If you’re a regular reader of Watch Ideas, you’ll know that I’ve been dipping my toes in microbrand watches. Whether it’s the over-fatigue from pricey luxury brands or just looking for something new, microbrand watches are worth checking out due to some very interesting timepieces.
Today, we’ll take a look at the Singaporean-based watch brand, Zelos. This brand has gotten my attention because unlike many microbrands, Zelos is not a brand that only knows how to make Submariner-inspired pieces that are dime a dozen these days.
For this Zelos watches review, we’ll talk about the brand’s origin, the pros and cons, and the best timepieces this brand has to offer.
About Zelos Watches
Like many humble beginnings of microbrands, Zelos Watches was made possible because of Kickstarter. Zelos launched 3 models on Kickstarter and each model comes with increasing success. The Zelos was founded in 2014 by a former mechanical engineer, Elshan Tang. He’s a watch collector himself and is always fascinated with watch movements and unique designs.
As mentioned, Zelos launched its first three models via Kickstarter. The first model, the Helmsman, has managed to get 273% of the goal funding. Next, the Zelos Chroma garnered 350% of the targeted funding. Lastly, the Abyss managed to acquire 650% of the funding which is nothing short of amazing.
One of the most notable things about Zelos is that it produces watches from non-standard materials such as bronze, titanium, meteorite discs, and more. Zelos also aims to provide timepieces with unique designs and construction with a price that won’t break a bank.
While the onslaught of microbrands might be sudden and prolific, Zelos is one of the few brands that really do stand out.
Zelos Watches Review: Pros and Cons
Are Zelos watches worth the investment? We enumerate the things that we love and we don’t love about this Singaporean-based microbrand.
What We Love
Like I’ve said earlier, Zelos is not a brand that just tries to make Submariner-inspired timepieces. If that’s the case, I’m fairly certain that Zelos will remain a deeply obscured brand.
Zelos’ rise in popularity can be attributed to the brand’s non-traditional designs. For instance, despite the several conventions that a dive watch must adhere to, Zelos has found a way to stay unconventional. Sure, some Zelos watches that look conventional in design but for the most part, the brand did a good job of separating itself from the rest, design-wise.
Zelos’ use of non-traditional materials such as bronze, titanium, and Damascus has significantly cemented the brand’s design identity. For example, the use of a bezel crown made some of Zelos’ dive watches look like a vintage diving helmet. Another example is the Zelos Hammerhead which comes in five colorways that promote the 70’s-inspired diver aesthetic.
Another thing that stands out for me is Zelos’ attention to detail. Some of their models are brimming with intricate details, and a few to the point that it’s almost overdone. From here, you can really appreciate the watchmakers’ passion for horology.
Zelos has managed to shake up the world of microbrands due to its ever-evolving watch designs, and I’m in for the ride.
When it comes to dive watches, durability comes with the territory. After, a dive watch is designed to withstand the harsh and grueling conditions of deep-sea diving. However, there are watch companies out there thinking that adding water resistance to their products automatically makes them a good dive watch.
Zelos is doing a great job of making dive watches that can actually be worn by professional divers. First, the brand uses high-quality materials for their watches. Thus, even if you’re not planning to dive anytime soon, you still have a watch that will serve you in a long time.
The level of construction in Zelos watches is worth mentioning as well. There are some models with some clunky components but in general, most Zelos watches offer the much-needed ruggedness and durability. The Zelos watches that I own feel weighty and secure. Overall, you just feel like they’re a reliable timekeeping tool.
Initially, I was interested in Zelos due to their watches’ strong and unique designs. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that their watches are offered at reasonable prices. Many of their popular models are available for less than a grand and some lower-end models are available for about $300 or less.
Considering that many other independent watchmakers put out more expensive models with less quality, I believe that Zelos provides a great bang for any collector’s buck. To keep the price reasonable, Zelos had to cut some corners, most specifically with the watch movements. However, the actual quality of the materials and craftsmanship is definitely up there.
With the amount of quality that goes into Zelos watches, they can easily go into a few thousand when sold by a more prestigious brand. Even the accessories such as leather straps are cost-effective. With Zelos, you just know that you’re getting your money’s worth and more.
Unlike many indie watch brands these days, Zelos offers a healthy number of watch collections.
For the most part, Zelos specializes in making high-quality dive watches. Its dive watch collection is impressive, from the old Helmsman series to the bigger and badder Great White collection, you’ll have no shortage in terms of choices.
As of this writing, there are 12 different collections in Zelos’ active lineup of watches. Each of the collection offers about 7-8 watches on average, with many different colorways and bezel designs. The wide variety of Zelos watches is something all watch collectors can appreciate.
What We Don’t Love
Movements Could Be Better
Zelos mainly uses ETA or Miyota movements for their watches. This is hardly a surprise considering that Zelos watches are less expensive than similar models. If Zelos starts using complex mechanical movements for their watches, the prices will skyrocket.
This isn’t exactly a bad thing but if you’re looking for something intricate and complex, you won’t find it with Zelos watches. They do use some noteworthy ETA movements such as the ETA 6498 but they’re not exactly common.
Zelos Watches are Big
Zelos only makes big watches.
If you’re looking for a 40mm dive watch, Zelos is not the brand for you. The brand aims to provide heavy-duty tool watches and making them big and bulky comes with the territory. Customers with smaller wrists will find these watches too unwieldy.
Fortunately, there’s a smaller dive watch called the Zelos Mako Diver which comes at 40mm with a lug-to-lug length of 46mm. It’s still pretty big but it’s a good option for those who are looking for something smaller.
Making this Zelos watches review has been a challenge, mainly because their watches are not exactly easily available. Even places like Amazon only sells a few Zelos models. If you like Zelos watches and you want to buy one, you might out of luck.
Aside from brick and mortar stores located in Singapore and Hong Kong, there are only a few dealership websites that sell Zelos watches. Even the official Zelos websites have very limited stocks and most models are sold out. If you’re in the U.S., you can try your luck in places like the TheMicrobrandStore.
Best Zelos Watches
1. Zelos Swordfish
Named as one of the fastest fishes in the ocean, the Zelos Swordfish is a great introductory watch for would-be Zelos enthusiasts. Like many Zelos dive watches, the Swordfish is an intriguing model with robust specs.
For your information, there are two different versions of Swordfish. One comes with the NH35 movement, a proven Seiko movement and the one that comes with the ETA 2892 movement. The only significant difference between the two is that the ETA variant features a date complication.
The Zelos Swordfish impresses with its solid feel, excellent dial details, and ease of wear. The Swordfish dial features amazing details and a brushed surface. It’s just an interesting diver with a high-level presentation.
Most Zelos Swordfish watches are available for around $300+ except for the meteorite versions that can go up to $800.
2. Zelos Abyss 2
The Zelos Abyss 2 is a tank of a diver. This timepiece is cased in bronze, features a twin-crown, and powered with a Swiss automatic movement. As its namesake implies, the Abyss 2 is a bronze sea-monster that’s capable of going down to 3,000 meters of pressure.
The Abyss 2’s water resistance is completely ridiculous and unnecessary, yet it’s an awesome flagship feature. Under 3,000 meters of depth, you’ll definitely find yourself in the ocean’s dark abyss. You are probably asking, why? Zelos watchmakers will probably answer, “why not?” Zelos engineered the Abyss 2 because they can and it’s a badass thing to do.
As you might expect, the Abyss 2 is a massive solid block of metal at 51.5mm lug to lug length and 19mm thickness. It uses marine-grade CUSN8 bronze and it generates a beautiful patina over time.
It’s a proper sea-monster of a watch.
3. Zelos Skyraider
The Zelos Skyraider is one of the latest offerings from this microbrand. The Skyraider is interesting because it’s a highly legible Flieger watch and is a tribute to the A-1 Skyraider, a propeller plane by the U.S. Air Force during WW2.
The Skyraider comes in two different models: CUSN8 bronze or GR5 titanium. The warm patina of the bronze model elicits a warm feeling while the titanium gives off a contemporary, lightweight feel. I love the Skyraider’s dial with its detailed engravements and beautiful, clean lines. You can also get a version with skeletonized dial that reveals the inner components and the handwound ETA 6498 movement.
Overall, the Skyraider is a fairly unique Flieger watch with a refreshing twist.
Zelos Watches Review: Are They Any Good?
As per usual, we end this Zelos watches review with a verdict.
Are Zelos watches worth checking out? That’s a big yes! Zelos has done a great job of separating itself from other indie watch companies. The brand features some truly interesting and bold designs.
In particular, I love the dive watches from Zelos because they truly look and feel like diving tools but features impeccable style.
In terms of value, Zelos also doesn’t disappoint. The most expensive Zelos will only cost you around $2000 which is not bad at all, considering the actual quality of the watches.
If you’re looking to get into microbrands, Zelos watches are a great starting point.