Mido Decompression Diver 1961: A journey to the colorful 60s

I have a weak point for vintage diver reissues, that’s a fact. Sometimes I look for more modern watches but I always turn back to the vintage design. My collection really reflects this…I will mention one of my latest articles https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/07/03/legends-form-the-60s-reissued-seiko-sla017-doxa-silver-lung-and-zrc-grand-fonds/ about the Seiko SLA017, the Doxa Sub and the ZRC Grand Fonds.

I don’t think when the famous names of the skindivers of the 60s come to your mind you will think about Mido at first. You probably name the big names like Rolex, Omega, Seiko or Blancpain. Some thoughts later maybe Doxa, Favre-Leuba, Aquastar or Yema come to your mind. But Mido? I don’t think that the usual collector will think about Mido. Nor did I. But in June 2020 Mido released a colorful diver limited to 1961 pieces named Mido Ocean Star Decompression Diver 1961 (what a name…). I was interested a first sight but did know nothing about the original watch. The only hint was the year 1961 and since this is my birthyear I began my research. But there is very few material about this Mido from 1961. It seemed to be extremely rare and prices for a good example reached easily 5,000 USD. Wow, that’s a lot of money for a Mido! Finally I found a good source: https://alphahands.com/vintage-watch-research/mido-powerwind-ref-5907-deep-dive-timer/, so most of my information about the vintage diver is from this source.

Mido 5907 (picture by ajaneb8)

The name of the vintage watch is Mido Ocean Star 5907 Powerwind Diver – seems like Mido loves long names. The name of the reissue “Decompression Diver” is because of the decompression scale on both the vintage and the modern piece and they added 1961 as the release year of the ref. 5907 (although some say it was released in 1959, but Mido should know I think). The decompression scale is the special feature of this watches and the dominating design element. The picture shows how to use this.

While the vintage piece only shows the table in either meters or feet, the reissue shows both. And that’s the first difference. The vintage piece was available in four different dial versions. The inner part was always white, the outer part black or white. The modern version has a black outer and a black inner part and that’s the second difference. The crown is signed Mido in both versions but the modern version has some crown guards, the third difference. In fact the whole case of the new version is taken from the common Mido Ocean Star line, Mido didn’t develop a special case for the reissue. So the case back has the Mido seastar engraved instead of a diver, fourth difference. The fifth and in my eyes biggest optical difference is the bezel. While the original 5907 had a steel bezel the reedition has a black one. So all in all the Decompression Diver is not a real reissue like for example the Doxa Sub 300. Seiko would call this a “modern reinterpretation”.

Four dial versions (picture: https://alphahands.com/vintage-watch-research/mido-powerwind-ref-5907-deep-dive-timer/)

And of course the modern watch has a modern movement. Like most Swatchgroup mechanical watches in this price range the new Mido is powered by a Powermatic 80 from ETA with 80 hours power reserve and 21.600 bpH. Most of the watches with this movement I have seen have a rather good accuracy. My Mido is – with a defiance of +3,5sec/24h – no exeption.

As I said this watch is a limited edition of 1961 pieces and seems to be sold out right now. Prices on Ebay or on Chrono24 are above retail price now so it seems this piece also will become a collector’s piece – a big success for the Swatchgroup.

The watch comes with three straps. A Milanaise, a leather and some strap that seems to be made of something between leather and plastic. All straps have quick-release springbars. I like the Milanaise (a similar strap was delivered with the vintage 5907), but I don’t like the other two straps. It remains a secret to me why Mido didn’t throw in a Tropic style strap instead of this random extra straps, the watch looks gorgeous on it. To find such a strap is not easy because of the 21mm lug width, but the Kaufmann Nautic is available in this size and really a great match for the watch.

Mido Decompression Diver 1961 on Kaufmann Nautic

So the most colorful diver of today is now part of my collection. I wonder what will be the next 60s Diver reissue catching my eye (the new Aquadive would be absolutely great, but is too big for my wrist).

Even in black and white the design gorgeous 😉

Almost to the moon: Wolbrook Skindiver

In this blog entry I will show you a watch which probably most of you never heard of: The Wolbrook Skindiver Automatic. Let me first say, I am no big fan of microbrands. And I am no big fan of Kickstarter. So why did I order a watch from a microbrand via Kickstarter?

First of all is design. Ok, an inhouse movement or things like a ceramic bezel or other fancy stuff might be interesting, but I am a man with simple taste. The watch must look gorgeous. Period. And this watch got 99 out of 100 points in my eyes. The design is truly sixties, every part of this watch has vintage vibes from the bright arrow hand to the domed sapphire.

Even the movement is almost vintage… 😉 Inside the watch works a Miyota 8215, no hacking, but handwinding, a workhouse, no modern movement. It rattles like a snake and nobody would choose this movement for its precision. Miyota guarantees -20/+40 sec in 24h! But Wolbrook promised to adjust the movement to +/-10 sec in 24h. And they kept their word, my watch runs +6sec/24h on my wrist. The second thing they did is they changed the date wheel. Odd numbers will appear in black, even numbers in red, both in a really vintage font. This is called a roulette date and looks terrific, adding even more vintage style. And look at that back with the “Eagle”!

Back with “Eagle” from Apollo 11

Second let’s have a look at history. What is the story behind this watch? I must admit I don’t want to buy a watch without a story…maybe you are a frequent reader of my blog, then you know. Ok let us start: In 1949 Wolbrook and his sister Douglas (second brand of Wolbrook, named Douglas, but inside all parts were marked Wolbrook) were founded. You may never heard of this names and neither did I before. It was never a big watch company and it vanished only 25 years later in the quartz crisis. In the 60s they sold their Skindiver “Worldtimer” for a mere 20 USD (a Rolex Submariner was about 230 USD).

Old advertisement (picture copyright Wolbrook)

There was one well-known customer: Neil Armstrong, the to-be first man on the moon. He wore a Douglas Skindiver, not the one with the worldtimer bezel. His watch was sold in an auction in 2019:  https://historical.ha.com/itm/explorers/space-exploration/neil-armstrong-owned-and-worn-douglas-diver-s-watch-directly-from-the-personal-collection-of-neil-s-brother-dean-armstrong/a/6206-51012.s

Let’s quote Wolbrook from the Kickstarter campaign:
“The 1960s Skindiver “Worldtimer” was a solid, water resistant and highly legible timepiece with luminous markers and hands, large sweep second hand, distinctive hour and minute hands, time zone, elapsed time and 24 hours indicators. This mix of features from a diving watch and a pilot watch, makes it the kind of tool-watch “a NASA engineer and test pilot” would personally choose and wear.”

With both, design and history, on my mind I backed the Wolbrook Skindiver on Kickstarter. And let me mention this: with twelve Kickstarter campaigns before (not only watches) I can admit this campaign was the most professional managed I participated. Of course there were delays, but with Covid-19 in the background ruining and disturbing every supply chain the new founded French company made a terrific job. Chapeau!

Of course I chose the watch with the original Wolbrook design. There were many other colors of dial and bezel and even a PVD version but I think this versions lack some of the vintage touch.

They delivered the watch with a leather strap which I removed first hand. It’s no bad strap but for me it was clear from the beginning that this watch looks best on a vintage Tropic style strap. I found one with the typical Tropic pattern and some holes and I think that’s the perfect couple.

Skindiver on vintage Tropic style rubber

Ok, you missed the campaign, but you want this watch? You can get one from Wolbrooks online store for a higher price. I think the current price of about 400 Euros is no bargain, but they improved the movement again. It now has a hacking feature. And you still get a watch with a unique design, a solid over-all quality and an interesting background.

Legends from the 60s reissued: Seiko SLA017, Doxa Silver Lung and ZRC Grand Fonds

This entry is my first attempt to write about of more than one watch in one entry. So today you will receive information about three watches for the price of one 😉

I always was a fan of the 60s and 70s. This were two decades of great designs in watchmaking and almost ever single watch design today has its roots in this age. And not to mention – these are the decades of my youth.

In watch design it was especially the golden age of diving watches. The first icons appeared some years earlier: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (first watch with diving bezel) and the Rolex Submariner. But in the 60s designs explode and so did companies. I will mention Zodiac, Doxa, Yema…all releasing icons highly sought by collectors today. But this original watches are now often shattered pieces and the few ones in good condition are expensive and very hard to find. The companies today began to satisfy the longing for this old watches with modern reissues, more or less exact the same design. Often released in limited numbers some of them became collector pieces too. I will show you three of them:

Seiko SLA017, reissue of the 62mas


Doxa Silver Lung Annivesary, reissue of the original Doxa Sub Searambler Aqua Lung

ZRC Grand Fonds 300, reissue of…yes, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300

When I acquired my ZRC Grand Fonds I thought it maybe an interesting idea to talk about three watches in one article. It will not be longer than my usual entries, because two of the watches I reviewed in earlier entries.

The Seiko SLA017 in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/25/the-seiko-62mas-reissue-an-important-first/
and the Doxa Anniversay in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/01/31/doxa-sub-sharkhunter-50th-anniversay-the-legend-reissued/.

Truth to tell it’s not the same Doxa but the only difference is the dial with the silver color and black Aqualung Logo. Like the Doxa Sharkhunter in my article the Aqua Lung was released in 1967, in a very small batch, some say less than 10 pieces. To find a Doxa Silver Lung from this period is therefore quite impossible, don’t even think about it. In 2017, 50 years later, Doxa released the resissue. The so-called Silver Lung with the silver Searambler dial was built in 300 pieces and released with a retail price of about 2,500 USD – you can’t get one for this price right now. It’s a rare watch on second market and most of them are in the hands of collectors. Chrono24 lists no piece. I got mine from a fellow collector of dive watches in March 2020, two months after my Doxa Sharkhunter Anniversary, so I have two of them reissues in my collection. When it comes to retail price it’s the “cheapest” of the three watches. And it’s the only one which is really a 1:1 reissue, the other two have grown in size. The history and more details you can read in my blog article.

I think I have almost wrote everything about the Seiko SLA017 in my other entry. It was a sensation in 2017 (same year as Doxa!), a Seiko at this price point was unknown, the expensive Seikos were named Grand Seiko. Many fans were surprised while other fans of more expensive brands admired the watch. It’s the most versatile of the three watches, the least eyecatcher for the common people not familiar with watches. And it’s the one with the highest retail price with 3,800 Euro. It’s sold out like the Doxa and slowly it becomes a collector’s piece, now it’s the last time to get one for a reasonable price in my opinion. It’s my favorite one of this three watches and if I had to choose it would be the SLA017 (glad I have all three…).

Since I have already written about the Seiko and the Doxa this article will give more room to the ZRC. Probably some of you didn’t heard about ZRC until now. The company was founded in 1904 in Geneva by Edmond Ziccolo and Joseph Rochet, so ZRC is Zuccolo, Rochet and Cie. It was specialized in expendable metal bracelets – we will talk about the bracelet of this watch later.

From 1960 to 1964 ZRC developed their first watch, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300 – the ancestor of my watch. The watch was used by the French Navy from 1964 to 1982 and original pieces from this time are highly sought collector’s pieces. It almost looks like the recent watch expect the size which grow from a diameter of 36mm to a more modern size of 40,5mm. In almost every other aspect today’s Grand Fonds looks like the legendary watch from 1964.

The new Grand Fonds was released in 2015. In 2017 ZRC teamed up with Alban Michon for a Northpole expedition. They made a special edition of this reissue and distributed it via Kickstarter, so the watch was presented to a bigger community.

The bezel has a special cleaning system named ECS ™, allowing fresh water flowing under (!) the bezel to wash out salt from diving. You have to take a very close look at the watch to spot this system. What you see even from a distance is the most unique design feature: The crown is placed at 6 o’clock. The crown can only be unscrewed if you tilt the strap adapter (or with bracelet, if you tilt the bracelet). In unscrewed position you cannot put the watch on the wrist again, you first have to screw it again. So it’s a safety feature. If you have the watch on the wrist, the crown is screwed down. A cool feature….but a complicated thing to wind up the watch or to set the time. You can only use two fingers to operate the crown and they should better be not too big. The quality of the case is amazing and explains the price point.

Inside you find the common ETA 2824-2 (or a Sellita SW-200) Elabore, so that’s nothing special. The Doxa and the Seiko have significant better movements. You may think that’s no problem, because the good point is, every watchmaker can easily adjust, clean and service the movement. Well, wrong. The caseback has triangle shaped slots to open and requires special tools only available at ZRC. And talking about triangles: The strap/bracelet doesn’t have springbars but is attached with screwed pins on the lugs. A good thing, but you need a screwdriver with triangle pikes not available at your favorite hardware store. At least this special screwdrivers are now part of every ZRC watch set. And to remove the strap from the strap adapter you need a very sharp and thin normal screwdriver. ZRC delivers two screwdrivers with four tops with every watch. Two tops with the triangle pikes and two with sharp normal pikes. Did I mention you always need both screwdrivers to unlock one bar? So changing a strap means: First unscrew the bar at twelve o’clock with the triangle pike, then change the tops and unscrew the second bar from the adapter with the other tops. Let me say: This watch has character , but it’s the character of a diva when it comes to strap change.

So you may have the idea to order the watch with the bracelet and forget the whole strap thing. Ok, that’s 600 Euros more. And the bracelet is a diva, too. No micro adjustments, rather big links. In the last link of each side there is a built-in spring to easily put it over a wet suit and to “breathe” – means changing the diameter under water according to the water pressure. A real good thing for divers. If you are not a diver you have a very good chance the bracelet is either too small or too big. The springs are too tight to make a comfortable wrist if you like your bracelet close to your wrist. That’s the reason I ordered it with a leather strap although the bracelet looks absolutely gorgeous. Right now an Isofrane is on the watch looking very good in my opinion.

All three watches are very comfortable at the wrist. The Doxa is king here, I don’t know a more comfortable bracelet than the Doxa BoR. Which of the three watches ever is your favorite: you will receive a real legend reissued.  

Seiko SLA017Doxa Silver LungZRC Grand Fonds
Diameter39,5mm42,5mm40,5mm
Length47mm48mm49,5mm
MovementSeiko 8L35ETA 2824-2
COSC
ETA 2824-2
elabore
Units2000
(sold out)
300
(sold out)
unlimited
Retail price
with bracelet
3,800 Euro2,500 Euro3,200 Euro

Some macros.
Seiko:

Doxa:

ZRC:

Wristshots:

Doxa Sub Sharkhunter 50th Anniversay: The Legend reissued

Ask some fans and collectors to name the most famous dive watches and they will propably answer: Rolex Submariner. Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Omega Seamaster. Seiko Tuna. Doxa Sub. Doxa Sub? Yes, this watch from the small company Doxa has its place in history among the big companies Rolex, Omega/Blancpain (both divisions of Swatchgroup today) and Seiko.

Let’s step back to the 60s. While Submariner, Fity-Fathoms and Seamaster are already big names in this days (the Tuna is still to come in 1974 – see my entry https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/01/10/seiko-sbbn017-real-tuna-and-tuna-style/) some far smaller companies are releasing dive watches for professional divers and the growing diving fan scene. To mention some names: Zodiac, Aquadive, Aquastar, Nivada, Favre-Leuba for example.

The mother of all divewatches was the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms. Released 1953, the first watch with a rotating diving bezel to calculate the time underwater.

Doxa did not start with a blank sheet, but Urs Eschle, product manager of Doxa in the 60s made a new approach to build the perfect diving watch. He brought a team of watchmakers and professional divers together to create a new diving watch both for professional and leisure divers.

After developing the typical cushion-shape case they tried to solve the biggest problem: underwater legibility. A diver is not interested in exact time of the day, but he has to know how many minutes he can stay under water until air runs out. Because of this Doxa shrinked the hour hand to a dwarf size while the minute hand was enlarged and treated with the biggest amount of Tritium ever seen on a watch. Then they tested several dial colours in the Neuchatel Lake and decided orange is the best colour under water. All competitors had been used black dials so far.

Next important element is the bezel, together with the minute hand the most important part of a dive watch. They developed a saw-tooth edged bezel for optimum grip with two scales resembling the US-Navy decompression table.

Bezel
Saw-tooth bezel

The two-scale bezel, the hands and the cushion-shaped case are the special attributes that gave and give Doxa its unique look. And lets not forget the bracelet: even if the beads-of-rice bracelet ist as far as I know not a Doxa invention, it became really famous with the Doxa watches. The 50th anniversary has polished rice grains and brushed outer parts.

Beads-of-rice bracelet

The most advanced supplier of diving equipment these days was the US Divers Company with legendary head Jacques Cousteau. Eschle contacted him and showed him the watch and Cousteau was instantly thrilled. He decided to market the Sub 300 in the USA. For many years now the Cousteau team used Doxa watches on their expeditions.

Cousteau team

In 1967 the first watches were available to the public and soon became a legend (of course the Cousteau factor helped). The first Doxa Sub didn’t have a Helium valve like most Doxas later. But the company researched to solve the Helium problem and later presented the first ever watch with a Helium valve. Most diving watches for saturation diving have a Helium valve today. The famous exception is the Seiko Tuna with a complete different approach.

Most other Doxa Subs later are more or less variations of the first Doxa Sub 300 and anybody who knows something about diving watches can spot a Doxa from 50 meters away. The iconic design lives on every upcoming models, although the company itself had different economic problems and changed the owner more than one time. In 1997 Doxa was bought by the Jenny family and the Jenny fish logo is now on every crown and bracelet.

Jenny fish

The first orange dial (name: Professional) was soon followed by some other colours with special names:

Black: Sharkhunter
Silver: Searambler
Yellow: Divingstar
Blue: Carribean
Turquoise: Aquamarin

In 2017 Doxa released a reissue of the first Sub 300 with same dimensions and like the original without a Helium valve. It’s almost an 1:1 copy with two differences: The reissue has a sapphire crystal glass for better scratch resistance which only an expert can tell from the original plexi glass. And an ETA 2824-2 movement COSC grade, the original having an ETA 2852. There are only 900 pieces of this watch, 300 Professional, 300 Sharkhunter and 300 Searambler. Almost every Doxa is a limited edition today, but even for Doxa this is a small number.

I am happy to acquire one of this pieces a few weeks ago and show you some pictures of this rare watch. The beads-of-rice bracelet is one of the most comfortable bracelets ever and the mix of brushed and polished pieces a feast for the eyes. The COSC movement holds its promises, there is almost no defiance to the atomic clock.

But you can see some other special pieces here – a big thank to my friend Marco (TIMEX SOCIAL) to open his huge collection and send me some photos!

Doxa Sharkhunter 300T 50th Anniversary
Doxa Sharkhunter 300 50th anniversary
Detail bezel/dial
50th Anniversary on my wrist

Some Doxas from the collection of my friend Marco

Sub 300 Professional Seahunter (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Divingstar Sub 600T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Professional 600T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Sharkhunter 600T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Searambler 750T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Carribean 1000 T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Sub 1000T TUSA (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Professional 800T Titanium with self-glowing indices (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Sharkhunter 5000 (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Searambler 600T Chrono (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL) (75 pieces!)
Doxa Aquamarin 1200T (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL) (50 pieces!)
Sub Divingstar 1200 T Poseidon (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Sub Professional 300 Aqua Lung (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Sub Searambler 300 Aqua Lung (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Professional 1200T “DWL – Diving with Legends (picture by TIMEX SOCIAL)
Doxa Carribean 750T