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.
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.
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.
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.
The first orange dial (name: Professional) was soon followed by some other colours with special names:
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!
Some Doxas from the collection of my friend Marco