DOXA SUB 300T REISSUE COMPARED TO A PRS-2 DREADNOUGHT
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - January 2004
This site is about Doxa SUB watches and I'm unquestionably a huge Doxa fan and a fan of orange dial dive watches in general, so what am I doing with a PRS-2 Dreadnought? Heck, it hasn't even got an orange dial!. Good question and one that is pretty easy to answer. About 2 years ago I bought an orange dial Zeno 300SEL from Eddie Platts of Timefactors. Eddie has been selling watches for some time and gives great service. He started designing and producing his own watch line and the first, The Speedbird, was a great success. He had plans to build a dive watch and from the engineering details I saw, my interest was piqued. However, the dial was going to be black and the case bead blasted and at the time I was more interested in building up my collection of Doxa SUB 300Ts so I kept an eye on it's progress but never seriously considered buying one. Eddie produced a limited series of 200 watches, all of which sold out immediately. The price new was 450 UK pounds (around 720 US Dollars using the exchange rate at that time). A few have been sold on and what is interesting is that they actually sold for more than they were bought for, over 1,000 dollars in one case. This is a remarkable feat for a newly released watch given that normally the resale value of a watch will drop maybe 20% as soon as you walk out of the shop with it.
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 300T 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. Another thing that needs to be said from the outset is that The Dreadnought reviewed here is different from the others in that it is polished. The Dreadnought was originally released totally bead blasted except for the the bezel, the outer bezel with the minute chapter and the caseback which was brushed. Robert Andersen, took this Dreadnought and spent considerable time polishing everything. As far as I know it is the only totally polished PRS-2 in existence. Mechanically and functionally it has not been altered but cosmetically it is a world apart from the original finish. The SUB 300T reviewed here is the Dr. Clive Cussler inspired Seahunter version. This is also a limited edition of 1,000 pieces and is only slightly cosmetically different from the SUB 300T Professional. A complete review of both SUB 300Ts can be found here
Right, lets get a few things out of the way first. Many people will ask why am I comparing 2 watches which really are very dissimilar. They are both dive watches. They are both BIG dive watches. They both use ETA 2824-2 movements and they both have sapphire crystals, but that's really where any similarities end. Well, I'm comparing them because when the Dreadnought was released it was still possible to buy a SUB 300T reissue and many people on the forums asked a lot of questions about what one was like compared to the other. Hopefully, I can now answer most of those questions.
The reissue SUB 300T Professional was Doxa's first foray into the dive watch scene in almost 30 years. They released a watch which was similar in looks to the original SUB 300T with its distinctive orange dial and luminous markers and unique No Decompression Table (NoDeCom) bezel, but the design was radical and in many ways very different. It is a big watch, almost 60mm in length, 46mm wide including the crown and 17mm high. However the actual case body thickness is only 14mm. The novel thing about the 300T case is that it has elongated, rounded lugs which give it the 17mm height when sitting on a flat surface. This extra height disappears once the watch is worn on the wrist and the rounded lugs actually help to make the Doxa a very comfortably watch to wear. The Dreadnought also has a rounded lug design but they don't extend beyond the depth of the caseback as with the SUB 300T. The Dreadnought sits flat on the wrist like most other dive watches, but it does sit high. It is unquestionably a big watch. It is 53mm from lug to lug, 49mm wide including the crown and 16mm high. The sapphire crystal on the Dreadnought is 3mm thick and sits proud of the bezel. This is similar to the SUB 600T whereas the SUB 300T reissue has a flat crystal. Both crystals have an antireflective coating. The SUB 300T's is on the outside, while that of the Dreadnought is on the inside of the crystal. My own preference is for a flat crystal as I think it is slightly less prone to scratches, but it must be remembered that sapphire crystal is extremely hard and less susceptible to scratches anyway.
If the unique case design set the reissue Doxa apart from the crowd then the new bracelet design put it in another ZIP code altogether. It has been likened to a bicycle chain because of the large spaces between links and it certainly drew more than it's fair share of criticism, but to be fair it was a substantial improvement over the original SUB 300T rice bead bracelet. The reissue SUB 300T is also heavier than the original and with a bracelet sized for my 6.5 inch wrist it weighs around 170 grams (this would be more if the bracelet did not have such large air gaps between links). That may seem heavy but it is somewhat anorexic when compared with the Dreadnought. The head alone on this watch weighs around 145 grams and sized for my wrist it tips the scales at 235 grams. The Dreadnought was originally sold with 7 links either side of the clasp. It would easily fit 7.5 inch and larger wrists. The thing about buying watches second hand is that you sometimes don't get all the links. Unfortunately, this was the case with this Dreadnought. Robert kept 2 links. I was unable to get them from him so I can't give you the weight of a fully loaded watch, but it would certainly be around 250 grams. The bracelet is almost 4 mm thick and 22mm wide. The width is constant along the whole length. In the case of the Dreadnought reviewed here, the highly polished bracelet is very similar to that supplied by Breitling. The bracelet is secured to the case by huge solid end pieces and screwed pins. In many ways the SUB 300T reissue bracelet is similar. It also is a double locking flip lock design, is a constant 22mm over its whole length, uses an almost identical divers extension, which is hidden in the clasp and is also secured by screwed pins. The difference is that the actual lug width of the Doxa is only 14mm. This is because of the radical case design. Unfortunately this case design does not lend itself to easy strap / bracelet alternatives. However, things are not as bad as they seem and I have been able to use a Seiko SKX781 - Orange Monster bracelet and a number of rubber straps with very little work indeed. Both bracelets are signed. The SUB 300T with the word Doxa and the fish logo, while the PRS-2 has the word Dreadnought stamped into the clasp. Thanks to the constant width, both bracelets distribute the weight of the whole watch fairly evenly over the wearer's wrist. In the case of the Dreadnought there just happens to be a whole lot more weight.
The SUB 300T also came with a black leatherette strap. I personally never used it but several people who did and used it to dive have noted that it didn't stand up to repeated immersion in sea water very well. Timefactors included a Rhino strap with the Dreadnought when it was shipped. Unfortunately the previous owner didn't include it with the watch, so I can't show any photos of the combination. However, I will say that I do have a Rhino strap I have used on another watch and it is virtually indestructible. One thing I must say here about both bracelets is that there are definite pros and cons about the use of screwed pins for both the lugs and the individual links. They certainly have come under criticism because at times they can be really difficult to undo. Many manufactures use loctite to bind the threads and this can make it difficult to unscrew the caps. Personally I prefer them to the ubiquitous pressure fit split pin and the increasingly common pin and collar arrangement on the Seiko SKX781 and Doxa SUB 600T. However, what I would like to see is that manufacturers supply a little bag with a couple of extra pins. They are very small and fiddly and it is easy to lose them. It is bad enough that some companies charge over the odds to have them sent out to you, but having to wait several weeks for them is enough to drive you crazy. I think most people would prefer the addition of a couple of dollars (how expensive can these things be?) to the price to have at least one extra lug and link pin included in the first place. As my mother always says; "you are better looking at it than looking for it". It is here that Eddie Platts again shows that he tries to go that extra mile when it comes to customer service. He included extra pins with the Dreadnought. Doxa charge 20 dollars to send 4 extra ones if you need them.
Like the rest of the Dreadnought the caseback is substantial. It is 3mm thick but looks thicker because of the sharply sloping edges. The caseback on the SUB 300T is just as thick but has a much shallower gradient which means there is actually less metal mass in it. For me the caseback doesn't just hold in the movement, it is somewhere that the manufacturer can decorate the watch which doesn't affect the look of it that people initially see or its ability it tell the time. Both the SUB 300T and the Dreadnought have relatively simple, uncluttered dials with little decoration other than a small diver on the face of the Doxa SUB 300T Seahunter. The casebacks, however, tell a different story. The SUB 300T has the Jenny family fish logo and the Limited Edition number (XXXX/1000) and the words 'DOXA SUB 300T' and 'SEAHUNTER' etched on the caseback. It looks good and is better than that on many other watches. The Dreadnought, however, is a work of art. Along with the words PRS-2, serial number (XXX/200), Water Resistant 500 Metres, Anti-Magnetic 30,000 A/m and Certified Chronometer, it has a beautiful Dreadnought logo. As can be seen from the photo above. It shows an armoured hand rising out of the sea clutching a key with a crown at the top and the word DREADNOUGHT under it. It is acid etched, deep and really finishes off the watch to perfection. The logo is in fact the official insignia of the British nuclear submarine HMS Dreadnought (S101). She was launched in 1960 and served in the British Navy until 1981. In 1971 she became the first British submarine to surface at the North Pole. Somehow, I think it is fitting that a dive watch should be associated with a submarine. I like the idea that there is a story behind a watch. The Dreadnought has the HMS Dreadnought history behind it and the SUB 300T has a rich pedigree of being among the inovations in dive watch history with its orange dial and NoDeCom bezel. There is also the tie in with Clive Cussler and his action hero Dirk Pitt. I like being able to tell people about the watch as well as show it off.
As I mentioned before the Doxa SUB 300T reissue and the PRS-2 Dreadnought are very dissimilar, but being dive watches they have certain common traits. One being a unidirectional bezel. The SUB 300T continues the line of Doxa watches using the No Decompression Dive table bezel which was developed in the mid 60s, in conjunction with the US Divers company, to help divers overcome the uncertainty of the maximum time to spend under water. Unlike the earlier SUB 300T and the later SUB 600T, this bezel is in Metres and not Feet. It rotates very smoothly and has a total of 120 clicks per rotation. The edge has slanted serrations and is easy to grip and turn. It has a luminous dot painted at the 12 o'clock position. The Dreadnought uses the more conventional 60 minute gradation markers and has a 60 click rotation. The bezel is actually a 2 piece arrangement, but only the outer numbered part rotates. The Dreadnought bezel also has a luminous 12 o'clock marker but this is an insert rather than being painted on. I have a thick pair of gloves I use for my 'bezel grab and turn test' and using them I found the Dreadnought bezel just a little more difficult to turn because the outer edge of the case sits beyond the bezel edge and makes it a little more difficult to grab. The same is true for bare fingers.
The dials on the two watches are considerably different in design and layout. However, they are both the same size at 28mm diameter. The Dreadnought looks smaller because of the position of the luminous dots. The SUB 300T uses Doxa's hallmark orange with black and luminous markers and the PRS-2 is black with high contrast white minute markers and luminous dots. The Dreadnought has minimal lettering. The words Dreadnought and made in Germany are all that appear. The SUB 300T is a bit more verbose with Doxa Automatic, SUB 300T Seahunter and T Swiss Made T around the 6 o'clock position. The T standing for Tritium. The other addition to the Seahunter edition is the inclusion of a small black diver on the dial. For the SUB 300T reissue Doxa changed the hand design from the old version. The minute and hour hands are much closer in size. This is different to the old SUBs and the new SUB 600T where the hour hand is much smaller than the minute hand. The rational being that divers are more interested in the amount of minutes they have been down or have left rather than hours and a small hour hand makes it less likely to make a mistake. From that point of view the Dreadnought's hands can't be faulted. The minute hand is oversized and uses two different colours of luminous material. They certainly seem to have been inspired by the Omega 'Ploprof' (PLOngeuer PROFessionel) diver. Both watches use the date facility of the ETA 2824-2. The difference is that the SUB 300T displays a white date wheel with black numbers, while the Dreadnought uses a black wheel with white numbers. This is the first watch I have owned with the latter combination and while I think it makes the dial look more complete, it may take a while before I get used to it.
The SUB 300T was the last Doxa watch that used Tritium for the luminous markers. US and European laws will prohibit importing any watches with Tritium, which is mildly radioactive. Superluminova seems to be the material of choice for most manufacturers now except Seiko who use their own Lumbrite. I tested the luminosity of the SUB 300T and Dreadnought by charging them under a fluorescent lamp for 30 seconds and leaving them in a dark room overnight. I included the Seiko SKX781 in the test because it is my 'gold standard' for luminosity. The first photo shows the three watches immediately after charging. Sub 300T on the left, Seiko in the middle and Dreadnought on the right. The extra luminous material in the Dreadnought minute hand really lights up and also noticeable is the more greeny coloured brightness of the 12 o'clock marker. The second photo shows them seven hours later. It is hard to tell from this photo because by this time all 3 watches were pretty dim but the 300T did just have the edge on brightness. I suppose the difference is that while Tritium is not as energetic after an initial charging it tends to maintain its output at a steadier rate than the Superluminova and Lumbrite which glow spectacularly at first then have a higher decay rate. In reality all 3 watches were still easily readable throughout the night. One thing to note on the SUB 300T reissue Seahunter is that the blue second hand does not glow. The second hand on the Professional version does. While on the subject of second hands. The Dreadnought sweep hand is exactly the same colour as the face. This gives the effect of the marker just floating around the dial and is a nice touch.
Both the SUB 300T and the Dreadnought use the ETA 2824-2. It is a solid workhorse movement which is hacking, quick set, automatic, runs at 28,800bph and uses 25 jewels. The details of the mechanism can be found on the movement page. The difference is that the Dreadnought uses the higher grade Chronometer version. This is evident in timings done over a 36 hour period. The Dreadnought gained 5 seconds while the SUB 300T put on 15 seconds. What this means is that the Doxa would gain just over a minute a week, which is pretty good for a mechanical watch but the PRS-2 would need almost 3 weeks to put on the same time. Now that is impressive. The Dreadnought is easily the most accurate watch I have. The above photo (supplied by Timefactors) shows a prototype Dreadnought. The movement is the non Chronometer version used in testing. What is interesting to note is the iron plate which acts as a magnetic field inhibitor and gives the watch its 30,000 A/m rating. Probably of more interest to the majority of people reading this review is the double o-ring arrangement. This helps the Dreadnought achieve a 500 Metre depth rating. The SUB 300T uses the more normal single o-ring setup and has a rating of 300 Metres. Could both watches withstand a greater depth? Almost certainly and it would be my guess that the Dreadnought could go much deeper.
The SUB 300T and the Dreadnought have screwed crowns with their respective logos. The SUB 300T fish logo belongs to the Jenny family who own Doxa and have been involved in the dive watch industry for many years. PRS apparently stands for Eddie Platts surname, wife's maiden name and mother's maiden name. It takes just over 3 complete turns to unscrew the crown on the Doxa and 2 and a 1/2 turns on the Dreadnought. Both crowns engage their threads cleanly and easily, the Dreadnought being just a little more difficult because the massive crown guards make it a little less easy to get a good grip on the crown. One thing I noticed on the PRS-2 is that when the crown is fully pulled out the stem does tend to move and 'flex' a little more than the SUB 300T. I was a little concerned at first but when I checked my other watches I found that this was a similar occurrence to the Doxa SUB 600T which was especially 'mobile'. It's not something I had noticed before until the Dreadnought. The condition is in fact quite normal for movements with a de-coupled crown and is the exact design used in the Muhle Glashutte SAR watch, costing twice as much. The interesting thing about a decoupling mechanism built into the crown is that when you screw it down or unscrew it, it is not connected to the barrel and thus you're not winding the watch at the same time. You can certainly feel the change in resistance between bolting the crown and winding. This means that the Dreadnought really has four crown positions - neutral (i.e. during screwdown and unscrewing when the crown is de-coupled from the movement - which also helps to isolate the movement from the case for shock protection), winding, date set and time set.
One of the things that impressed me about the SUB 300T reissue, when I got it, was the packaging. Doxa wanted to make buying and owning the watch an experience. The reissue came in an impressive aluminium tube (26cms long and 8cms diameter) with a separate leatherette strap and 2 screwdrivers to enable the removal and resizing of the bracelet. Some people complained about the screwdrivers not being up to the job, but I never found a problem with them and considered them to be a worthwhile addition to the package. For the Seahunter version of the watch, Doxa also included a very nice certificate signed by Clive Cussler. Again a worthwhile addition. I also remember being very impressed when I recieved my Doxa Coppa Milano Sanremo Chronograph. It arrived in a lovely wooden box and certainly added a touch of class to the watch. Well, Eddie Platts must have decided that when the Dreadnought was born it had to arrive in a blaze of glory, because he really put together an impressive package. The watch came in a white box with flip down front which contained a very large hinged and polished wooden box (21cms long by 13cms wide by 8cms high). He also included copies of the design drawings, the history of HMS Dreadnought, the Chronometer Certificate, a very cool Timefactors dogtag, the manual, a set of screwdrivers, a Rhino strap and extra pins for the bracelet. As the screwdrivers and some of the documentation were also not included by the original owner, I can't comment on them. In the course of writing this review I contacted Eddie to ask what the complete package contained. When he found out I was missing bits he very generously offered to send me items to complete the package. You just cannot fault Timefactor's service. I think both Doxa and Timefactors have to be held up as examples of companies who try very hard to listen to what their customers want and try to do whatever they can to keep that customer happy. Both Doxa and Timefactors have a forum which they participate in. Both companies have realized that a happy customer is a returning customer and both companies are head and shoulders above the normal service and response given by most watch companies. Timefactors has the advantage of being smaller and this allows them to respond very quickly indeed.
With the majority of watches I have, I tend to wear them a little loose. I found out very quickly that I just can't do that with the Dreadnought. The mass of the head is just too much and it tends to move a lot and rubs against the ulnar styloid on my wrist (boney bump on the medial aspect of the wrist). The first time I wore the watch loose it really did irritate my "boney bump" and it was quite uncomfortable. However, once I tightened up the band this became much less of a problem. I wore the Dreadnought for 10 straight hours the next day and had very little aggravation at all with rubbing or bumping. It really would have become invisible except I kept looking at it and taking it off to show people. I do wear the SUB 300T loose but have never found a problem with the weight because the extra length of the lugs really does help to stabilize it on the wrist. For anyone who is put off because of the weight or size of either watch, I'd say don't worry. It may take a day or so to get used to it but even for someone with relatively small wrists like me, your muscles and nervous system will soon compensate for the weight and before you know it, you are not even aware of having it on. The funny thing about the PRS-2 is that after you have worn it and got used to it, watches that you considered heavy are amazingly light if you put them on after taking the Dreadnought off. As I said in the beginning, this is not a 'which watch is better' type of comparison. Both watches are absolute joys to have and wear and for different reasons. The SUB 300T is a very distinct watch with is unique case design and bracelet. It is eyecatching and gets comments whenever I wear it. The Dreadnought is distinct because it is big and bold and in the case of the polished one, very eyecatching, and it is a very limited edition. With these two watches it isn't a matter of which would you choose, it's a matter of owning them both. One is from a company with a long history of producing classic dive watches and the SUB 300T reissue marked the beginning of their resurgence. The other is from a new kid on the block who thought he could shake the old boys up a bit and in the end rocked them back on their heels with a watch which is destined to become a classic in its own right. They both kick butt!!!!!!
The Doxa SUB 300T has been Dirk Pitt's watch for many years. It has helped him save the world a number of times. I would suggest that his trusty sidekick Al Giordino gets hold of a PRS-2 Dreadnought. It's his kind of watch; strong, tough and dependable. Besides, it makes a useful weapon in a tight spot. All he needs is to put it in a sock and he could beat his way out of any situation. The bad guys wouldn't stand a chance.
Although this site is really in honour of the Doxa SUB range of watches. This time I'm going to leave the final word to the PRS-2. The Dreadnought was dreamed up and designed by a canny Yorkshire lad who believed he could produce a dive watch that was at least the equal in terms of specification, performance and packaging as the big, established watchmakers and deliver it at a price far lower than they were doing. You know what? I think he succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. The Dreadnought is the embodiment of his dream and more. I've always maintained that you don't buy a watch because it is a limited edition. You buy it because you like it. If it happens to be a limited edition that's a bonus. With the Dreadnought, you can't fail to like it. It's big, it's classy and it just says "hey look at me!". The fact that only 199 other people in the world have one is nice and the icing on the cake is that the one reviewed here is probably one of only two fully polished ones in the western spiral arm of the galaxy. Now that is kind of cool. If you can find a PRS-2 Dreadnought for sale, buy it. I doubt you will ever see its like again.