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1950s Zodiac Hermetic Jet-Aeronaut 24Hr (Ref. 758)

Zodiac’s Sea Wolf models have become extremely popular with today’s collectors, but Zodiac also produced a number of more obscure timepieces during the experimental era of Swiss watchmaking which took place in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the most recent episode of our video series Under the Radar, Craft + Tailored’s very own hunter of hidden horological heaters, Tyler Vanes, looks at a 1950s Zodiac Hermetic Jet-Aeronaut 24-hour watch (ref. 758), and discusses why these unusual and overlooked pilot’s watches offer such an appealing value proposition for today’s vintage collectors.

The 1950s were a time of innovation for the Swiss watch industry. It was during this decade that a significant number of key advancements happened, resulting in a wealth of new watch categories that were designed for a wide variety of specific purposes and environments. Like other Swiss brands, Zodiac produced a number of short-lived, but truly interesting models during that era and the Hermetic Jet-Aeronaut 24-hour watch was among them. 

This watch pre-dates the Aerospace GMT and offers a unique dial with a 24-hour display and unlike the Aerospace GMT – which uses the same core case design as the Sea Wolf dive watch – the Zodiac Jet-Aeronaut uses a thin, 34mm stainless steel case with a slim, fixed bezel and a 24-hour dial that has pops of bright red for its odd-numbered hour markers. The black dial includes both a 24-hour scale and a 60-minute track along its periphery, which works in conjunction with its manually wound 24-hour movement to offer a simple, yet effective way of referencing the time in a 24-hour format – all while still using a traditional three-handed display. Although this approach does not provide as much functionality as a true GMT watch’s fourth hand and rotating 24-hour bezel, it does offer an undeniably more unusual design and one seldom seen in contemporary watchmaking.

Not many people need a dedicated 24-hour watch – especially not in the modern era of cell phones. Even during the 1950s, this particular approach to displaying the time was never all that popular among the general public, and it has almost become a novelty these days. But that only makes it more unique and intriguing to those who appreciate the history and evolution of the Swiss watch industry. Given that they were only produced for a short amount of time and never in all that large of quantities, models like Zodiac’s Hermetic Jet-Aeronaut are genuinely rare timepieces, and they are emblematic of an era before flight computers and satellite navigation systems, when every pilot needed an accurate and reliable wristwatch to help them safely reach their next destination.

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