IN-DEPTH: The Doxa Army makes a welcome return to active dutyFergus Nash
When researching rare vintage watches, there is usually a wide pool of resources. The same meticulous qualities that make the Swiss so good at watchmaking tend to make them even better at keeping records, which is partly why we still know so much about Doxa’s most famous 1967 releases, the SUB 300 and SUB 300T. However, this doesn’t hold true in the case of the Doxa Army. This year, Doxa’s most obscure diver has finally returned to their lineup, and it’s the archetype of the perfect vintage reissue.
This blog post by The Blomman Watch Report helps give the Doxa Army some much-needed context, revealing the reference number 11891, and even showing its appearance in a catalogue from 1970-1972. The name “Army” has lead to the general belief these watches were issued to the Swiss Army, but the more likely story is that it was just a name for this particular dial style, just like the “Professional” orange or the “Searambler” silver. It’s not impossible that some Doxa Army watches were given to military divers, however, as the SUB 300T was a well-established watch amongst diving professionals and the Swiss Army. While the 1970s were a booming time for Doxa and large diving watches in general, the Army was never given a large-scale production run like the SUB 300T. It’s estimated that fewer than 100 Army watches were manufactured, and there seem to be fewer than 10 originals left in the wild.
With such a cult status, the Doxa Army has earned plenty of modern-day contextualising too. The new reissue of the watch was first teased back in March 2021, alongside the release of the Synchron Military. That limited edition of 500 was a direct homage to the Doxa Army, with a whole host of complicated implications considering Synchron actually owned Doxa at the time of its 1970s release. Doxa’s Instagram post received some mixed responses as the photo showed a watch without the original hands, but the hype remained over the next year and Doxa took the fan feedback onboard. Now, Doxa have well and truly reclaimed the Army as their own.
True to the 1970s original, the dimensions of the Doxa Army are the same as the current reissue of the SUB 300t, although considerably slimmer at just 11.95mm. The 42.5mm by 44.5mm cushion case is wonderful on the wrist, carrying all of that charming retro chunk without sacrificing any comfort. The biggest difference between the original reference and the reissue is actually in the case material, with the new version being hewn from a matte black ceramic. PVD-coated steel in the 1970s was notorious for scratching and wearing away, which is why a few of the known Doxa Army originals are completely worn back to the bare steel. The matte ceramic perfectly captures the sentiment of that vintage blasted look, while ensuring reliable scratch resistance of its jet-black style.
One of the aspects that sets the Army apart from the rest of Doxa’s catalogue is the use of a 60 minute countdown bezel without their patented decompression scale, much closer to what you may have found on an average 1960s skin diver. The original was made of acrylic, but the reissue has also been modernised with a ceramic insert that has glow-in-the-dark minute markers.
Without a doubt, the dial of the Doxa Army is one of the most intriguing rare diver configurations out there. Watch collectors and journalists alike get so used to nicknames like “panda”, “sector” and “sunburst” dials that summarising a unique pattern can be a refreshing challenge. The Army takes on an inverted sector theme, with the outer ring starting off just like a regular Sharkhunter-coloured 300T from 1967. Large block indices are printed to denote the hours and the centres are given a generous dollop of Super-Luminova to create a triple-banded effect. The centre section flips the colours and lets those markers jut further in, with the quarters being bolder to increase legibility in what is admittedly a rather complicated dial.
The colour scheme is a testament to the age of the original watches, with a creamy parchment tone replacing all of the white on the dial to evoke decades of sunshine exposure and green luminescence as the old tritium paint would have been. The final touches that really push through the quirky aggression of the watch are the crosshair logo above the “army” text and the bright orange handset, which are eccentric even for Doxa. The suspended block of an hour hand, elongated fencepost minutes hand and bold arrowhead seconds hand are distinguishable from each other, with or without good lighting conditions.
DOXA have kept it simple and respectable with their movement choice for the Army, using the Sellita SW200-1 with COSC certification. The SW200-1 is effectively a clone of the ETA 2824-2, although this alternative movement is quickly becoming just as ubiquitous as the model it’s based on. The 38 hours of power reserve aren’t very impressive on paper, but serve as more than enough longevity in daily practical use. The COSC certification ensures an accuracy of -4/+6 seconds per day, making it all the more attractive to pick up and wear every day.
If Doxa’s goal was to reclaim the Army watch for themselves, they have achieved that with staggering deftness. The watch is as close to the original as it should be, with all of the modern updates anyone would want without spoiling anything. My only wish is that the strap had a little more vintage flair than the standard integrated rubber, but with a 20mm lug width the aftermarket options are limitless. Doxa have clearly had their ear to the ground and listened to the community when they were finalising this watch, and we can only hope that this captivating dial gets adapted into a non-limited watch somewhere down the line.
The Doxa Army pricing and availability:
The DOXA Army is available now as a limited release of 100 pieces at a price of $6,400 AUD. It will be packaged in a special edition carry case that bears the camouflage pattern of the Swiss Army in 1969.
|Case Dimensions||42.5mm x 44.5mm x 11.95mm|
|Dial||Black and beige|
|Movement||Sellita SW200-1 COSC|
|Power Reserve||38 hours|
|Complications||Hours, minutes, seconds, date|