Doxa SUB 300 50th Anniversary Professional

"That is a beautiful watch." said the woman in the supermarket check-out line. "Such a cool shape. And that orange dial - I love it!"

This is a pretty typical reaction to the Doxa SUB 300 50th Anniversary Professional. Watch nerds dig it, Mrs. Time Bum noticed it, even random strangers who catch a glimpse of it while I'm stocking up on Cheerios aren't immune to its charms. I certainly fell for it. I borrowed this minty example from a fellow collector last summer so I could review it, and ended up buying it from him as soon as I took my first set of pictures. Of course, once it was mine, there was no urgency to complete that review. New arrivals kept bumping it down my priority list - until today, that is. Supermarket lady has inspired me to fire up the laptop and get this done.

Doxa is a Swiss brand with a 125-year watchmaking history, although not consecutively as production ended in 1980 and did not resume until 2002. The company is best known to contemporary enthusiasts for the diving watches it developed in collaboration with Jacques Cousteau in the late 1960’s. The first of these was the 1967 SUB 300, the watch Doxa has reissued as a limited edition. There are three models in the line, differing only in color: the orange Professional, black Sharkhunter, and sliver Searambler. Doxa produced 300 units of each with a $2,490 retail price. The Professional sold out in the pre-sale, but they change hands can be found used for about $1,550-1,950, depending on condition.

Like all Doxas, the SUB 300 reissue is Swiss made. The movement is the top of the line COSC certified ETA 2824-2 (25 jewels, 28.8k bph, hacking and hand winding). This chronometer grade automatic is regulated to within -4/+6 seconds per day. Doxa decorates the movement but you won't see it unless you have occasion to unscrew the sailboat adorned caseback.

The original SUB 300 had everything a contemporary scuba diver could want: 300m water resistance, a screw down crown and case back, a unidirectional timing bezel, and a beads-of-rice bracelet with wetsuit extensions. In addition, it featured some unique extras they might not have known they needed, like a US Navy decompression table incorporated into the bezel, and of course, that lurid orange dial. All of these have returned in the reissue, with some notable improvements along the way.
Historically, watches have been smaller than they are today. Certain brands feel compelled to modernize their vintage designs by inflating their cases to meet modern expectations, and in doing so, they ruin much of what made them appealing in the first place. (I’m looking at you, Tudor Ranger Heritage. And you too, Seiko Recraft series. Shame!) Doxa did nothing of the sort. The case has nearly identical proportions. Measuring 42.5mm wide and 46.4mm long. A more substantial caseback makes it 12.4mm thick (I measured 13.5mm from the caseback to the top of the crystal), which only slightly fatter than the 1967 model. 

To be fair, these are already fashionably large dimensions, but the way the turtle case thins towards its polished edges spreads them out, making the watch appear slim and light. The crown is channeled into the side, further reducing unnecessary visual bulk. Small bezel grips create a slight overhang that helps to slim the profile, and the two contrasting indexes and fine-lined markers on its surface (more on that below) present a more refined face than a heavy black and white insert would. Finally, the dial is surprisingly small, only 25.5mm wide. It is almost dainty by modern standards, but it is essential to maintaining the watch’s vintage charm. Big dials make a watch appear larger than it is, in this case, smaller was the way to go.

Another retro cue comes from the impressive box crystal. Regular readers know I'm a sucker for the dome, and on this-this watch, that throwback bubble was absolutely essential. However, there is a twist. Where the original was acrylic, the new one is double domed sapphire. No, it does not have the warm quality of a vintage piece, but it is tinted to approximate it and produces lovely edge distortions. I like acrylic, but I know full well that many folks spending this much on a diving watch expect the scratch resistance that sapphire affords. I can’t fault Doxa for choosing the more modern material, and I applaud the efforts they took to make it look like it belongs.

The Time Bum is not a diver, so I did not test the SUB 300 Pro in actual undersea situations, but I still feel compelled to nitpick the utility of two of its features, starting with the bezel. It is comprised of two distinct sections. The decompression index is engraved on a polished outer ring, and the markers are filled with orange paint. The dive timer is engraved on a brushed inner ring and filled with black. The bezel moves through its 120-click rotation with smooth action and firm clicks. Its upper edge is ringed with sets of serrated teeth less than half the thickness of the bezel itself, angled to maximize grip as you apply counterclockwise pressure. This affords more than ample traction for your fingertips without the uncomfortable bite of, say, a Sawtooth Seiko.

It is a lovely bezel, but readability is pretty poor. If this were a new watch, I would take issue with it, but remember that SUB 300 reviewed here is a reissue. Changing the markers would have been sacrilege, but still, the orange and black paint in the indexes is hardly ideal. Visibility is hit or miss. In some light, you see the decompression table better, particularly if the reflection turns the polished surface black. In others, you see the timer better. In low light, you lose everything. I can’t fault the watch for being faithful to a 50-year old design, but you might think twice before you explore any shipwrecks with it. On the other hand, it is aesthetically beautiful, which given my strictly landlubbin’ lifestyle means far more to me than underwater utility. My only complaint is that the orange bezel paint color is decidedly redder than that of the dial. I find it more of a quirk than an irritant, but a number of friends, both watch nerd and civilian, noticed the mismatch within their first few seconds with the watch and pronounced it a deal breaker.

Speaking of orange, my second nitpick involves that gloriously citrusy dial, or rather, the myth of it. It is perhaps the defining feature of this watch. Fans and even one or two reviewers have expounded on its superior underwater visibility. This is a misconception that Doxa does nothing to dispel. As they explain on their site, when designing the original SUB 300, the team experimented with different colors to improve visibility. Orange was the winner because it was most visible down to 30 feet. To this day, they proclaim that “nobody had ever even conceived as something this radical - an orange dial?!” I’ll agree that it certainly made a mark for Doxa, but I doubt it does much else.

As light passes through water, the shorter wavelengths disperse, so the deeper you go, the fewer colors you see. It varies by surface conditions and water clarity but generally, orange starts desaturating before you reach 10m as red light waves filter out, and it turns completely gray by 20m. Recall that Doxa tested visibility at a depth of 30 feet, not 30 meters. But it doesn’t matter because even if you spend your whole dive near the surface, vibrancy doesn’t help you read your watch, contrast does. That is why the vast majority of diving watch dials are white on black. Yes, you will most likely be able to appreciate your orange dial for the shallower parts of your dive, but it seems to be less for utility than for brand identification.

So do I still like the dial? Hell yes, I do!  And not just for its magnificent citrus hue. Doxa has generally remained faithful to their 1960’s layout across their dive watch line, retaining the diminutive hour hand, blocky markers, paddle tipped second hand, and on all but a handful of models, the short crosshairs and 10/4 o’clock text placement. Sadly, the new models use a painfully generic sans-serif. On the reissue, you get the dial the way it was meant to be. The typeface is light, unobtrusive, and brimming with character like the tiny Copperplate serifs onDOXA and “SUB 300,” and the meticulously handwritten appearance ofautomatic” and “professional.” C’mon Doxa! How can you look at this dial and still print those dry, flavorless letters on your new models? 

At night, the dissimilarly sized hands, square-tipped second hand, and the bars bisecting the markers all glow green. It is not an embarrassing new looking bright white, but a mellower beige color that imparts a hint of age. The orange pip on the bezel is also lumed, but it fades quickly. 

Its previous owner shipped it to me on an Erika’s Originals MN elastic parachute strap, and because of that, I was able to resist the owner’s offer to sell. (Ok, it was only for a week or so, but still.) It’s not that there is anything wrong with the strap. Indeed, its snug fit and waterproof qualities make ideal for outdoor activities, but that’s a story for another post. It’s just that the thin elastic could not hold a candle to the factory bracelet.

Everyone needs a beads-of-rice bracelet in their collection. As far as I'm concerned, no other bracelet beats a good BOR for articulation and comfort. Doxa’s is a row of joined beads down the center, flanked by conventional links. The ends fit snugly into the watch’s 20mm lugs, the first row flares out to 24mm, and from there the bracelet tapers to a 20mm clasp. The links are screwed in and easy to adjust. Vintage SUB 300 fans will know the original had a ratcheting clasp. The new one makes do with micro adjustments instead, but it also sports a folding wetsuit extension. The clasp is decorated with an embossed name and logo. Once I put it on, it was as if the watch woke up. The polished beads and brushed links look fetching in and of themselves and are a proper match for the combination of finishes on the head. I keep meaning to try the watch on different straps, but the bracelet is so good, I suspect I never will.

The SUB 300 reissue may not be a thoroughly modern diver, but therein lies its charm. When they drew up this watch back in the Swinging Sixties, they didn't just make a capable tool, they created a brilliant piece of industrial design. In revisiting its roots, Doxa changed little on this 50-year old watch and as a result, ruined nothing. I’m sure it came as no surprise to you that I like the watch, after all, I did tell you right at the beginning that I bought the thing, but I would add that I have given it far more wrist time than most of my other dive watches. The SUB 300 sits quite comfortably on my 6.5” wrist, and with its sleek lines and dashing bracelet, it has proven rather versatile, finding its way into the office in the company of an orange necktie as often as it livened up my jeans and t-shirts on the weekends.

As mentioned above, you will have to search the second-hand market for a Professional, but the other two versions are still available direct from Doxa. Indeed, if the vivid orange Professional is outside your comfort zone, the understated silver Searambler is a handsome option, and for those who plan to use the watch as intended, the high contrast black Sharkhunter the best choice. For more information or to order a SUB 300 50th Anniversary for yourself, visit

© The Time Bum | All rights reserved.
Blog Layout Created by pipdig