DOXA - MARANEZ
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - August 2020
It has long been said that if you are an inventor or manufacturer of something great, you know you and / or it has been accepted as great when someone copies it. In the watch world you can find copies of many famous brands. I am not just talking fakes, but copies of the design and the look and the feel. I guess if that is the metric of success, then the classic Doxa SUB has been a failure. In the 18 years I have been buying and writing about the Doxa SUB I have always said: the nice thing about wearing a Doxa is there are no fakes around. And I still believe that is true. However, there have been a couple of watches from microbrands which have used the Tonneau style case and people have commented how similar the watch looks to a Doxa SUB, but in reality they have only looked a little like a Doxa SUB. I think we all knew the day would come when another manufacturer would trade on the unique style and design of the Classic Doxa dive watch.
Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you the Maranez Samui. It may not be an exact Doxa SUB replica, but it is definitely a homage that at first glance has the look and feel of the real thing.
So, for any of you who gets all bent out of shape over the morals or ethics of fakes, homages, reproductions or return on investment from buying watches etc, etc. Stop reading now. Go away. This is of no interest to you. This is purely a review of a watch that looks like a Doxa in some ways and it is from someone who is considered to have a bit of knowledge on the Doxa SUB. There is no moralizing, no ethical debate, no politics, no sex and no football. Probably not worth reading really, except if you are interested in watches. So with that out of the way. Here's the beef.
I first saw a picture of the Maranez Samui on the Doxa Watch Owners Facebook page. I was probably like many other people who at first glance thought it was an exact copy of a classic Doxa SUB. The picture I looked at was of the turquoise version. Interestingly enough, my wife had been asking me about the turquoise versions of the Numa and Project Aware SUBS. To be honest, they were going for more money than I wanted to pay so I tried to put the idea out of her head. Then I saw the Samui. So I bought one. Hey I'm only human! List price is $349 and that includes tax and shipping. Not a bad deal.
The Samui arrived a couple of days after ordering it and that was the first of a number of pleasant surprises. There has been a fair amount of criticism of presentation box / package that the latest Doxa SUBs are shipped in. It looks like some kind of camera case you could buy at Walmart. My take on this. The Doxa tube that was introduced during the Marei era actually became an integral part of the Doxa history. Its really just an aluminium tube with a couple of plastic ends on it but it is also now iconic and synonymous with the Doxa SUB. Many people say: who cares about the container, you just throw it in a drawer. This is true. However, for me and many others buying a new watch is an experience. The more money I spend the better I want the experience to be. I like the Rolex, Omega and Breitling packaging. I also like the former Doxa tube. It just seems a bit low rent to supply what really does look like a cheap camera case with a $2000 watch, $5000 if you count the T-Graph. Hell for $5000 I wouldn't just want a nice box, I'm expecting a back rub and foot massage too!
And it's here that Maranez delivers and it was another pleasant surprise. The Samui came in a really nice travel roll. I first thought it was a plastic leather type material, although a pretty darned good one, but I later had it confirmed that it is real leather. Now that is a nice bonus. The roll will hold 4 watches and tools or straps and came with a warranty card indicating a 1-year warranty, a spring bar removal tool and 2 extra spring bars. For many people the travel roll won't lay dejected in a dark drawer, it will be put to good use. Going away for a few days and want to take a couple of watches. You no longer need to wrap them up in your socks. The Maranez travel roll will do very nicely indeed.
The next surprise was the watch itself. It looks great. Initial thoughts on fit and finish were very positive. It is described as manufactured from brushed steel. Not stainless steel, just brushed steel. I would like to think it is stainless steel because if it is just bog standard mild steel, it sure ain't going to last very long in seawater. Heck, it will corrode just washing the dishes. OK, just got a confirmation from Marinez that the case, caseback and Bezel are Stainless 316L. They will update their website to show this.
It didn't come on a bracelet, although I've been informed that Maranez is working on a Beads of Rice (BOR) bracelet. Which I doubt will come as a surprise to anyone. The watch was supplied with an Isofrane style strap. Isofrane are considered the best of the best when it comes to dive watch straps. Just like the Doxa SUB, an iconic brand which has been resurrected. The Maranez strap looks like an Isofrane but just like the Samui watch isn't a Doxa, the strap isn't an Isofrane but its not bad at all. The buckle is signed and it is comfortable to wear.
The first question many people asked me when they knew I was getting the watch was: will a Doxa BOR bracelet fit? Well the answer is: yes and no. The thickest 20mm lug width Doxa SUB I have is the 1200T. The T-Graph is thicker but it is a 21mm lug width. As you can see from the photo, the bracelet fits but the endlink profile isn't tall enough for the case thickness. Over the past couple of months I have bought several non Doxa BOR bracelets. Most people know them as the Yobokies BOR, but they are actually available from a number of sellers. The really great thing about them is that they don't use solid end links. With a bit of filing and bending you can get them to fit almost any case endlink shape. In fact, I did just such a thing for a 3rd Generation Synchron 300T, and of course, I sold the watch several weeks ago. Man, talk about bad timing. If I had known etc, etc I would now be comparing the Maranez to a vintage 3rd generation I actually had in my hands and, yes, the bracelet I modified would have fitted perfectly. I'll probably get a BOR for it, but in the meantime I put it on my old Sector bracelet which I used on my vintage SUB 300T for years.
So lets talk about the watch itself and what you get for $349.
When I first saw pictures of the Samui I was immediately struck at its similarity to the 3rd generation vintage Doxa SUB 300T case. The Synchron case was the thickest of the 3 generations. When it arrived and I was able to measure it, I am now pretty sure that outwardly it is pretty darn close. It measures 45mm lug to lug, 42mm width without crown and 14mm high. It has the same flat crystal and flat caseback. But it is not an exact match. The crystal on the Samui is sapphire, the vintage was mineral glass.
There are obvious differences. The first being the lugs are drilled. Doxa never made a vintage SUB 300T case with drilled lugs. They certainly make it much easier to change bracelets and straps and Maranez provided a nifty wee tool just to facilitate that.
The next difference is the crown cutout is a bit bigger to accommodate a much larger crown than any ever seen on any SUB 300T or later.
Another difference is the sides and underside of the case is brushed as opposed to being polished on the Doxa SUB.
Then there is the bezel. The side profile is very similar to the vintage 3rd generation NoDeCo bezel and the inner ring is also very close, but that's where the similarities end. The outer ring uses standard 12 hour numbers, its not polished, which some people would think is an advantage as the Doxa bezel is a scratch magnet, and unlike the vintage 60 clicks it has 120 clicks per complete turn. That is not a function of the case design, purely 60 extra teeth machined into the underside of the bezel. As for whether it would fit a Synchron 300T. No idea. The bezels of all 3 generations of the vintage SUB are slightly different and not interchangeable. I never popped the Samui bezel to see if it would fit my 1st generation SUB as it is very unlikely it would.
And this is the bit I find hard to write, the bezel action on the Samui is as good if not better than my SUB 1200T. It is tight, no slop, no lateral movement and rotates crisply. Doxa have had some complaints about the bezel movement on the new SUB 300T. No such complaints on this bezel.
The caseback is very similar to all the vintage 300T generations. It is flat and as many of you know, my biggest criticism of the modern Doxas is that they never adopted that design. It was a bit like the digital camera megapixel race years ago. More megapixels is better. It actually isn't true. Lenses, design, sensor pixel configuration etc, etc play a massive part. Well for me it is the same with casebacks. Doxa seemed to go for the taller the watch, the better, and added a bunch of unnecessary thickness to the caseback. The Maranez Samui caseback is pure catnip for me. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit on a modern SUB 1200T because if it did, my DWL 1200T would never be the same again. It also doesn't fit on a vintage SUB 300T either. So even though on the outside the Samui resembles a Vintage SUB 300T, it is completely different on the inside except for one thing. The first generating crown threads and stem have the same thread pitch as the Samui. The vintage crown and Samui crown are interchangeable from a thread consideration. However, while the smaller 300T crown screws completely down on the Samui case the larger Samui crown doesn't screw down completely on the Doxa case.
And that is one of the things I didn't quite like on the Samui. The crown just seems too big. Sure it is easy to grip and operate and screws on and off smoother than many watches I own, but it just seems out of proportion. If it had been me designing the watch I would have went with the crown from the 1st generation vintage SUB 300T. In my opinion this is the best crown Doxa ever made. It just looks so right for that case design. The Samui crown is back there with the megapixel race.
Just as an aside about the caseback. Whoever put it on must be a Heathrow airport luggage handler. You know, the one who rips the handles off your suitcase, because I nearly bust a nut trying to get the fecker off! Holy Mackerel it was on tight. I doubt there was any silicon grease used during the assembly.But when it did come off, there was another pleasant surprise. I expected the movement holder to be plastic. It was metal. But again, because of the different movements, not usable in a vintage SUB 300T case.
The movement is a Seiko NH35A with 24 Jewels. This movement is a workhorse. It is not only a staple for Seiko but is used in many other manufacturer's watches. It is reliable, easy to service and as my father used to say about buying a Ford car: you can find bits for them over the nearest hedge. Heck, you can even buy a new one on eBay for less than 40 bucks. And that brings me to the most pleasant surprise about the Maranez Samui. In the 24 hours I have owned it, it has lost 2 seconds. Yep you read that right, 2 seconds. I'm gobsmacked. Its running better than any watch I own at the minute and that includes, Doxas, Rolex, Omega and Breitlings. Round of applause for the Maranez Samui, please.
And yet another pleasant surprise when the case was opened. The dial is glossy. Man, I love glossy dials. I know lots of people prefer matt finish but for me glossy dials just pop more, especially black. Matt black looks gray to me but a glossy black is black. Just look at the dial on a Rolex Submariner or Sea-Dweller, gorgeous. The Samui dial lettering is crisp and overall the dial and hands are very well finished. The lume on both hand and dial and the bezel pip is bright and compares well to the SUB 1200T. The luminous material is Superluminova C3.
And it is the dial and hands where the Maranez shines. It is a watch modders dream. Sure the Samui looks like a Doxa SUB now but just hang out with the Seiko modders for a while and you will discover Doxa style dials, Doxa style hands. Heck there is even a NoDeCo bezel insert for Seiko dive watches. If you really wanted to you could make the Samui look even more like a Doxa SUB. New dial, new hands, polish the bezel, BOR bracelet. Some people would question: why? Others would question: why not just buy a Doxa SUB? In the end it is all down to personal choice, finances, bang for the buck considerations etc. Realistically you could buy all 5 Samui dial variations: orange, yellow, silver, black and turquoise for less than a new SUB 300T. The Maranez Samui is a great looking and wearing watch. It certainly would be a relatively inexpensive way to scratch a Doxa SUB itch.
But I'll leave the last word to my wife. Before I bought the Maranez, I showed her a picture of the turquoise version, thinking it might satiate her desire for a Numa or Project Aware SUB. She looked at the image and said: But it's not a Doxa!