Topper Talk: KISS Drummer Eric Singer Helps Unmask The Zodiac Sea Wolf Series II 'Topper Edition'
How a world-famous drummer and a silicon valley retailer came together for their second Zodiac collaboration.
Even though it was over two decades ago, I still remember the first live concert I ever attended. It was a chilly summer night in Indianapolis, at the Deer Creek Music center (now known as the Ruoff Home Mortgage Center). The Scorpions took top billing that night, but it was their opening acts that impressed me the most. None other than Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper!
I’ll admit, I knew very little about rock & roll at the time. But what blew me away the most was the five-minute drum solo by Alice Cooper’s drummer, Eric Singer. He was positively electric that night, and I've followed his career ever since. Singer is now the drummer for the legendary rock band KISS, another of my favorites. It turns out, Singer is also a total watch nerd and has struck a friendship with Rob Caplan, owner of Topper Jewelers.
Eric Singer And Topper Jewelers
When I learned that Singer and Topper would once again be collaborating on a 'Topper Edition,' I knew this could be a unique opportunity to cover what would likely be a stellar watch. Caplan and Singer had previously worked together on an Oris Divers Sixty-Five' Topper Edition' and the Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Series I, and both watches are long sold out.
But I was curious, how did the rocker and the retailer meet? Speaking with Caplan, he explained the friendship started with a simple phone call, “He [Eric] actually called me up because he wanted an Anonimo Professionale and I was the one person who had it! We started talking and hit it off. We quickly found out we were very likeminded and we've been close friends ever since. Eric and I have very similar tastes in watches, although he loves everything!”
Speaking from his home in Malibu, Singer remembers Caplan’s passion for watches as one of the main reasons for their friendship, “That's why I like Rob. That's why we became friends because Rob is a business guy, he's, of course, got to make a living. He's got a family business which he's always thinking about. But to me, he's so much more than a businessman. Everything he does is rooted in passion.”
A Tale Of Rock n’ Roll, Malibu, and Fossil watches
I had to know, why does Zodiac mean so much to Eric Singer? It turns out, Singer's history with Zodiac goes back to his days of playing with Alice Cooper. As I found out, years ago, Tom Kartsotis, the founder of Fossil, happened to live next to Alice Cooper's manager Shep Gordon. In 2001, Fossil acquired the rights to Zodiac, and soon after, Singer began to gently nudge their new owners to dip back into their rich history.
As Singer explains, “I was familiar with Zodiac and the Sea Wolf. I knew they [soldiers] wore them during the Vietnam Era. When soldiers went to the commissary, they could buy a Tudor, Rolex, or a Zodiac and a lot of the Navy Seals of that era wore the Zodiac Sea Wolf. They [Zodiac] had this cool Astrographic with a mystery dial, I was a watch person, so I just knew the brand.”
Singer still remembers the disappointment when learned that Zodiac’s new owners wouldn’t be revisiting their archives, “I remember saying to the head of Fossil [Kartsotis] that Zodiac used to make really cool Sea Wolfs, and they should make more of those watches. And he kind of just looked at me and was like, "No."
Singer ended up having the last laugh though, as Zodiac now makes a full lineup of vintage-inspired mechanicals, including the Sea Wolf. Singer still laughs that his wish was finally fulfilled, “After all these years, they started doing exactly what I was of suggesting early on! Either way, it got done.”
Zodiac brings back the classics
For years, Caplan and Singer would roam the halls of Baselworld looking for undiscovered and underappreciated watches. About five years ago, they stumbled upon an entirely new Zodiac booth. Caplan explains, “He [Singer] had heard that Zodiac, for the first time since the eighties was finally starting to do reissues. So we went down to the Fossil building to see the Sea Dragon, which was really the first time they were trying to bring back a classic.”
Caplan told me that after Zodiac re-introduced the original Sea Wolf, Singer was one of his first clients, snatching up a variety of pieces for friends, family, and bandmates. Until one day when Caplan rang Singer and said, "Hey, do you want to see if Zodiac will let us just do our reissue, just for the heck of it?" Singer’s reply?
“Yeah! I’m in!”
Enter the Zodiac’s Topper Editions
Shortly after that fateful phone call, Singer and Caplan began to send each other texts and emails with images of their favorite Zodiacs. After hundreds of exchanges and countless renderings with TJ Mcknight, Director of Zodiac, they had it! A super sleek Super Sea Wolf' Topper Edition' with a Bakelite style white and orange bezel and bright orange seconds hand. The 20-piece limited edition sold out faster than an Eric Singer drum solo.
For their next trick, Singer and Caplan got the blessing of Zodiac to dive deeper into the brand's archives. Iconic models inspired both gentlemen, and soon the duo knew they needed a trio.
The Zodiac Sea Wolf' Topper Edition' Series II
That trio is what we’re covering today. The new Zodiac Sea Wolf' Topper Edition' Series II. A three-piece Sea Wolf collection that runs the color gamut from vibrant yellow and black to stark white and textured black dials. While Series II is limited, it’s more available than the original Super Sea Wolf as Topper and Zodiac have opted to produce 82 pieces of each model. Singer and Caplan have been very respectful to the original Zodiac models, yet Series II feels like an entirely new and refreshing collection of timepieces.
Singer explained that he fell down a proverbial rabbit hole in co-designing this new piece with Caplan, “when I started researching all the old Zodiac Sea Wolfs, they often changed the case size and the case style starting in the late '60s into the early '70s. For instance, sometimes we’d find a Sea Wolf with that oddly shaped asymmetrical steel case, or we’d find something with a 36000 high-beat movement in it. I mean, Zodiac was making some cool watches back in the day.” As you can see on the new pieces, one of the key details is the 'roulette wheel' bezels, which are often sought after by vintage Zodiac collectors.
A classic watch isn’t an icon until it receives a nickname, and luckily, Caplan and Singer have already coined some assuredly catchy names. First up, is the white and black “White Wolf” with its textured grey dial and bright white flag indices. In a nod to Series I, the White Wolf receives a white Bakelite style bezel with black dive markings. For a dash of color, two “Rally” models in navy and white "Dark Smurf," or in yellow and black "The Wasp." Nicknames that should warm the heart of vintage Zodiac collectors.
Singer unabashedly loves the White Wolf. As he says, “I prefer the White Wolf because as I was searching through more and more pictures, I thought it just looked like a simple, clean tool watch. I wore it when I went to see Queen the other night. I was wearing all black and a bunch of other blingy jewelry, but I wore the White Wolf because I thought, "You know, this watch looks good and works because even though it's not a super blingy watch." But the fact that it's a clean black and white [motif] it's going to go with anything you wear, whether you're wearing jeans and a t-shirt or a suit. That watch [White Wolf], I think, is the most versatile of all of them.”
All three models are sized at 40mm and encased in stainless steel. Buyers of the Rally models will receive a metal 'jubilee' style bracelet along with a matching (to the primary color) tropical rubber strap while buyers of the White Wolf will receive a riveted 'three-link' metal bracelet. All Sea Wolfs in the collection are equipped with Fossil Inc's in-house STP [Swiss Technology Production] 3-13-3 automatic movement, which is COSC certified. Additionally, Topper and Zodiac state that each piece boasts 44 hours of power reserve. Little touches like a red-tipped 'shovel' seconds hand made these pieces uniquely stand out.
The collection has the added benefit of being unisex, both because of its case size (40mm) and the range of colorways available. As Singer explained, “For me, they check a lot of boxes. They're not too big at 40mm. Plus the variety of special colors and options, I think, is a cool thing. These pieces definitely fall into the category of a unisex watch. I could see women going, "I love this watch because it's got great colors and is a lot of fun." Even someone with very slender wrists or petite figure, 40mm will look pretty big, but it won't be crazy oversized.”
From speaking with Singer and Caplan, you can tell this collection is the result of a labor of love. While both men have day jobs that keep them almost entirely disposed of, yet they've still found the time for friendship, and this collaboration is one made of passion. The results are evident as well since the White Wolf variant is already sold out. For now, the Rally editions remain available.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)