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IN-DEPTH: The retro thrills of the Doxa Army are back in full production IN-DEPTH: The retro thrills of the Doxa Army are back in full production

IN-DEPTH: The retro thrills of the Doxa Army are back in full production

Fergus Nash

When Doxa released a ceramic limited edition of their legendary Army watch with Watches of Switzerland, we all knew it would be a matter of time before this thrilling design would be made available to the masses. While it’s expected that some production models will modernise reissues to some extent, the Doxa Army offers the perfect mix of aesthetics and technical specifications for those who seek either a vintage experience or something a little more experimental.

The history

Our last coverage of the Doxa Army in its black ceramic form took a dive into the dubious history behind the Army’s legendary status, showcasing a suspicious lack of evidence that the Doxa Army was ever actually used by the Swiss military. Thankfully, we are always happy to be proven wrong, and Doxa went through the monumental effort of cementing the watch’s story once and for all.

1970s Army with the original pouch – @wristyourtime

A total of 146 watches were made between 1969 and 1975, and some of them were actually returned after they were used in service, so now we know exactly how rare those original references were. Doxa managed to track down around a dozen, revealing the “5004”, and in the process they were also able to have that elite commando squad of divers officially recognised by the Swiss military.

Doxa were also able to explain why so many of the surviving watches have raw steel cases when they were all supposed to be black, and it’s because an oil-dipped oxidisation technique was used to blacken the steel instead of a PVD coating. While PVD of the ’70s is notoriously highly scratchable, it hadn’t quite reached the watch market by 1969 and it still wouldn’t have worn away as easily as the oxidised colouring.

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 stayed steady over the next year and Doxa took the fan feedback onboard. Now, Doxa have well and truly reclaimed the Army as their own.

The case

If you’re familiar with Doxa, you’ll be well aware that their case dimensions are often deceptively large because of their cushion shape and clipped lugs. Although the 42.5mm diameter implies a full-size diver, the effective lug-to-lug length of 44.5mm means that it’s a chunky watch that can easily be accommodated on a smaller wrist. The Doxa Army keeps those dimensions popularised with the 300T, but also considerably slims down the height to just 11.95mm — quite impressive for a bold diver with 300m of water resistance. The side of the case also features a subtle helium-escape valve, which Doxa are rumoured to have co-created with Rolex. There’s not much evidence to support this, but printing the myth is nothing new to wristwatch marketing.

The original 1970s Doxa Army watches were turned black with an oxidisation process that involved oil-dipping and heat treating, but many of the surviving examples have had every speck of the colour removed with age or by the owner’s choice. Honouring that, the modern recreation uses a naturally finished stainless-steel case with radial brushing. It’s definitely a more versatile look in steel, not to mention much more resilient to scratching than matte coatings.

The bezel

One of the things that makes Doxa a brand with such a unique identity is their patented dual-scale bezel with decompression functionality, however the Doxa Army’s departure from that pattern is quite identifiable in itself. Closer representing the most popular styles of the 1960s and ‘70s dive watches is a simple 60-minute countdown timer with clear minute markers. The insert is made of scratch-resistant ceramic, and you can tell that the numerals are luminous by their off-white tone that matches the dial’s ageing.

The bezel is also what separates the two different models of the Doxa Army, with the standard model featuring a stainless-steel bezel and a black insert and the more daring version using a bronze bezel with a dark green insert. The bronze bezel really changes the character of the watch, imbuing an odd sense of luxury to this otherwise utilitarian diver, while the dark green insert contrasts playfully with the orange hands.

The dial

Considering how many nicknames for dial configurations have entered the watchmaking lexicon like “sector”, “fumé” and “panda”, it’s incredibly refreshing to see a pattern or a layout that hasn’t become a style in its own right. The Doxa Army is super intriguing, taking on an inverting 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 uniquely eccentric even for Doxa. The suspended block of an hour hand, elongated fencepost minutes hand and bold arrowhead seconds hand are each easily distinguishable from each other, with or without good lighting conditions.

The straps

Doxa places great emphasis on their straps, as they can really make or break a fairly expensive watch. When you’re paying significant money, the main signifier of quality isn’t necessarily how the watch looks, but how it feels when you’ve been wearing it all day, every day. The classic option is Doxa’s beads-of-rice steel bracelet with solid links and a nice balance between dexterity and heft, also allowing you to move between adventure and sophistication with ease. Your other option is a high-quality FKM rubber strap in black or green for the green-bezel reference, which suits a more active lifestyle. The outer texture is matte, with an inner wave pattern that prevents the rubber from becoming too sweaty in hot conditions.

The Doxa Army also comes supplied with a camouflage-pattern NATO strap, with a 20mmm lug width so you have plenty of options for aftermarket shopping. Both of the rubber strap and steel-bracelet options come equipped with Doxa’s ratcheting clasp for on-the-fly adjustment and wetsuit extending, should you need it.

The movement

While the limited edition of the Doxa Army in ceramic used a COSC-certified Sellita SW200-1, the standard steel version keeps costs down by returning to a regular ETA 2824 movement. Although it is an affordable calibre, it has had decades to prove its reliability, accuracy, and ease of servicing thanks to a huge supply of parts. It has a high-beat rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour over its 42-hour power reserve, and 25 jewels with Doxa’s decoration on the automatic winding rotor. The caseback is solid, showcasing a few of the watch’s specifications as well as an engraved crosshair logo.

The Doxa Army pricing and availability:

The new Doxa Army in steel will be available in October 2022 from the Doxa’s website (no longer available) or their authorised dealers. Price: $2,950 AUD / $2,050 USD (Steel bezel on rubber), $2,995 AUD / $2,090 USD (Steel bezel on bracelet), $3,250 AUD / $2,250 USD (Bronze bezel on rubber), $3,295 AUD / $2,290 USD (Bronze bezel on bracelet)

Brand DOXA
Model Army
Case Dimensions 42.5mm x 11.95mm x 44.5mm
Case Material Stainless Steel
Water Resistance 300 Metres
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Cream and black
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Beads of Rice steel bracelet / black or green rubber / camoflague NATO
Movement COSC-certified Sellita SW200-1
Power Reserve 42 hours
Availability Available in October 2022
Price $2,950 AUD / $2,050 USD (Steel bezel on rubber), $2,995 AUD / $2,090 USD (Steel bezel on bracelet), $3,250 AUD / $2,250 USD (Bronze bezel on rubber), $3,295 AUD / $2,290 USD (Bronze bezel on bracelet)