Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers
The Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers is limited to just 300 pieces. With legions of Doxaphiles around the globe, period Aqua Lung branding, a forged carbon case and a super-keen price, demand for this watch will inevitably outstrip supply.
A number of years ago, I visited Le Locle for the first time. This city and its next-door neighbour, La Chaux de Fonds, are UNESCO World Heritage sites and are widely regarded as the epicentre of Swiss watchmaking. Both cities play host to a multitude of watch brands and numerous specialist component suppliers.
The purpose of my trip was to visit Musée d’Horlogerie du Locle, Château des Monts. This museum houses clocks, pocket watches and automata. In addition, there are period books, watchmaking benches and exquisite furnishings.
During my tour of the Château, the tour guide discussed the history of the building and its previous owners. One former owner was Georges Ducommun (1868-1936), the founder of the Swiss brand, Doxa.
To be honest, at that particular time, I knew little about the company, primarily because its watches were not widely available in the United Kingdom. However, with my interest suitably piqued, I vowed that I would research the company once ensconced in my study.
The birth of the brand
Doxa was founded in 1889, in Le Locle. It was registered under the name of ‘Georges Ducommun, Fabrique des montres Doxa’. Initially, the company made pocket watches but later it began making dashboard clocks for cars. Indeed, Bugatti, the über-luxurious car marque, was one of the firm’s clients.
Over the years, the brand has won a myriad of awards and its ingenuity has led to it registering numerous patents. In 1925, Georges was elected Vice-President of the International Horology Group and President of the Swiss Watchmaking Association.
Georges Ducommun passed away in 1936. His legacy was the revered company he had created from scratch, a firm renowned for value, quality, innovation and precision.
The original SUB concept
During the 1960s, Urs Eschle, Doxa’s Head of Product Development, grew increasingly interested in TV documentaries about life underwater. Indeed, millions of people around the globe shared this fascination, eagerly watching Jacques-Yves Cousteau navigate the seas aboard the ‘Calypso’. Cousteau, attired in a wetsuit and equipped with an Aqua-Lung, would venture beneath the waves and enchant TV audiences with an array of underwater creatures and attractions.
This subaquatic universe led Eschle to commence development of an affordable diver’s watch, suitable for the growing community of scuba diving enthusiasts. Part of Eschle’s R&D team was Claude Wesley, a professional diver who had previously worked with Cousteau.
In 1967, Doxa announced its revolutionary SUB concept, unveiling the inaugural model, the SUB 300. Unlike other divers’ watches at the time, which were only sold to the military or professional divers, the SUB 300 was available to the general public.
Consistent with Georges Ducommun’s culture of innovation, the SUB 300 was equipped with various features, some of which were patented. The watch was water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres. The model featured a patented rotating bezel which allowed the diver to calculate and monitor ‘no-decompression dive times’ based on the official US Navy dive tables. Unlike the ubiquitous black or white watch dials of the time, the display of the SUB 300 dial was presented in a vibrant shade of orange. As the years have passed, Doxa, in the spirit of continuous improvement, has refined certain aspects of the SUB 300. It has also released several additional divers’ models.
The SUB 300 – reimagined and presented in forged carbon
Recently, Doxa unveiled a new, limited-edition version of the 1967 class, the Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers, featuring a forged carbon bezel, case and dial. Although this is not the first time the hi-tech material has been used in the watch industry, it is normally the preserve of far costlier watches.
To make a forged carbon component, the case maker purchases carbon fibre thread on a reel. This thread is then cut into lengths and, thereafter, a collection of these cut lengths are weighed. A specific mass of carbon fibre is placed in a mould with epoxy resin, before being subject to heat and pressure. The resultant material is strong and very light. Indeed, the Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers weighs a mere 87 grams.
In 1943, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Émile Gagnan invented an air regulator suitable for underwater use. This scuba diving equipment was named the ‘Aqua Lung’, a name which continues to endure.
When Jacques-Yves Cousteau saw the inaugural SUB 300, he was very impressed. Indeed, the French underwater explorer ultimately secured an exclusive distribution agreement for his US-based company, US Divers. The Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers references Cousteau’s company in its name and features a period Aqua Lung logo on its dial.
A few weeks ago, I received a press release from Doxa about this limited-edition watch and requested a press loan for a few days of ‘hands-on’ evaluation. I have made copious notes about this temporary ownership experience and share my thoughts herein.
When I initially received this watch, I was struck by its appearance. At first, I thought the dial seemed small. However, this is because it is encircled by a two-part unidirectional bezel. The bezel comprises of two rings, the inner ring is marked in white, displaying dive times in minutes, and the outer ring features yellow markings, indicating the dive depth in feet.
A forged carbon dial sits beneath a domed sapphire crystal. Forged carbon has a marbled appearance and because the threads are randomly arranged within the mould, no two resultant parts look the same. This texture grants the dial with a fascinating mien.
The white, luminescent hour hand is comparatively small, especially when compared with the ample minute hand which is presented in an eye-popping shade of mustard-yellow. While these hands shun convention, they prove highly legible. The central sweep seconds hand features a rectangular section near its tip, augmenting readability.
A minuterie encircles the dial and features one-minute markings, save for the luminescent indexes which denote the hours. Consistent with convention the list of functions on this diver’s is short. In fact, the date is the only other dial indication. This restricted inventory of functions ensures the dial does not overburden the wearer with extraneous details.
It is often said that ‘appearances can be deceptive’. The case of the Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers measures 42.50mm x 45.00mm with a thickness of 13.40mm, however, it looks and feels much smaller.
While the dial and bezel are circular, they sit upon a tonneau-shaped section. This play with different shapes may be one reason for the smaller than reality appearance.
The low mass of the forged carbon case, together with the shape of the case, delivers peerless levels of wearer comfort. Another aspect of the case relates to its intricate shape, no doubt made possible by the moulding technique employed. For example, on the underside of the case, there are recesses which sit either side of the titanium case back which may be a contributory reason for the impressive wearer comfort. Certainly, the union between the watch and its wearer proves very agreeable.
Over the years, I have met watch collectors who have dismissed watches they consider too large based purely on the dimensions shown on a specification sheet. I would urge all would-be buyers to try the Doxa on for size. The case eschews projecting lugs and the strap sits perpendicular to the case, readily encircling the wrist. In terms of this model, I would suggest it ‘wears smaller’ than many 40mm watches equipped with regular lugs.
Upholding tradition, the watch is fitted with a solid case back made of titanium. A chamber, also made of titanium, is housed within the case. The watch features a screw-down crown with a yellow ‘DOXA fish’ symbol on its vertical flank.
The bezel is made of forged carbon and the strap is rubber and paired with a folding clasp, featuring black PVD coating. While the Doxa was affixed to my wrist, the strap did not cause my skin to perspire and proved incredibly flexible, contributing to the aforementioned wearer comfort.
The luxury watch brand has equipped this model with an ETA 2824-2. ETA movements are very reliable and can be readily serviced or repaired by a trained watchmaker.
This self-winding movement contains 25 jewels and, assuming the watch is fully wound, it will run autonomously for 42 hours. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz). The brand also states the movement is endowed ‘with DOXA decorations’, however, owing to the solid case back, I was unable to ascertain what enhancements have been made.
Precision is of importance to any prospective purchaser. This movement has been independently tested by COSC and certified as a chronometer. The movement is tested over a number of days and ‘certification is the average daily rate on the first 10 days of testing: from -4 sec to +6 sec, or up to 10 seconds per day’.
The Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers will appeal to different types of buyer. Firstly, some vintage Doxa models are now much sought-after, so I suspect many Doxaphiles will adore the period Aqua Lung branding and the model’s relationship with US Divers.
Scuba divers will also appreciate the specification of this watch, including its water-resistance of 300 metres and the bezel based on the US Navy’s no-decompression dive table. At this juncture, I must point out this watch is not intended for saturation diving (using an underwater compression chamber). However, should you require greater water-resistance and a helium valve, don’t worry, Doxa offers a number of suitably specified models.
I suspect there are also many horophiles, like myself, who love divers’ watches, not because they yearn to explore the ocean bed, but because they appreciate the benefits this genre of watch offers. Most divers’ watches are robust, highly legible and ideal for daily wear. In terms of said benefits, this Doxa delivers.
But the Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers offers more.
The ergonomic shape of the case and its lightweight composition deliver incredible levels of wearer comfort. Often, whilst wearing this watch, I would simply forget it was affixed to my wrist.
Some detractors may quibble about the price of this forged carbon model relative to Doxa’s various steel options. However, considering the cost of making a forged carbon case, the recommended retail price of £4,590 is impressive.
Indeed, the Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers is consistent with Georges Ducommun’s principles. It’s highly precise, well made, packed with innovation and, most importantly, excellent value. Undoubtedly, Georges would have approved of this latest model.
- Model: Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers
- Reference: 822.70.101AQL.20
- Case: Forged carbon; dimensions 42.50 mm x 45.00 mm; height 13.4 mm; water resistance 30ATM (300 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid case back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date
- Movement: ETA 2824-2; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 25 jewels; power reserve 42 hours; COSC certified chronometer
- Strap: Black rubber strap with black PVD coated clasp
- Price: £4590 (RRP as at 5.6.2020)
- Limited Editon: 300 pieces