I’m always blown away by what you get for your money when I have a chance to handle a Zelos watch. And the thing is, Zelos isn’t just making great value watches at one price point; they’re doing it with anything from sub-$500 Miyota divers to $11k Swiss tourbillons in titanium Damascus cases. To be fair, the tourbillon is a bit of an anomaly in their catalogue, but it highlights the brand’s desire to experiment with everything from case materials to design to movements and offer them all at affordable costs (relatively speaking). In fact, the best word to describe the brand is experimental, as each new release appears to show Zelos attempting something new and unproven. Despite its proclivity for experimentation, Zelos has developed its own design language, which incorporates colours, textures, and unusual materials. Zelos watches, like any other brand that pushes design boundaries, aren’t for everyone; a diver with a blue/purple titanium Damascus case and meteorite dial, for example, will only appeal to a select group of watch lovers. But that’s exactly what I like about Zelos: the offerings aren’t for everyone, but they’re unique, interesting, and well-made for the price. With that said, the Horizons range is the brand’s most well-rounded and approachable design ever, and one that may just attract a few more eyes (and wallets).
The Zelos Horizons GMT was the first watch in the Horizons series, and it was well appreciated by the watch community. It was a 40mm GMT watch with a Swiss movement and a price tag of little under $900. David Bredan gave it his seal of approval. The Horizons GMT appeared to tick every box on the watch enthusiast checklist, as David highlighted in his review: sweet spot 40mm size, short lugs, brilliant lume, trustworthy movement, good case finishing, classic styling with modern finishing…the list continues on. The Horizons 39mm builds on the success of the Horizons GMT but in a somewhat smaller, less expensive form. It comes in three families, two with rotating bezels (the 12-hour and diver) and a bezel-less field watch. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
Frost (fully-lumed white dial with orange accents), Cobalt (dark blue dial with vintage lume), and Teal (as seen here) are the three colorways available for the Horizons 39mm 12-hr. Zelos offers a diving bezel in three different colours if you like the watch design but prefer a dive bezel. If you like field watches but like the case and bracelet, there are three more variations in the range to pick from. My favourite colours were Frost and Teal, however the Frost sold out practically immediately. I’m not complaining, though, because the teal dial is stunning, and the white sapphire bezel is stunning. Each model has a sapphire box crystal that is 2.5mm thick, a strong caseback, a screw-down crown, and is water resistant to 200 metres.
The Teal dial is particularly appealing because it mixes a gradient effect (bright teal in the centre, fading dark towards the corners) with a richly textured sunburst. On the wrist, it’s anything but boring. Although I’m currently bored with blue dial watches, the teal has a completely different impression – it’s a warmer, more vibrant shade that feels almost tropical. When I wore it skiing on a bluebird day and combined it with the white bezel, it felt like an unexpectedly perfect match to the snow and sky.
The gradient dial with sunbursts is the watch’s main attraction, but Zelos didn’t compromise on the details, including attached indices and a bordered date window with a color-matched date wheel. The hands provide a wonderful contrast to the indices, and the layout feels like the perfect blend of old cues and current design. The ultimate result is a watch that seems like it was influenced by the crazy colours and shapes of 1970s divers while being completely contemporary. The lume is a superb and highly applied blend of Super LumiNova C3 X1 and BGW9, like with all Zelos watches. Even the bezel is entirely lumed – perhaps not very practical given the small and difficult-to-read numbers on the bezel even in bright light, but the appearance at night is surely cool. Maybe it’s just my age, but not only are the bezel numerals small and difficult to read, but the date on the color-matched date wheel (white on teal) is also a little more difficult to see than the standard white on black or black on white. Would I make any changes? Certainly not. All I have to do now is accept that I should use my spectacles more frequently. Message in Advertising Message At The End Of Advertising
The 12-hour bezel on this model makes it simple to alter the bezel for a second time zone. It’s an excellent alternative to have if you travel a lot and don’t require a dive bezel. The 60-click bezel is difficult to turn, which is the sole drawback. This is owing to a short bezel height, a bezel that is somewhat smaller in diameter than the case, and a stiff movement. For a dive bezel that will be used frequently, this could be an issue, but in the case of a 12-hour bezel that will only be moved when travelling, I prefer a firm bezel that will not be jolted out of place.
The dial and bezel are striking, but it’s when you get to the case and start looking at the details that things really start to shine. However, communicating fit and finish is probably the most difficult aspect of reviewing watches. The Zelos Horizons 39mm is one of those timepieces that makes you question why the rest of your collection is so expensive. I’m not sure how Elshan Tang (Zelos’s founder) manages to persuade his manufacturing partners to produce casings with so many smooth lines, sharp transitions, contrasting polished and brushed surfaces, and exquisite finishing while still making a profit. The same can be said for other components such as the bracelet and dial. It’s a well-made watch with a price tag of only $549. A lot of timepieces at this price point (and much higher) will scrimp on the details or simply feel cheap. The Zelos, on the other hand, seems like a well-made, well-executed watch that I like looking and feeling all day.
The bracelet is a conventional three-link design, yet it has a lot of attention to detail. The links are brushed and rounded at the edges, giving the watch a smooth, pillowy feel. It’s not something you notice right away, but when it’s on your wrist, you do. Second, the bracelet has quick-release spring bars, which is one of those small details that, after you get used to it, you start to miss when you have to get out your spring bar tool with your other watches. Finally, there is the clasp. Zelos chose a basic stamped clasp for the Horizons GMT, which David Bredan and other reviewers criticised. With the Horizons 39mm, the problem has been solved. A machined push-button clasp with a tool-free micro-adjustment is now available. The buckle is embossed with a huge Zelos emblem and is as sturdy as the rest of the watch. My only gripe is that, though useful, the micro-adjust is stiff and uncomfortable to use….still it’s easier than taking out the spring bar tool! The negative is that I’m now much more irritated that some of my more expensive watches still have crudely stamped clasps.
It reaches the perfect spot on my 6.75” wrist thanks to the comfy and (very) easy-adjustable band, short, curved lugs on the case, and whatever other magic Zelos conjured up with this watch. It has just the proper amount of heft to feel solid and trustworthy, but it never seems heavy or awkwardly weighted because to the short lugs and small case size. The white bezel also makes the body of the watch look slimmer. It doesn’t wear small, but it does wear like a 39mm dive-style watch that fits easily and tastefully on my wrist. It’s not only comfortable, but it also looks wonderful. The contrast between the white bezel and the teal dial is striking and unusual; I’d like to see this colour combination used more frequently because it looks great without being garish. Yes, the Zelos Horizons 39mm looks and feels like a high-end timepiece, but maybe most significantly, it’s a lot of fun to wear.
The Miyota 9015 automatic movement powers the Zelos Horizons 39mm, which is a good choice at this price point. The Miyota 9015 has a 42-hour power reserve and beats at 28.8kbph. It offers hacking, hand winding, and a calendar function. Some people might like a Swiss ETA or Sellita movement, however it would raise the price, and I prefer this watch being offered at such a low price. The one drawback of Miyota movements is a noisy rotor, but the Zelos Horizons movement is nice and quiet thanks to its sturdy construction, thus I have no problems.
Normally, I don’t mention packaging because it just ends up in a closet, and enormous display boxes are a waste of space and resources in my opinion. However, I must emphasise Zelos’ method because this is the way to go if you’re going to provide a box. The watch is neatly put inside a convenient leather travel roll (I appreciate it when companies do this), which is enclosed in a sturdy hardwood box—acacia perhaps? The rustic, but neatly constructed box with magnetic closing is a wonderful upgrade to that shoebox stuffed with nick-nacks thrown beneath your bed, rather than a giant display box that you’ll never use. It’s something I could see myself using.
When it comes to alternatives, there are plenty of dive watches to choose from, with several under $500. There are watches like the Baltic Aquascaphe and Lorier Neptune if you want something that leans more towards the vintage side of the spectrum. The Halios Seaforth or Fairwind with 12-hour bezel is a more current take for a few hundred dollars more.