless steel, two-tone, and gold.

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“Red Point” Automatic Valjoux 7750 Chronograph; Photo credit: artomatique.net

One of the most popular pieces in the Red Point line was the Valjoux 7750-powered chronograph—totally beautiful watches in their own right and exemplary of good 90s design. These watches came in black, blue and white versions, and with either a diver’s or tachymeter bezel. Though some today place the Red Point collection at the bottom of the totem pole of the overall Point series, it should be noted that automatic Red Point chronographs sometimes command prices around the 1.5K mark with high asks nearing $2,000.

The Silver and Gold tiers were dubbed “Professional Divers Watches” and “Elegant Sports Watches,” respectively. It’s a bit difficult to differentiate quality differences between the Red and Silver lines, but it seems that, design wise at least, the Silver Point collection was a bit more adventurous, with at least some watches pulling away from some of the more TAG-influenced designs. As with the Red Point watches, the Silver series featured a variety of dial colors and cases available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

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Zodiac Point Gold; Photo credit: trinity027, WUS

The designs of the Gold Point watches tend to lend themselves to the “elegant” moniker in a wholly 90s sense; they’re certainly a bit dated and ostentatious by today’s standards. One might note that many of these also had a distinctive TAG vibe, borrowing from some of the older Aquaracer and Formula 1 designs.

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There is one other color that is generally not associated with the Red-Silver-Gold family—the Blue Points. These seem to have been reserved for what became of the Sea Wolf line, and were labeled as “Ultra-Resistant Professional Divers Watches.” The models again were available in both quartz and automatic and in a variety of styles that were a far cry from previous Sea Wolf designs. The Blue Points do not come up as often as the other colors, but they are certainly out there.

ZodiacBluePoint_SeaWolf
Blue Point Sea Wolf; Photo credit: dperreno, WUS

The Zodiac Point models existed through much of the 1990s before Genender International, Inc. bought Zodiac and discontinued the line in 1998. Today, all four colors can be found on Ebay regularly, though the Red Points are the most common on the vintage market. They’re also the most desired. For those in the market for a vintage Zodiac, the watches from the Point collection offer a relatively affordable option, and there are enough models and styles to fit most tastes and budgets.

Featured image photo credit: tictail

Residing in North Idaho, James has been wearing a watch for over 35 years. With growth of the internet in the late 90s watches as an interest turned into an obsession. Since that time he has been a watch forum moderator, watch reviewer, contributor to Nerdist, and operates Watches in Movies in his spare time.

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  • Chuck Hoover

    Thanks for all the in depth Zodiac articles! Amazing history, and some really very interesting designs over the years. I would pick one up if it was slightly larger, but a nice vintage watch.
    I wish them luck on all the new models they are getting out there these days.

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