SUB 300T - SUB 1200T
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - March 2021
This is a unusual review for me. It is one I never thought I would write, it revisits a watch I reviewed back in 2010 and it is my first review of what I'm calling an ICE era SUB. I think the expression: never say never is particularly true here. In my world the Doxa SUB falls into 5 eras. The original vintage, Synchron, Aubry, Marei and now ICE. The one that most people reading this will be familiar with is the Marei era. Named after Rick Marei who resurrected the iconic Doxa SUB from being a mythical dive watch worn by Clive Cussler's hero: Dirk Pitt to being globally recognized as one of the most iconic watches in dive watch history.
By way of explaination of the eras. istorically there have been:
Vintage - these are the ones from the late 1960s that defined what the SUB 300 and 300T became.
Synchron - The 300T design changed very little - slightly different bezel markings but a thicker case.
Aubry - Aubry Freres bought Doxa and produced a number of different models: 250T, 300T, 600T, 750T, 1000T, different dial markings, different angular shaped case, a quartz movement and even a left sided crown 750T.
Marei - named after Rick Marei who for almost the last 20 years re-establish and built the Doxa brand to what it is today. He stuck pretty much to the traditional SUB 300T / T-Graph design with a few exceptions.
ICE - This stands for Innovation, Consolidation and Expansion.
Innovation - There is a new CEO in charge and from what I can see he is Innovating with the Carbon the 200 and the C-Graph. Many purists including me are sometimes perplexed and sometimes scratching our heads at the direction and changes but I think we all agree that Doxa couldn't keep making basically the same watch over and over again.
Consolidation - The Jenny family brought sales, marketing, manufacture, distribution and service back under one organization.
Expansion - We are beginning to see the global expansion both in terms of geography and in sales outlets. It's a bold move and may not be plain sailing but again, I think it needed to be done to bring the Doxa SUB out of the niche market.
So there you have it. ICE is also cool and it doesn't take me to tell you just how cool a Doxa SUB is
The Marei era ended in 2019 when the Jenny family, who own the Doxa brand, ended the relationship with Marei who was marketing and selling the Doxa SUBs through his Synchron organization. Every SUB between 2000 and 2018 except the 4000T were ideas brought by Rick to the Jennys and they manufactured the watches through their subsidiary: Walca. The Jennys installed a new CEO to oversee the operation that Marei built and started to release new watches. Some based on the last of the Marei era watches: SUB 300 50th Anniversary and SUB 1200T and some altogether new ones. The SUB 300T is the one which is based on the 1200T and unlike the SUB 1200T, which was limited to a production run of around 4,000 watches, the SUB 300T is not a limited edition.
Before we get to look at the watches themselves, it is worth comparing the packages they come in. Most people will be familiar with the Marei era tube. It became synonymous with the Doxa SUB. It was different and people really liked it. Watch packaging is a strange beast. For the majority of people once the watch is out of the box, the packaging goes in a drawer or a case and is rarely seen again. But when spending several thousand dollars on a watch, people want the whole experience. Nice packaging, nice documentation, a feel that something extra special has gone into the complete product. Then they stuff it in a drawer, but the good feel remains. The tube did that. The ICE era SUBs do not come in a tube. They come in a nice white cardboard presentation box with, and I have to be brutally honest here, something that I initially called a "camera case". Actually when I first saw it, it reminded me of the white Styrofoam boxes you put fried chicken in at the supermarket. Sorry but yea, it did.
So here's the thing with the tube. It was not a Doxa tube, it was actually a Synchron tube which Rick Marei used when he sold and distributed the SUBs. When Doxa and Synchron stopped doing business, the tube stopped doing business with Doxa SUBs. Regarding the "camera case", now I have one, I have to say it is actually quite nice. The quality of the box and the case is excellent. As much as I rail against the use of the Jenny fish on the SUBs, the logo is actually subtly placed on the white box and really is a nice reference to the fact that Jenny own Doxa. They used it again on the outside and inside of the case. Subtle became a punch in the face.
Ultimately the SUB 300T packaging is well made and ultimately will go in a drawer. The extra nice touch is that along with the warranty card there is a small multi-language operating instructions booklet which also contains a quick highlights of the Doxa history, information on other models and instructions on sizing the rubber strap. My feeling is that Doxa should have invested the time and money and made an aluminium box similar in size to the present box and anodized it a nice orange color. It basically would have been a tube but square and distinctive and something that said quality and that some thought went into it much more than the "camera case" does. Who knows? Maybe in the future.
Looking at the watches themselves, outwardly the new 300T and 1200T look very similar. Not surprising as in many ways one Doxa SUB looks like any other Doxa SUB because they are such a distinctive watch, but also in this case .... spoiler alert .... they both use the same case. But more of that later. Both watches are 44.5mm in length and 44mm wide (including the crown), both have 20mm lug width but the 300T is thinner at 14mm than the 14.5mm of the 1200T. First let's take a look at the SUB 300T. Have a close look at the image above. The first thing that most people who have been around the Marei era SUBs notice is that the dial fonts have changed and most noticeably on the wording in the lower right quadrant. In this case the words: SUB 300T and caribbean. The font is slightly smaller and thicker than that used in SUB 1200T and Professional. It is not quite so noticeable in the wording in the upper left quadrant of the dial but the word automatic is also smaller and thicker. In fact the new font is closer in style to the vintage SUB 300T font than that used on Marei era watches and if the lines had been printed thinner it would have been a very close match indeed.
The other subtle difference between the watches is the black 'dot' in the inner 60 minute ring of the bezel of the SUB 300T. It is black paint whereas the one on the SUB 1200T is made of luminous material. Interestingly, the orange dot between 60 and FT on the outer ring of the 300T bezel is very faintly luminous as can be seen in the above image. What is also apparent is that the luminous material has changed from the green Superluminova used throughout the Marei era SUBs to the weaker blue Superluminova in use now. It seems that the Caribbean and Aquamarine use lume that's white in daylight with a blue glow, the Professional uses lume which appears vanilla in daylight and glows green (similar to the 1200T), the Sharkhunter and Searambler use lume that has a greenish tint in daylight and glows green in the dark.
It seems strange that Doxa would change the Marei era configuration of orange paint outer dot and luminous inner dot because it was historically correct for the vintage SUB 300T. The original SUB 300 from 1967 had the configuration of orange paint outer dot / black paint inner dot but with the release of the vintage 300T it changed to orange paint outer dot and luminous inner dot. That became the standard for Synchron, Aubry and Marei era watches. It is unknown why the ICE era watches have broken with tradition. It is all the more surprising when you see how the other change to the bezel brought back a design cue from the vintage SUB 300T.
The image above shows the side profiles of (from top to bottom) SUB 300T, SUB 1200T and vintage SUB 300T. Note how the new 300T has a similar bezel profile to the vintage 300T. The thickness of the bezel has increased and is the same thickness as the Marei era 1200T but the grip area is now the same as that on the vintage watch. I think this was a great change but it did have a small consequence. When the new SUB 300T was released there were instances were owners were saying that the new bezel has some lateral movement that was not in the Marei era SUBs. I can confirm this to be true. Both bezels have 120 clicks but griping the 300T bezel and moving it from side to side does induce a small amount of lateral movement and a very soft click sound. The 1200T bezel is rock solid. It is also feels ever so slightly tighter when turning. Having said that, the rotation of the 300T bezel is precise and feels great and I don't think the lateral movement is an issue. It really is very small and I wouldn't class it as a design or manufacturing error.
The picture showing the bezels also shows the Helium Escape Valve (HEV) and the fact that Doxa use the 1200T case in the 300T means they never took the opportunity to change the offset positioning of the valve. I think by now everyone pretty much knows how I hate the position of the valve. I wish they had taken the time to center it or did what they did in the SUB 5000T. You can see the two valves in the picture above. The way the HEV has been done in the 5000T looks great and ties in nicely with the end link screws. The valve in the 300T is just a hot mess in my eyes and is perilously close to breaking into the top edge of the case. When the first ICE era SUB 300T was released it did not have the HEV. It was called the 50 Anniversary model. After a while people began to say how they got one with a HEV. It seemed that Doxa had transitioned to the HEV model which is now the one being sold. Their response was something along the lines of how they wanted the non limited edition to closer resemble the vintage 300T Conquistador which had a HEV. My take on it is that when Doxa took over the inventory from the Marei era watches there was a surplus of SUB 1000T and 1200T cases. It is very likely that the 50th Anniversary SUB 300T used the 1000T case which is very similar to the 1200T but with no HEV and when that was exhausted they started to use the 1200T case. It would also explain why the HEV positioning was never fixed.
The next significant change to the SUB 300T accounts for an increase in weight of 15 grams. Sized for my 6.75 inch wrist the 1200T weighs in at 170 grams, the 300T sized the same is 185 grams. All of that is down to the bracelet and mostly the clasp. The Beads of Rice (BOR) part of the bracelet is almost identical except the end links of the 300T are flared in the way the vintage SUB bracelet was. Look at any of the images above and you will see how it tapers out to the sides of the case. One thing I have to point out here is that the original bracelet with the 1200T was what I'll term faux BOR. The beads were not individual pieces as they are on the 300T. Each link of the bracelet has beads stamped / forged into them. They were also brushed and not polished and looked rather course and unfinished. When the bracelets with individual beads were released I quickly changed out the original bracelet.
The clasp on the SUB 300T was introduced with the Marei era SUB 5000T. It is a substantial and well made affair with a integral diver extension which also is used for micro adjustments during normal wear. Some people have said that when the clasp extends it can feel sharp but I never found that on the SUB 5000T clasp on the few times I did use it to adjust the wrist tightness. I tend to wear my watches loose so micro adjustment is a non event. The image above shows how the SUB 1200T clasp has a divers extension which is also built into the clasp but operates completely differently.
Looking at the image above you can see how the 1200T clasp is kept closed by friction on the inner folding part and the security clasp, whereas the SUB 300T uses a locking pin and twin pushers. There is no doubt that the clasp is good and does the job it was designed to do, however, I feel that while well suited for the bigger and heavier SUB 5000T, it is too big for the SUB 300T and overpowers the watch to an extent. I prefer the older design bracelet of the 1200T. Interestingly enough, Doxa still produce the older design and use it on the SUB 300. Maybe they should offer that bracelet as an option on the SUB 300T
The one area where I do think that the Doxa designers missed the mark was in the new bracelet endpieces. The old endpieces worked fine and were almost flush with the side of the case. The new endpieces protrude significantly, ruining the line of the case. I wonder if they ever heard of the expression: If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
What the new endpieces also do is restrict the articulation of the bracelet at the final link. The image above shows how much less the articulation is on the 300T.
Where I think Doxa really did get it right with the SUB 300T is with the crystal. I prefer a flat crystal. It is less prone to reflecting overhead light in a room and there is no distortion of the dial when viewed from an oblique angle. Look at the image above, it shows what happens with the crystal on the 1200T, then look at the image below from approximately the same angle on the 300T. I think the preference for flat or domed crystals is divisive among Doxa fans with many preferring domed, but for me flat crystals win every time and from that point I think the Doxa management did a great job by changing it.
Sadly the image above also shows clearly what for me is the greatest sin of the modern Doxa SUBs. The Jenny fish. Rick Marei introduced it when he launched the SUB 300T reissue in 2002. It was something the Jennys wanted to do and Rick agreed. Unfortunately it has been on every SUB in the last 20 years except one: the SUB 250. There is a very interesting story behind that watch, but that's for another day. For me it is pollution of the heritage of the Doxa SUB and what makes it worse is that in the ICE era it is now being called the Doxa fish!!!! Jenny was established in 1963. They designed and patented a decompression bezel in 1971, but they are most famous for the Jenny Caribbean 1000 which used a patented Monobloc Triple Safe design. It was a spectacular dive watch and was followed by the Caribbean 1500. They were a well respected and innovative company and produced Monobloc cases for many companies including Ollech & Wajs who's watch helped prove that the Jenny case was a world beater.
Why they want to, I'll use the word again, pollute their own legacy and heritage and that of Doxa by trying to merge both is a mystery to me. It will always be the Jenny fish and it is associated with Jenny watches, not Doxa watches and how it can be marketed as the Doxa fish just bewilders me. Look at the above image closely, There is a friggin big J running through it. It starts as a dot at the dorsal fin and ends as a dot in the eye. I had to include it on the back of my 40th Anniversary book and it literally became the cover of the 50th, which did irk me somewhat. Jenny did try to revive their own watches several years ago, but it was not a success. Maybe they feel they need to associate the Jenny fish with something successful and recognisable. I don't know but it sure seems like it. OK rant over, however, look at the crown on the ICE era watches, bad enough to have the Jenny fish on it, but they have painted the darned thing orange. Sigh!!!!! It's like turning up to your Granny's funeral dressed as Bozo the clown. There is a way that the Jenny fish could legitimately be used on the SUB, if Doxa would agree to let me review the watch, I'll tell them how to do it.
I'm sure you are thinking, wooooo, bit harsh there, Pete. And yes I probably was, but the hand that taketh away can also giveth and here I am about to give unreserved praise to the new Doxa management. What? Really? Yes. Take a look at the image above. What do you see? It is the caseback of the 1200T. What is on it? Yep, that Jenny fish. Heck, the only redeeming feature of that caseback are the words Diving With Legends But look at the image below and what do you see? Yes, that is right! No your eyes are not deceiving you. It is the Doxa sailing ship in all it's glory. The Doxa management have done something wonderful. They have created a Doxa SUB 300T which for the first time in 50 years has the original Doxa sailing ship on the caseback. The 50th Anniversary SUB 300 was the first SUB to have it. It also had the original vintage crown with the word Doxa on it, but it was a special limited edition and was Rick Marei's swansong. It did have the Jenny fish on the bracelet so it wasn't a complete home run. But never in a million years did I think that a full production, non limited edition SUB 300T would have a caseback that was as true to the original 300T as you could get. Ladies and gentlemen, round of applause for the Doxa management.
And actually, it doesn't end there. In some of the Marei era SUBs the movement rotor even had an orange Jenny fish. Not so for the 1200T and the image above confirms that the new 300T uses the word Doxa on the rotor. You will also notice the numbers inside the casebacks. I always assumed Doxa 11 on the 1200T was an indication that it was the 11th Marei era model. I'm not quite sure what the numbers on the 300T signify.
A closer look at the movements show that both the new 300T and the older 1200T use an ETA 2824-2 movement. They have slightly different markings and numberings. I have no idea what the numbers mean, batch number, factory markings? Doesn't matter the ETA 2824 is the workhorse of the industry. It is reliable, easy to service and get parts for and will last for years.
And just to prove a point I fully wound both watches and placed them on my Timegrapher and let them sit. The new 300T is showing a very respectable -5/-6 seconds a day, but what really surprised me was my 1200T DWL. It is over 10 years old and has never been serviced or regulated and it comes in at an impressive +2 seconds a day.
And that is pretty much it. I bought the SUB 300T as a donor watch but I will need to buy another as my wife gave me that look and the dreaded question: "could you resize that bracelet to fit me?" Well, no I couldn't so she pulled out my vintage SUB 300T with a different BOR which has far more removable links and said: "what about using this one?" The watch is now hers. It is known in our household as a co-share watch which is Mrs M speak for: "it's mine now. Keep your hands off it!"
The Marei era is over. It brought back the Doxa SUB and generated a whole new legion of fans and supporters. The ICE era is upon us. The new CEO is literally the Captain of the Doxa sailing ship and the keeper of the flame. There is no doubt that Doxa cannot just stay the way it was, business dictates expansion and growth and I believe that is what is trying to be done and I also believe it needs to be done. Some people will like and agree with the direction it goes, some won't, but one thing I'm sure about is that there will always be a Doxa SUB worth buying. If I ever got the chance to talk to the CEO I would say: "build on the legacy of the Marei era Doxa SUB, make the ICE era your own and be the man who for the first time in 50 years released a Doxa SUB 300T that was true to the vintage design and heritage. Remove the Jenny fish from it and the bracelet, use a Doxa crown and flat Doxa caseback and correct bezel and flat crystal and taper the bracelet at the clasp. Even if it is a one of limited edition, you build it and people will line up to buy it. It will become your legacy.
Many people reading this will be familiar with Doxa, they may also own one or several of their watches and will know about the overall fit and finish and build quality, but many people won't. So what is my take on all that for someone who is new to the brand and is thinking of buying one? Well first off, they have several options when it comes to buying one. Secondhand market for a vintage or Marei era SUB or a gently used ICE era watch. My advice to first time buyers: Doxa now have added Watches of Switzerland and Analog/shift as Authorised Distributors. James Lamdin at Analog/shift is a great guy to deal with. Otherwise buy it from the Doxa site. They have a pretty good return policy and you get the great feeling of buying a new watch. When it comes to the fit and finish. Other than the small niggles I mentioned above regarding the endpieces and HEV positioning, which many people won't consider niggles at all, the fit and finish and quality of the SUB 300T is tremendous and on a par with most $2,000 watches and even some priced far higher. Many people would agree with me that not only for watches, but handbags, general fashion accessories etc, etc, etc you can pay a lot more for the name than you can for the item. I don't think this is the case for the 300T model SUB, it is keenly priced for an iconic design dive watch and one that is instantly recognisable as a Doxa SUB. The SUB has almost a rabid fan base of which I'm one. We have a passion for the brand and will continue to have. I came up with a saying which I used in the 50th Anniversary book. I think it is good and I'll use it to end on....."It's not just another dive watch, it's a DOXA"
If you want to know more about bezels, cases and flat casebacks, have a read of my "Perfect SUB" thoughts.