DOXA’s revival is something easily missed if you’re not paying close attention. Vintage-inspired or re-issued dive watches aren’t exactly selling for double the retail price due to lack of supply, but this DOXA SUB 200 isn’t just another trendy microbrand with an aesthetic and a good marketing team.
When determining the legacy of a watchmaker, the first place to look is their innovations. With DOXA, you don’t need to look far. For instance, the first unidirectional diving bezel in 1957, already a home run for the brand without taking into account their collaboration with Rolex in developing the first ever helium escape valve in a wristwatch. Quality, pedigree and affordability seem to be the key themes for DOXA still to this day.
At Baselword 2019, the DOXA SUB 200 was released as a modern interpretation of the DOXA of old, trading its dive-professional focus (features of which are still available on other models) for a modern crowd who crave to feel as adventurous as Jacques Cousteau.
Though DOXA’s vintage flair is anything but subtle, the dial comes across as strikingly modern in comparison to its 1950s counterparts. The applied indices are restrained and clean, while the matching-width hands don’t distract from one another, letting the time be read effortlessly. A pet peeve of mine is a white date window on a black dial, but the white pinstripe surrounding the cutout manages to blend the white seamlessly into the otherwise black and cream dominated watch. The minute track is perfectly clear and defined, even with the tall, domed sapphire crystal bringing out that gorgeous distortion when viewed at the right angles. The minimalistic DOXA logo itself harkens back to an older Swiss style, when a sans-serif art deco typeface was all you needed to promise quality and the name spoke for itself. Faux-ageing luminous paint can be a faux-pas, but matching the yellow-gold bezel markers definitely justifies the decision.
When I first wore the SUB 200, I had to double check that it was indeed a 42mm diameter. The watch seems to use every trick in the book to shrink down the apparent size, from its modest 45mm lug-to-lug, to the side walls of the case which barely peek out from behind the timing bezel. The attention to detail is really wonderful, with contrasting finishing letting what little we can see of the case play with the light spectacularly. The most impressive detail for me being the brushed inner troughs of the lugs, as I do not envy the job of getting straight lines over the steel’s compound curves.
For many diving watch enthusiasts, the feel of the bezel can distinguish the legends from the stragglers. In the SUB 200’s instance, the unidirectional action outperforms its pay grade. While the thin coin-edge application around the rim of the bezel can be difficult to grip at times, the sturdiness of the clicks is up there with watches four times its cost. There is absolutely no wobble in either direction, however the vintage-flavoured bezel insert may be a tiny fraction out of alignment with the 12 o’clock index.
Behind the engraved caseback hides a DOXA-decorated ETA 2824-2, the famed Swiss workhorse typified by its smooth 28,800 vibrations per hour beat rate and 38-hour power reserve. While some 2824-2 movements can be quoted up to +/-30s per day, I found the SUB 200 wandered no more than +5s. A boon to some and a curse to others, the ticking is easily audible when held near the ear, as is the whirring of the rotor weight.
All SUB 200 varieties are available with either a beads-of-rice steel bracelet or a rarely seen faux-mesh rubber strap. As someone who generally avoids rubber, I found this variant to approach perfection. The mesh pattern not only provides a vintage look and feel with modern utility but also leaves plenty of gaps of air to circulate and keep your wrist from becoming clammy or chafed. At 19mm, it’s a good thing the strap is so superb, because it may be tricky to find substitutes.
On the wrist
For a 42mm diver, the DOXA wears supremely comfortably. The short and symmetrical lyre-esque lugs ensure a fit to even the slimmest of wrists, whilst the clean and uncluttered dial lends itself to instant legibility at a quick glance. The thickness of the watch is no hindrance either, as a decent chunk can be attributed to the domed sapphire which allows for effortless cuff-sliding. The weight can definitely be felt, but it’s a reassuring heft rather than an overbearing anchor.
Few vintage-modern designs take the time to be truly thought-out in the way this watch is. From its proportions to its functionality, there is nothing unnecessary and hardly anything lacking. Its simplicity, legibility and 200 metres of water resistance make this an essential consideration for an everyday diver. It’s not a homage, nor is it a re-issue, but it captures the spirit of its forebears in style.
Who’s it for?
Those who can’t help but fawn over the sight of vintage dive watches but need the reliability and quality of modern craftsmanship, will find a home with the DOXA SUB 200. At a price that won’t break the bank either, this may be perfect for someone looking for their first foray into Swiss watches.
What would we change?
While the 19mm strap is satisfyingly aligned with the bezel markers, I do believe there is a lost opportunity for granting the DOXA SUB 200 the title of ‘strap monster’. It’s not impossible to find a nice 19mm NATO for instance, but enthusiasts who enjoy swapping their straps around daily may struggle. A luminous pip on the bezel would also be a welcome addition.
DOXA SUB 200 price and availability
The DOXA SUB 200 has an Australian RRP of $1590, and is available right here at the Time+Tide shop.