The Zelos Mako GMT
When the word “Microbrand” was coined, people had Zelos in mind. It’s limited and exotic. Its value is unmatched and the service is very personal. One can say that when they are buying a Zelos, they are really not buying their watches but rather the name and brand. Most people don’t typically do this except for the rare exceptions such as the green-draped crown coming from Switzerland.
But before we elect a new royalty from the East, let’s consider first how this small company managed to stay relevant in the industry filled with monolithic heritage.
Firstly the brand focused on unique designed that most established watch companies tend to shy away from. Zelos had bold, and angular cases that I’ve since associated with them in the early stages my research about the brand. Then gradually I learned about the different areas that they excelled in such as quality and craftsmanship that they used to build brand loyalty. This brand loyalty is further reenforced by intimate and personal contact with its founder. Everything else just organically grew from there.
More recently, Zelos has expanded beyond its budget-oriented offerings by partnering with artisan movement manufacturer Le Joux Perret. This decision was curious, as it meant offering watches outside the typical budget range while also catering to a relatively unknown brand for the luxury crowd. However, the result was still successful, with these watches selling out almost immediately. This move demonstrates Zelos' willingness to evolve and take risks to capture a wider market and meet the demands of watch enthusiasts looking for higher-end options.
It’s one thing to offer an alternative but what’s thought process behind offering 2 different collections to a popular watch. Seiko made waves last year when they launched the Seiko 5 Sports GMT. The announcement came with the news that Seiko will also offer the movement to other brands who want to enjoy the GMT caliber. Zelos is one of the first to jump in the trend. With their Blacktip GMT, Zelos offered a higher spec’d version of the Seiko 5 GMT that’s also assembled in a limited and more exotic design. It proved to be a great place holder in people’s collection.
Months later, Zelos announced that another watch would be in production, this time in the popular Mako line. However, instead of using the NH34 GMT movement from Seiko, it will be equipped with the Miyota 9075 true GMT caliber. While both movements offer GMT functionality, they are different complications. It is indeed unusual for a brand to release two watches with such similar functions in virtually the same calendar year. From a product marketing standpoint, it is generally advised not to release products that are nearly identical to avoid cannibalizing sales between them.
But this is Zelos. True, the release of the 2 GMTs were very close to each other. But there was no consideration of any concern at all. The Blacktip GMT, like with most Zelos releases, sold out quite quickly. By the time the Mako GMT dropped, the Blacktip’s were already exchanging hands between Zelos fans in facebook. No sales were cannibalized or hurt in during production of that watch. The question still remains, why produce 2 GMTs. The rational starts to make more sense when we approach the collection as a design first and complication later mentality. The Blacktip is Zelos slimmed down tool watch that can have the basic dive bezel or a GMT complication. It’s not a foreign concept either as rolex did this with many of their collection through out history.
The entire concept takes a different perspective when considering the fan base. Despite the Blacktip being a highly regarded GMT watch in its own right, many fans expressed a desire for a larger and more distinctive GMT timepiece. In order to meet these demands and offer a contrasting option, Zelos introduced the Mako GMT with a "true" GMT functionality. GMT watches were originally conceived for pilots to aid them on having the right hour and time as the cross the timezones. The Mako is primarily a dive watch but the GMT function is more than welcome office commuter that moonlight as aviators. Which ever wrist owner you are, the Mako treats you like you're its precious passenger as it comes installed with a Sapphire crystal, push button adjustments clasp, twin quick release springbars and excellent lume.
The Mako's Miyota caliber is a very formidable movement that beats at 28,800 BPH and has a 42 hours of power reserve. As a diver its also capable of diving up to 300 meters even though we all know that most of us could barely go down to 3. But it feels great to have a well built diver that also comes in colors and materials that Omega would charge an arm and a leg for.
The result remained the same. The Mako GMT sold out as expected. As I prepare to review another, upcoming, release from Zelos, the expected becomes the familiar. One may start to wonder, with each “expected” sellout, how long can Zelos sustain such a success? How long will they stay a Microbrand?