DOXA SUB 5000T PROFESSIONAL
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - January 2008
The Doxa SUB has been back on the market since 2002 and in that time the fan base has grown considerably. Those fans tend to think of themselves as the Doxa family and over the last few years the Doxa family has made suggestions to the Doxa management with regards to changes to the models or functions that they would like to see on new models. The blue dialed 750T Caribbean is an example of Doxa producing what the fans asked for. With the release of the SUB 5000T, once again Doxa have listened to their customers and fans and produced a watch which people wanted.
Before continuing with this review, it must be noted that the production version of the orange dial SUB 5000T is called the Seaconqueror. The watch shown in this review is a prototype and is designated Conquistador. Initially Doxa planned to call the watch the Conquistador in homage to the original HRV equipped SUB 300T, however, some other watch brand registered and copyrighted the name Conquistador, that was originally owned and used by DOXA, hence it was unavailable for use on the new 5000T, so as a homage to the orginal Spanish name, DOXA gave the new SUB 5000T, the name SeaConqueror.
Without doubt the most requested item to be incorporated into a Doxa SUB is the Helium Release Valve. Doxa made history by releasing the first commercially available dive watch with a HRV in 1969. The more famous Rolex Sea-Dweller wasn't available to the general public until 1971.
So what is the big deal about having a HRV? Is it really necessary and what does it do? Well, if you are a saturation diver, then it could be said that yes it is necessary. If you are a normally aspirated diver, then no. What it does is allow trapped helium to be vented from the watch as the diver decompresses.
Saturation divers breathe a mixture of gases which include helium. Because of its molecular size, helium is able to bypass the water tight rubber seals and invade the inside of of a watch. Consequently during decompression the gas will expand and unless it is vented the buildup of pressure can blow the crystal off the watch. Sometimes quite dramatically.
In order to allow continuous venting of the helium, a simple non return valve was incorporated into the side of the case. The HRV used in the 5000T is an automatic valve ,similar, yet improved over that used in the original HRV equipped SUB 300T Conquistador from 1969. It is a tried and trusted design which is used by many other manufactures including Rolex in their Sea-Dweller and Breitling in their Superocean. The Omega Seamaster also utilizes a HRV but it is in the form of a manually released crown. With the unveiling of the SUB 5000T, Doxa once again have a HRV equipped dive watch.
In keeping with the move towards a more modern design the bracelet also changed from the iconic ricebead design to a thicker (3.5mm), more "tool watch" look. The bracelet is composed of five rows of individual "beads". The first, third and fifth rows are brushed while the second and forth rows are polished.
It is an interesting design and something similar can be seen on the bracelet of the Breitling Superocean.
Not only are the bracelet links held together with screws but the bracelet is attached to the watch head by screws. From an engineering point of view it is debatable whether screwed links are any more secure than the pin and collar or even split pin designs but they certainly give the impression of higher quality.
One of the features which the vintage SUB bracelet incorporated and has been high on the wish list is a ratcheting clasp. The original design was very innovative but somewhat fragile. Doxa built on that design and produced a very elegant but more robust solution for the new bracelet. The ratchet mechanism is incorporated into a clasp which also departs from the previous flip lock style clasp. The new clasp uses a push button mechanism.
One of the advantages of the new ratchet system is that it is now very simple to make adjustments for using the watch with a wetsuit. The same is true for times when your wrist has swollen slightly and you need just a little bit of extra "breathing room".
|WIDTH (inc crown)||LENGTH||HEIGHT||LUG WIDTH||DIAL WIDTH||WEIGHT|
The SUB 5000T is undoubtedly a big watch. The case dimensions are similar to the SUB 750T but at 15mm the thickness is between the 750T and the 600 T-Graph. The table shown above gives comparative dimensions of several watches (all watches were sized for a 6.75 inch wrist - four links removed from the Doxa bracelet). As can be seen, the 5000T is the heaviest dive watch that Doxa has ever made. However, the weight distribution is so good that the 5000T wears lighter than the T-graph. So much so that I was quite surprised when I was weighing the watches and found that the 5000T was quite a bit heavier than the T-graph. It is interesting to see that in 40 years the flagship Doxa SUBs have almost doubled in weight from their initial versions (the SUB 300 would have been marginally lighter than the 300T).
One of the aspects of a watch which always polarizes people is the shape of crystal used. Flat or domed? That is always a tough decision for a munufacture. The highly domed perspex crystal on the modern SUB 250 caused some consternation among the Doxa traditionalists. Likewise the moderately domed Sapphire crystal on the modern SUB 600T was a deal breaker for some but a welcome addition for others. The photo above shows profiles of the; (from left to right) SUB 750T, 5000T and 1000T.
It has often been claimed that a domed crystal will stop the mirror effect associated with flat crystals when used underwater. However, a simple experiment in the bathroom sink shows that the SUB 750T and the SUB 5000T crystals mirror at the same angle. One justifiable reason for using a domed crystal is that a domed structure will be stronger than a flat one for a similar thickness, but I feel that the reason the SUB 5000T has a domed crystal is because it adds depth to the dial and maintains the vintage look and feel.
I never have been a fan of highly or even moderately domed crystals. I always thought the 600T would have been better with a flat crystal and would have preferred a flat crystal on the SUB 1000T. But having just said that, I have never really noticed the slightly domed crystals on my Omega Seamaster and Breitling Superocean. The biggest negativity I have for domed crystals is how they are a magnet for reflections especially for overhead lighting in an office environment. But I have learned to just angle my wrist differently when reading the time.
Since the Doxa SUB was reborn, the ETA 2824-2 has been the movement of choice for virtually every model other than the chronograph or GMT. It is a tried and tested movement and Doxa could have continued to use it, however, just as the rest of the design was being uprated, it was time to also uprate the heart of the watch. The SUB 5000T uses the higher grade ETA 2892-A2. The ETA 2824 and ETA 2892 are very similar in design. Their diameters are 25.6 mm, however, whereas the 2824 is 4.6mm thick, the 2892 is thinner at 3.6mm. The 2892 is generally considered the more upscale of the ETA movements, and it incorporates a newer design dating to the 1970's whereas the 2824 can trace its beginnings back to the 1950's. The 2892 design is expected to geve better long term wear and reliability properties and is recommended to be serviced every three to five years if the watch is worn every day.
Even though the new bracelet bears a passing resemblance to the old ricebead design the dial of the 5000T is a significant departure from the vintage SUBs in a number of ways.
First is the use of metal markers. In the continuing drive to make the SUB dial one of the brightest on the market, the dial was changed from painted markers to large metal ones which were filled with Superluminova. The dial undoubtedly glows brightly in the dark but using metal markers to achieve this has been controversial. The image above shows the lume of; (left to right) Omega Seamaster, SUB 5000T, SUB 750T and Rolex Sea-Dweller.
The second change to the dial is the positioning of the lettering. Throughout the forty year history of the SUB, Doxa have always positioned the dial text in the top left and bottom right quadrants of the dial, but with the 5000T, the dial lettering is now positioned centrally on the dial. The reason for this change is unknown, but looking at virtually all the other dive watchs in the market sector which Doxa is competing it shows that they all have centralised text. Perhaps that is a good reason for them not to have changed the text position as it is a fairly clear differentiator, but with the SUB 5000T, Doxa is aiming at a new dive watch buyer and collector, who will prefer the more contemporary dial layout. On the other hand, for those who prefer the retro look, they have a broad choice of models including the SUB 1000T, the SUB 750T GMT and the upcoming T-Graph
The third change was the use of polished metal hands. For many people the use of polished hands and markers constituted Doxa going over to the bling side. However the interesting thing about the use of polished steel hands and markers is that depending on the ambient light and background, the reflected colour can make them seem as dark as the vintage hands and markers. That effect can be clearly seen when you look at the images contained in this review.
There is another change which few people will notice and that is the use of an external crown tube seal. With the SUB 5000T being able to withstand a depth of 5000 feet, the external seal adds another layer of flooding protection. From a design perspective, the crown arrangement in the SUB 750T and 1000T would be adequate but the new crown design shows how much attention Doxa were paying to details when designing the 5000T.
Reading this review without looking at photos of the actual watch you would be forgiven for thinking that Doxa had deserted their vintage SUB heritage, but this is where something strange happens. The SUB 5000T takes a whole bunch of changes and modifications to the classic vintage SUB design and transforms that design into a modern classic which is unmistakably a Doxa SUB. Everything comes together synergistically and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The domed crystal, the metal markers, the polished hands, the heavy bracelet, the ratcheting clasp, the HRV and the higher grade movement take a $2,500 watch and make it look and feel like it should cost a whole lot more.
So is the new 5000T for everyone? Absolutely not. For some people it will be too big, for others it will be too bright and shiney. Others will say it doesn't follow the style of the vintage Doxa SUB and others will dislike the new bracelet because it isn't ricebead. But that's OK. Doxa realize that they can't please everyone but they also realize that they have to move the SUB design forward and you can't move forward if you keep standing still. Constantly rehashing the vintage SUB by just increasing the depth rating is standing still.
But Doxa are also not daft. They know that the people who do not want a 5000T will want the traditional vintage design and for those people there is the SUB 1000T.
The SUB 5000T is a glimpse at Doxa's future. It is still unmistakably a Doxa SUB. It incorporates the things that made the SUB famous; the HRV, the orange dial, the 120 click NoDeCo bezel, the ratcheting clasp, but it also enhances those traits with greater luminosity, an upgraded movement, a spectacular depth rating and a bulletproof bracelet. I believe there are few people who wouldn't agree that the SUB 5000T is by far the best Doxa SUB ever made.