Some great affordable watch brands have had humble beginnings, and that’s certainly the case with Zelos Watches. A 2014 Kickstarter campaign took the Singapore-based brand’s assets from near zero to around $80,000. This allowed founder Elshan Tang to break into the microbrand market.
In the years since Zelos watches shown serious staying power with stunning designs and solid workmanship at reasonable prices. Most models featuring sapphire crystals, automatic movements, and high-grade materials such as 316L stainless steel. Zelos watches prove that high quality can come at a low cost. At least low when compared to more upscale brands such as Rolex and Omega, as the Zelos prices run the gamut from about $300 to $1,300.
So what do we have in this price range that’s well within the reach of most watch lovers? Let’s take a look at three of their top collections.
Relish Retro Style with the Hammerhead
Drawing inspiration from cherished cushion-shaped dive watches from the 1960s and 1970s, the Hammerhead combines a vintage design with the technology of today.
Hammerhead sharks are stealthy and strong. They’re often found stalking prey along the pressure-heavy ocean floor and using their namesake heads as weapons when they come across a quarry. So too the Zelos Hammerhead is one tough timepiece, with cases of either 316L steel or marine-grade bronze. For maximum protection, a double-domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal tops the dial, while the display caseback is similarly made of sapphire.
The Hammerhead’s bezel continues the commitment to toughness with the option of zirconium-oxide ceramic. It is incredibly resistant to scratches, abrasions, and corrosion. The material is gauged several times more durable than stainless steel. It measures at an impressive 1,500 HV on the Vickers hardness test. Water-resistant up to 1,000 meters with a screw-down crown, the Hammerhead was literally built for swimming with sharks.
For something truly unique, go with the meteorite version with a dial and bezel made from a meteorite. A meteorite, meteorite? Yup, a big old rock that was formed billions of years ago, hurtled through space for millennium on end, plummeted to earth in a fiery fall and then got sourced for a watch. Meteorite models are one of a kind as the patterns of no two space rocks are the same.
Chroma for Minimalist Charm
While the Hammerhead offers a big dose of bravado, the Chroma Collection comes in with subtle and understated warmth. With 42mm diameters, you might think that Chromas wear large, but the lack of lugs makes them come off considerably smaller than their actual size would suggest.
Chroma watches do share some of the Hammerhead’s attributes in terms of toughness, such as sapphire crystals front and back, 316L stainless steel, bronze, or carbon fiber cases, along with water resistance up to 50 meters. But they also have finer sides, with versions that mix satin-brushed and polished stainless steel finishes with rose gold plating. Adding an elegant touch, 20mm straps are crafted from waxed crazy horse leather, coveted for the antique look they acquire as they age gracefully.
The most affordable timepieces Zelos offers, nearly all of the watches in the Chroma line are priced between $269 and $299, with a few exceptions. One such outlier that’s priced at $499 is a limited edition made of Damascus steel, an alloy often used in making high-end knives that finishes with an eye-catching wood grain pattern. And these are all especially nice given the price, as they’re not quartz but actually automatics with Miyota 821A movements.
Skyraider Takes Aviation to a New Era
Zelos looked back to World War Two for inspiration in its latest aviation watch, named after the Douglas A-1 Skyraider. The famous fighter plane was revered for its resilience, serving as the last propeller-driven aircraft to fly missions for the United States Air Force. And while the design of the Skyraider Collection takes cues from classic pilot watches, we also get a modern take with meteorite and skeletonized dials among its contemporary notes.
Cases go on the larger side with 42.5mm width and lug-to-lug spans of 50mm. And we go seriously Old School with a classic manual-wind movement. An ETA 6498 caliber with 44 hours of reserve power that originally got its start in pocket watches. The large crown is not screw-down and has no crown guards. That means it gives the watch a truly vintage look of pilot watches from a time gone by.
Dials are eye-catching, each unique in their own distinct ways. The titanium and bronze case models offer dial options. Options including skeletonized, meteorite, and “atmosphere blue” with a turbine pattern and a gradient that goes from blue to black. A Muonionalusta meteorite that plummeted to what we today call Sweden about a million years ago offers a one-of-a-kind pattern. The skeletonized version shows us the inner workings, topped by hands with a generous amount to C3-Super-LumiNova. That guards against legibility issues we sometimes see with skeletonized watches.
Zelos Watches Conclusion
Following that first fateful Kickstarter campaign, Elshan Tang did more. Elshan went on to create a series of successful crowd-sourced initiatives. He raised more than a million dollars for his watchmaking enterprises. Most days you can find him hunched over a workbench at his Singapore studio. As he is busy working on the next great Zelos watches.