DOXA SUB 600T COMPARED TO A BREITLING SUPEROCEAN

© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - January 2004



 

OK so you have the guts of 1,400 dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you are in the market for an orange dial diver's watch, but you just can't make up your mind what to go for. Actually in that price range there are not many options open to you. Obviously the new SUB 600T comes to mind, then there is the Limes 1Tausend Chrono, but it is several hundred dollars more and finally the Breitling Coral Superocean. I have always liked Breitlings. I think the Navitimer is a really beautiful watch and the slide rule bezel appeals to the Engineer in me. However, it was the orange (Breitling market it as Coral colour) dialed Superocean that caught my eye about 5 years ago when I still had memories of the old SUB 300T I saw many years before.

 

As I want this review to stand on its own, I hope the reader will forgive me for going over material I have already covered in my original review of the SUB 600T Professional. I also want to make it clear that this is not a 'my watch is better then your watch' kind of review. It is absolutely subjective on my part, and I am a certified 'Doxa nut' but, I will try to be as fair as possible in my assessment of the watches.

 

As many people who visit this site know, back in 1967 Doxa were responsible for the orange dial divers watch with the innovative No Decompression (NoDeCom) Dive Table bezel, the SUB 300T. Today it is probably their most famous watch. However, Doxa have been around since 1889 and have manufactured an amazing number of watch designs. Few people know that they patented the high-grade 8-day watch movement in 1908, which was used by BUGATTI. Their association with the automotive industry continues to this day as they are the official timekeepers of the Coppa Milano Sanremo race and have produuced limited edition chronographs in honour of the event. Like many Swiss watch companies Doxa were greatly affected by the introduction of the quartz movement and stopped producing the SUB range in the early 70s, focusing their sales efforts on more conventional dress watches and concentrating on the European market. All that changed in 2002 when Doxa introduced the innovatively designed SUB 300T reissue, followed in late 2003 by the SUB 600T. Doxa were back and a whole new generation of real divers and desk divers discovered the effects of "Doxa orangitis".

 

Breitling were founded just 5 years earlier in 1884 by Leon Breitling. Following World War I, Breitling began manufacturing chronographs and chronometers for airplanes and could be called the real pioneers in the field of aviation timekeeping. In 1923 they developed the first independent chronograph push piece. Previously start and return-to-zero functions had been controlled using the winding-crown. This was followed in 1934 by the development of the second return-to-zero push piece. This invention, making it possible to measure several successive short times with an added function using the first push piece, really defined the modern wrist chronograph. Nowadays, most people would recognise a Brietling by an innovation which they introduced as far back as 1942 on the Chronomat model; a circular slide rule bezel. By this time Breitling had become the leading choice of pilots worldwide and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association named the newly introduced three-register version as its official watch. This was launched on the retail market as the "Navitimer" and it was this watch that astronaut Scott Carpenter wore in space. During the quartz revolution Brietling hired former pilot Ernest Schneider as its new CEO. Schneider cleverly conducted a public relations campaign designed to influence people's attitudes about the bulky, oversized watch. The campaign was very successful in part due to a renewed interest in wearing mechanical wristwatches. By the late 1980's, the Breitling wristwatch, with its large case and distinctive bezel, was a recognizable status symbol. Although most people would associate Breitling with aviation, they also produce some very high specification dive watches. The Superocean is one of those.

 

Before comparing the 2 watches it must be noted that the SUB 600T is only a few weeks old whereas the Superocean is a 1998 vintage. There were a few changes made between it and the new Superocean, however, those changes, which will be detailed later, have very little effect on the essence of this review.

 

There are obviously numerous differences when comparing the two watches side by side. The first thing that you notice is the difference in colour of the dial. Whereas the Doxa is fairly similar in colour to the other watches I have, such as the Zeno and Seiko, the Breitling is a much lighter colour. It also has luminous Arabic numerals, with a smaller 24-hour scale on the inner part of the dial whereas the Doxa uses luminous markers. The lettering and logos on each dial are printed and of very high quality. One change to the new Superocean is that the wings logo is now applied. There is also a noticable bezel design difference between the two watches. The SUB 600T has it's unique and very distinctive NoDeCom bezel which gives the non decompression limits in minutes for depth in feet. The Superocean also has a distinctive but much simpler bezel, which is often copied, with minutes marked in 5 minute intervals and raised rider tabs every 15 minutes. Both bezels have 60 click rotations and are tight to rotate with little slop. The outside of the Doxa bezel has slanted serated edges which make for a good grip, even with gloves, whereas the side of the Breitling bezel is smooth but the raised rider tabs allow easy turning. It was interesting for me to see the tiny Breitling B on the outside of the bezel at around the 11 o'clock position. This is usually one of the ways to distinguish a genuine Breitling from a fake. The Superocean has an interesting design in that it is retained by 8 tiny screws. Once undone, the bezel can be easily removed and the ratchet ring can be adjusted to tighten or loosen the movement of the bezel. Both watches use a coated sapphire crystal approximately 4mm thick. Both are slightly cambered and whereas the crystal on the Doxa looks to have a greater curvature the one on the Breitling tends to obscure the dial at certain angles, as can be seen from the above photo. The crystal on the SUB 600T sits slightly proud of the bezel, whereas the rider tabs on the Superocean bezel stick up and will protect the crystal somewhat. The one slight downside to the raised tabs on the Superocean bezel is that it makes the crystal just a little more difficult to wipe clean. Something anyone with a coated crystal will find they have to do quite often. It is a well known phenomenon with coated crystals that they are a magnet for smears and films and need to be wiped more often than non coated versions.

 

The luminousity of the 600T is far brighter than the Superocean. Both watches use Superluminova, however, that on the Superocean is almost 6 years old and has diminished quite considerably. Having said that, the fact that the dial has numbers rather than markers does make it easier to register the time in the dark.

 

On first impression, both watches are roughly the same size. The SUB 600T measures 44.5mm in length, 42.1mm wide and 13mm high. The Superocean is 46.6mm long, 41.5mm wide and 15.4mm thick. Both watches have a lug width of 20mm. The case of the Doxa is sharp and angular and is very finely brushed with polished sides, whereas the Breitling is completely polished. The one thing about the Breitling case I really like is that it has smooth rounded edges. It's like the difference between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Microsoft's phychologists reasoned that people liked more round, soft, touchy, feely designs and hence smoothed out the lines in the XP user interface. It certainly works for me and maybe that's why the Superocean case appeals to me so much. It is nicely curved and flows into large crown guards giving the whole watch a smooth streamlined look. The other major difference is the helium valve incorporated in the Superocean case. Interestingly enough DOXA introduced the first helium release valve equipped diver watch “DOXA SUB300T Conquistador” in 1969. Rolex followed in 1971 and introduced the Rolex Submariner Sea Dweller. Click on the white hyperlink for a full interview with the designer of the SUB range of dive watches. The Doxa has a depth rating of 600 meters whereas the Breitling is rated to 1,000. The new Superoceans now have a depth rating of 1,500 Meters. In terms of weight, the Superocean is slightly heavier. For the same length bracelet, the Breitling weighs around 163 grams, whereas the 600T weighs about 155.

 

The bracelets use the same double locking flip lock mechanism and have similar diver's extensions built into the clasp. The 600T is double signed with the Jenny fish logo and the word Doxa, while the Superocean has an additional signing on the pivot bar. Both bracelets are strong and sturdy and very comfortable to wear. The classic rice grain bracelet of the Doxa is a little lighter but maintains it's 20mm width over its whole length, while the Breitling's tapers slightly from 20mm at the lugs to 17mm at the clasp. Once again, Breitling have gone for the rounded look and the bracelet on the Superocean has a really smooth feel to it. Overall I prefer the Doxa bracelet as it does not have as much play in it and tends to stop the watch head from moving as much. But, having said that, be under no illusion, the Breitling bracelet is superb as well and I can see why they are considered as some of the best in the industry. Just as an addition at this point. I have heard people say about how certain bracelets are hair pullers and that makes them uncomfortable to wear. Well, to be honest, I have never come across a hair puller yet and I have fairly hairy arms. Certainly none of the bracelets on any of the watches I have reviewed on this site have ever pulled or caught hairs on my arm.

 

Both the SUB 600T and the Superocean are mechanical, hacking, quick set, self-winding watches. Breitling's 17 calibre movement, operating at 28,800bph, and using 25 jewels is in fact the same ETA 2824-2 as used in the Doxa SUB 600T. Both movements have been decorated and slightly modified from the standard ETA ebouche. Timed over a 24 hour period both watches were within 7 seconds. I see no reason why either of the watches shouldn't give many years of excellent service with minimal servicing. The new Superoceans are certified to COSC (Swiss Official Chronometer Control) chronometer timekeeping standards and should be more accurate.

 

The SUB 600T and the Superocean have screwed crowns which take just over 1 and a 1/2 complete turns to unscrew it on the Doxa and 2 and a half on the Breitling. In both cases the threads engage easily and screwing and unscrewing is very smooth. The SUB 600T crown and threaded tube have been specially heat treated and hardened to help prevent cross threading. For the SUB 600T, Doxa have adopted the standard external thread design, whereas Breitling have used a design normally only seen on very expensive marques, namely the internally threaded tube. The crowns are signed with the Doxa fish and Breitling B respectively.

 

The casebacks of the watches again contrasts the difference between the sharp angular Doxa and the smooth rounded Breitling. The SUB 600T has a fish logo 'medal' inserted in the caseback with the wording; 'Clive Cussler Edition xxx/3000. 600 METERS-1968 FEET. SWISS MADE SINCE 1889'. The Superocean has the Breitling wings logo the serial and model numbers and the words ' BREITLING 1884 - MANUFACTURE EN SUISSSE - COLT SUPEROCEAN - 1000M'. The wording on the new Superocean has changed considerably and now says 'CHRONOMETRE OFFICIELLEMENT CERTIFIE - MANUFACTURE EN SUISSSE - ETANCHE 1500M'

 

So what are they both like to wear? Well the Doxa SUB 600T is definitely the most comfortable of all the SUBs I have. It is lighter than my original 300T, on which is is modeled and much lighter and smaller than the 300T reissue. As mentioned before the fact that the bracelet is a constant 20mm over its length and very 'tight' means that the watch sits very well on the wrist. The Superocean is also very comfortable indeed. The bracelet is a bit more 'sloppy' due to it only having center attachments and it means the head tends to flex a bit more on the bracelet. In fairness the bracelet is about 6 years old and a brand new bracelet may be much tighter. There really isn't much in it in terms of comfort and use. Both stand out from the crowd and are real conversation pieces. I'm happy wearing either watch.

 

So which watch would I chose if I could only buy one. Well, that's an unfair question to ask the totally biased "Doxa Guy". I'd pick the SUB 600T. No surprise really. However, here are the reasons: Both the Doxa and Breitling are superb watches and both are in the same price bracket. Even though Doxa is a limited edition of 3,000 watches, I'm sure there are not too many orange Superoceans around either. The Breitling has higher specifications than the Doxa and there is no doubt that in the man in the street real world, Breitling has the image of an expensive, exclusive, quality watch. Most men in the street will never even have heard of a Doxa watch. But I want an orange dial dive watch and to me the Doxa is closer to what I believe that watch should be. Doxa virtually invented the orange dive watch and I enjoy telling the story about it and the association with Jacques Cousteau, Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt. The Superocean is another superb watch from Breitling and this one happens to have an orange dial and as such is part of the phenomenon of orange dial dive watches. It could certainly be argued that with its deeper depth rating and helium release valve, the Superocean is actually more of a dive watch than the 600T. I hope this review doesn't come across as a "the Doxa is better than the Breitling", it wasn't meant to. If I wanted to do that and grade them on specifications, then actually the Breitling out specs the Doxa. I wear both watches and I'm happy with both, but my own personal preference is for the Doxa and that is all it is, my own personal preference. I'm lucky enough to have the chance to wear both watches and compare them. Both are excellent watches and many people could argue strongly in favour of each, and they would be absolutely right. Many people would choose the Superocean and I couldn't fault them for doing so. It's a great watch. For me it boils down to a simple equation. If I want the ultimate dive watch, I buy a Doxa SUB 600T, if I want the ultimate aviation watch, I buy the Breitling Navitimer. The Breitling Superocean is a tremendous watch and the new ones are even better, but for most people it will be the name Breitling rather than the specifications which will impress them the most. The history and dial and bezel of the Doxa SUB 600T is what impresses me the most and that is why I would choose it.

 




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Dr. Peter McClean Millar