Zodiac Astrographic SST
The cosmic 70s mystery dial with the little red dot
The Zodiac Astrographic mystery dial watch combines innovative aesthetics with technical innovation. Beneath its unusual and distinctive mystery dial face lies a 36000 BPH high beat movement. From the "Zodiac" name (what's your sign?) to the SST monikor to the space age little red dot mimicing an orbiting spacecraft, these watches are pure seventies.
The Zodiac watch brand, though sounding like something conceived in the 70s, actually has a long history of quality and technical excellence. The Zodiac watch company was started in 1882 and registered the Zodiac name in 1908. In the century of its life, Zodiac offered a number of firsts including:
- first flat pocket watch (Caliber 1617, 1928)
- one of the first automatic watches (1930)
- first automatic sports watch (1932)
- second watch (after the LeCoultre Powermatic) with a power reserve indicator (Zodiac Autographic, 1949)
- one of the first mass marketed diver's watches (Sea Wolf, 1953)
- first Swiss electronic watch (Dynotron, 1968)
- first 36000 BPH movement (in partnership with Longines, Zenith, Eterna, A Schild, Favre-Leuba, and GP, 1968)
- Invention of the Astrographic mystery dial (1969)
- First LCD chronometer (1977)
The Zodiac brand was acquired by Fossil in 2001 and continues to produce watches under the Zodiac brand (including the Astrographic design).
Zodiac Astrographic 1971 Advertisement
The most distinctive aspect of the Zodiac Astrographic is, of course, the mystery dial face. Instead of traditional hands, the Astrographic uses a set of three stacked transparent acrylic disks, one each for the hour, minute, and seconds indicators.
A close look at the red dot second hand will reveal that it ticks at the very high rate of 36000 beats per hour or 10 beats per second. This gives the red dot second indicator an almost smooth orbiting motion. Zodiac branded its high beat Caliber 86 movement watches as "SST" for "split second timing". The Zodiac SST launched the same year as the futuristic Concorde SST "super sonic transport" aircraft, both icons of the end of the space age.
The theory behind high beat movements is that by dividing the beat into smaller increments, we can increase the natural vibrating frequency of the balance wheel oscillator. If we can move the natural frequence of the oscillator far enough outside of the range of the accelerations that the watch is likely to encounter on a daily basis, then we can minimize the effect of outside disturbances, thereby increasing accuracy. This required a stiffer mainspring and more stringent use of lubricants than usual.
The Caliber 86 movement also features a handy and unique quick set date mechanism which advances the date by depressing the crown.
This watch is in excellent, almost minty condition. The fine brushing on the sloped bezel sides is still intact and the polished back sides of the case are still shiny and smooth. Aside from one very tiny mark on the right bezel near the crown, the only visible signs of wear are some light scratches on the stainless steel case back.
Face / Hands: Excellent.
The face and hands / disks on this Astrographic are perfectly clean and free from aging. On these Astrographics, the transparent disks sometimes have a tendency to become slightly clouded with age but on this sample the disks are perfectly clear and there's no signs of aging on the hour/minute indicators or the red dot indicator. The dial is likewise minty clear with a very fine radial texture.
The crystal is almost minty perfect. There's one microscopic hairline mark near 1:00 but you need to look very closely under a loupe to see it. The crystal is perfectly clear and smooth with no chips along the edge.
Band / Bracelet: Very good.
The original bracelet is excellent minty condition and shows no marks on the links or the clasp. The bracelet has 9 out of 10 original links and fits an 7.5 - 7.75" wrist.
Function / Accuracy: Excellent.
Keeps excellent time, rotor autowinds effectively, sets easily, date ticks over nicely at midnight. All functions are working perfectly.