A helium release valve will never stop confusing people. What does it do? How does it work? Do I need one when snorkelling, or free-diving on holiday? The answer to that last question is a firm no, and, to prove it, DOXA have reinvented their own 1969 SUB 300T — the first consumer-grade dive watch to include the famous HRV — without one. DOXA use this iconic model to celebrate 50 years of technological advancement by showcasing what breathtaking depths a standard screw-down watch case can achieve. Purists can relax, though. In nearly every other way an authentic reproduction of the original cult classic.
Some brands tend to overdo the retro style, but as a faithful re-creation of the first 300T Conquistador, DOXA’s reissue is just a timeless classic. A multitude of colours are available, which change the character of the watch significantly — from the vibrant orange ‘Professional’ to the subtle silver of the ‘Searambler’. All sport the functionally oversized minute hand and buckets of luminous paint on the hands and hour markers. The asymmetrical text placement of the DOXA logo and model information creates larger areas of negative space, allowing the dial colour to come through with more intensity, as well as granting more room for the tool-tastic crosshairs segregating 15-minute sections. While the flat sapphire crystal helps keep the height of the watch in check, I can’t help but miss the vintage charm that some domed-crystal distortion brings, but understandably on this model, legibility is the ultimate focus. It also has the effect of ‘disappearing’ the glass. At times it can seem like there’s nothing between you and the effervescent dial.
The SUB 300T’s cushion case is pure magic. At 42.5mm, you could be forgiven for imagining it to be a large watch for a large wrist, but this is not so. With a lug-to-lug distance of only 46mm, it doesn’t overreach even a smaller arm. The alternation of brushing and polishing used on the different facets of the case are executed cleanly, and the integration of the crown makes it very easy to grip and unscrew.
With a name like the 300T, your first assumption may be that it’s water resistant to 300m, but it’s not. One improvement from the 1969 original is stretching the depth rating to a mind-boggling 1200m — more than adequate for hand washing to say the least.
DOXA’s patented bezels are simply the best in the business. The mitre-saw shaped knurling around the edge adheres to the fingers without feeling sharp, and makes gripping it trivial — even with wet or gloved fingers. The resistance is balanced so that it won’t be knocked out of place, but it’s still no hassle to twist. Backwards play is non-existent, and the sound it makes is music to an enthusiast’s ears. There is a traditional timing bezel with exact minute markers in an inner brushed sector, while a polished outer ring, matching the dial colour, carries a no-decompression dive time calculator.
In a watch designed for utility and reliability, it’s no surprise that it packs an ETA 2824-2. The workhorse automatic movement can hold a steady 28,800 vph for 42 hours on a full wind, while hacking and hand-winding make time-setting convenient. Although decorated by DOXA, the need for a solid caseback in pursuit of water resistance and vintage accuracy means that it is hidden from view.
Although DOXA are guilty of using some annoyingly uncommon lug widths on other models, thankfully with the 300T we have a standard 20mm. Their famous steel beads-of-rice doesn’t pale in comparison to the case size though, fanning out to 23mm before tapering back down to 20mm at the clasp.
The quality of the solid links with brushed blocks and polished beads is fantastic, with just the right amount of jangle. The milled clasp is as practical as it is sturdy, with an easy micro-adjust diver’s extension available on-the-go with push buttons. Also available is a dial-matched rubber strap.
On the wrist
The short lug-to-lug length of the SUB 300T’s cushion case does wonders to reduce its size — meaning it wears more than comfortably on a 17cm wrist. The dial itself comes in at only 28mm, so even with its terrific legibility it doesn’t look overbearing. The mass of steel is what really gives this watch its visual impact when viewed from afar, but the height, at 14mm, and lip of the bezel will make hiding it under a cuff a difficult task.
At $2990 AUD, the SUB 300T is not a cheap watch, but you do get more than you pay for. The fit and finish of the piece is something to behold, as there are no little issues, no strange noises, and no unsavoury surprises. With DOXA, it doesn’t feel like you’re buying a vintage reissue or a quirky collector’s item, it is the real deal. You get satisfaction from knowing that in 50 years time this watch may be a bit scratched up, but still as solid and reliable as ever.
Who’s it for?
The SUB 300T ticks so many boxes, it’s hard to narrow it down, but if you’re looking for some vintage flair or just a high-performance dive watch, you’ll find a safe bet with this DOXA. The bright colours make for a great fun piece for the weekends, while the reserved black or blue faces may even make a case for being daily beaters.
What would we change?
Personally, I’d love to see a domed sapphire on this thing, as it just gives the dial that extra dimension and intrigue. As the shape of the case is the main reason for the watch’s loud appearance, I don’t think an extra millimetre in height would hinder it in any meaningful way. The rubber strap is a bit lacklustre as well. After seeing and feeling the beads-of-rice rubber imitation on DOXA’s SUB 200, a mostly flat strap seems to distract from the watch a bit too much without having it’s own textural profile to offer.