DOXA - MARANEZ 3rd GENERATION
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - July 2021
Ladies and gentlemen may I present, in the red corner, the reigning champion: the Doxa SUB 300. Based on the classic vintage SUB from 1967 but updated with a modern crystal and bracelet and weighing in at $2490. In the blue corner weighing in at a positively anorexic $399 is the pretender to the throne: the Maranez Samui Vintage also known as the 3rd generation Samui. And just in case you are wondering. Yes, I would say every resemblance to the SUB 300 is purely intentional.
Before I start to compare the watches, I'm going to use the same preface I used in my last Maranez review.
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. I hope you are sitting comfortably.
I have previously reviewed the SUB 300 here: SUB 300 - 50th and the first and second generation Samui here: DOXA - Maranez so I apologize if some of this covers old ground but rather than expect people to skip back and forward between the other reviews I thought it better to make this stand on its own. However, for anyone who has come to this for the first time and want to know more about Doxa watches and a bit about Maranez, you will find a lot of reviews and information on Doxa on this site.
So let's start the ball rolling with the Doxa SUB 300. It was the first of the Doxa SUBs and was presented to the public in the spring of 1967 at the Basel Watch Fair. It really only lasted for about a year and was quickly superseded by the larger SUB 300T. It was resurrected for the SUB's 50th Anniversary as a limited edition with the US Divers logo and was the last watch of the Marei era and became a regular part of Doxa's watch stable when the new management took over when the ICE era started in 2019. The image above shows the vintage models SUB 300, 300T and the 50th Anniversary SUB 300.
Couple of things to note here. There are two bezel configurations on the SUB models. An Imperial one for the US and UK markets which has the outer bezel depth numbers in Feet and a Metric version with the depth numbers in Meters. The orange hand on the 300T, shown above, is from a Searambler model and the bracelet is not original. It would have been a BOR bracelet. The other thing to notice is that the endpieces of the BOR bracelet were all flat on the vintage models. The faux BOR profile on the modern watches were introduced in the Marei era and have been used ever since even though not historically correct.
The Maranez Samui has only been around for a couple of years and has had 3 generations in that time. The image above shows how the watch has changed over the generations to become more like the Doxa SUB. Generation 1 and 2 use the same case dimensions as the last Synchron version of the SUB 300T. It was the thickest case. The Samui keeps the overall case dimensions but added drilled holes at the lugs for easier springbar removal. The first generation hands were angular which led to many people swapping them out for aftermarket SUB style hands. Because the movement used is a Seiko NH35A, there are a plethora of hands and dials available. It really is the modders dream movement.
The second generation kept the same flat crystal and case but polished the sides and made the crown smaller and used Doxa SUB style hands. It really had captured the look and feel of the SUB especially as now it came with a BOR bracelet as well as the rubber strap from the first generation.
And now with the release of the 3rd generation, Maranez have paid full on homage to the 50th Anniversary SUB 300. Gone is the thicker Synchron style case and in its place is the thinner modern SUB 300 style case. Gone also are the drilled holes at the lugs.
No matter how much the Samui models look like their equivalent SUB versions, the one thing that is noticeably different is the bezel. Instead of the classic Doxa NODECO bezel with a polished outer ring, the Samui uses a similar double ring bezel with a similar 60 minute inner ring but the outer ring has 12 hour markings and is completely brushed. The Maranez bezel also uses the modern Doxa luminous dot position on the inner ring whereas the SUB 300 keeps the same style as the vintage bezel: black dot on inner ring and red dot on outer ring. Interestingly enough the outer dot although painted has a very, very faint luminous glow. More on that later. The bezel on the Samui is also thicker at approximately 4mm as opposed to 3mm on the SUB 300.
Before getting into the nitty gritty of the watches, I think it is worth stopping for a moment to look at the presentation packages the watches come in. Both are very different in terms of looks and functionality.
If you have read my review of the ICE era SUB 300T here: SUB 300T - 1200T you will know I'm not a big fan of the ICE era case. I've likened it to a camera case and a fried chicken container which really is being unkind, however, given that Doxa seem to be heading in the direction of a jelly bean dial colors, fashion watch, it's probably fitting. It's good enough, but you all know my feelings on things that are just good enough. For most people the box will be stuffed in a drawer and forgotten about until the watch is being sold. I can easily subscribe to that but just feel that Doxa could easily have made a better box / container especially for a $2,500 watch.
Actually, talking of Doxa becoming a a jelly bean dial colors, fashion watch, Maranez have come close to matching them on that front too. The 3rd generation Samui was initially available in 6 dial colors, including pink, with the black dial version also available with either white or orange minute hands. There are other dial colors coming.
The Samui "case" is actually a genuine leather watch roll. And it is a very nice "piece of kit" indeed. I'm still impressed every time I buy one of their watches and open the package to find the roll. It really feels like a high class item and this is where it scores over just about every other watch manufacturer including the very expensive brands, it is usable even after you remove the watch. You can easily use it as a travel roll and transport 4 watches or a couple of watches and straps and springbar removal tools etc. The other added bonus with the Maranez pouch is it includes an Isofrane style strap, 2 extra springbars and what I think is a really nice touch, 4 extra bracelet screws. The SUB 300 comes with a nice little multi-language instruction manual.
OK, so what about the watches? Well to go back to the boxing parlance, here is the tale of the tape. Weights are with full bracelet. Just one thing to note here is that the SUB 300 watches I have are 50th Anniversary editions. They are the same as the SUB 300 watches that are available to buy now with one exception. The crown on the 50th Anniversary version says DOXA on it, the ICE era version has a Jenny fish painted in orange. I've commented enough about the use of the Jenny fish in the past. I'll just leave it at that.
|WIDTH (inc crown) mm||LENGTH mm||HEIGHT mm||DIAL WIDTH mm||LUG WIDTH mm||WEIGHT gms||PRICE US$|
|DOXA SUB 300||45||45||13.2||26mm||20||165||2,490|
The measurements above show that although the Doxa and Maranez look very similar, there are subtle differences that set them apart. The first noticeable difference is the dial size. The Maranez is 29mm diameter whereas the Doxa is 26mm. However, don't go by the dial sizes because the dial openings in both the SUB 300 and Samui cases are approx 25.8mm, so in reality the viewable dial size is the same for both watches. And it is the dial that marks a big difference for me between the SUB and the Samui. I have a thing for glossy dials. I love them. The physics of light means that a glossy dial will have a more vivid color than a matt finish dial. The blacks will be blacker and any color will be brighter. I gave Maranez plaudits for the turquoise dial in their 1st generation because it was glossy and really popped but the orange dial in the 3rd generation orange watch is matt finish and I think it just looks dull and lifeless when seen outside the watch. However, the domed crystal does enhance the colour somewhat and the orange is very close in shade to that used on the SUB 300 dial. The SUB 300 dial is very glossy and although they look the same color in the photos, in the hand, the Doxa just looks so much better, in my opinion.
The photo above also shows the subtle difference in the hands. The hour hand lume is a little shorter on the Maranez but on the minute hand it is a little longer. The square lume pot on the seconds hand is closer to the edge of the dial on the Doxa.
Of course just to be consistently inconsistent, the black dial Samui is gloss. And wow is it a perfect black. It's blacker than a lump of coal at the bottom of a mine shaft on a moonless night. It is beautiful. My gold standard for the best black dial is the Rolex Submariner. I think the Samui gives it a run for it's money. If only they had used gloss paint on the orange dial. The only small criticism I have of the black dial and this is where it differs from the Doxa Sharkhunter dial is that there is no discernible gap between the lume and the white borders. I prefer the differentiation seen on the Doxa Sharkie dial. I even considered using the thinnest (0.25) Rotring drafting pen I have and putting black lines at either side of the lume but I'd probably mess it up so I'll just leave well alone.
When it comes to the silver dial watches, both the Doxa and Marinez use a sunburst finish. Both look excellent and depending on how the light hits them they really are vivid and eye catching, but in this case the Samui dial is even brighter than the SUB 300. It is hard to tell from the photo but it almost looks chrome plated it is so much brighter.
The difference in the dial dimensions is further magnified because of the crystal width and shape. Both crystals measure 27mm in diameter, however, the Samui crystal is slightly less domed than the SUB 300. There could be a slight difference in the side profile but it is very hard to tell. The one thing that I dislike about the SUB 300 is the way the crystal displays an opaque ring when looked at full on. It just shrinks an already small dial to the size of a dime. The Samui has a similar ring but it is nowhere near as noticeable. I've tried to show both in the image above. Given that both crystals are pretty much the same shape I can only assume that the reason the Samui doesn't exhibit as strong a parallax ring is that the bezel is thicker which means much less of the crystal side is exposed to refract the light coming from the side. The SUB 300 bezel is 1mm thinner with a polished lower side whereas the Samui bezel lower face has a brushed finish. Although the bezels have the same outer diameters I wasn't brave or silly enough to remove both to see if they were interchangeable. Both are 120 clicks full rotation and both are tight with an excellent grip and feel. The Samui is definitely tighter and whereas the SUB 300 does have a bit of play in it, the Samui is rock solid.
There are subtle differences in the two cases that at first are not noticeable. Take the crown cutouts, for example. Although the crowns are similar in size the case cutout on the Samui has parallel sides, the cutout on the SUB 300 tapers outwards. The crown tubes are also different sizes so the Samui crown will not fit on the SUB 300.
The casebacks are also a different size and are not interchangeable. And it is at the back of the case where there is definitely a much better finish and look on the SUB 300. For starters, the underside recesses on the SUB are polished as is the caseback. The Samui is completely brushed and the finish seems to be much coarser than the rest of the case. The SUB 300 has the classic Doxa sailing ship and even though the back of a watch is seldom seen, the Doxa really is a class above in this case.
If the back of the case indicated that the two cases were different, then opening both watches shows they were similar looking from the front only. Internally they have completely different machined profiles and not surprisingly because the movements are also completely different. The SUB 300 is powered by a COSC certified 25 jewel ETA 2824-2, while the Samui runs a 24 jewel Seiko NH35A. A COSC certificate is shown below. Both of these movements are considered workhorses of the industry. The 2824 has powered almost all of the modern Marei era SUBs and up until recently the ICE era ones too. ETA has now restricted the sales of movements to anyone other than members of the Swatch group. It means that watch manufacturers are having to seek alternative movements and it is expected that in the future we will see Sellita and Soprod used in Doxa SUBs. The Seiko NH35A is an extremely reliable and also inexpensive movement. I've always considered NH35 movements as unservicable. That doesn't mean that they are unable to be serviced, it means that as I can buy a new one for around $40, why would I service the old one, I just toss it in the bin and get another and install it. A competent watch maker could swap one out in less than 20 minutes.
And this is the part that may surprise a few people. The ICE era Doxa management will not supply any parts to independent watchmakers. I've never had to send a watch back to Doxa for servicing however several friends have and the going rate seems to be a minimum of around $500 and takes almost 6 months. The problems with a Doxa SUB are usually few and far between. They tend to be: stripped crown tube threads, broken crown decouple mechanism and broken bezel click springs. These parts literally cost a couple of dollars and each one could be easily fixed by a watchmaker in a very short time. Even if the movement needs serviced, you can literally find bits for an ETA 2824 lying under the neighbors hedge so servicing isn't a problem...... BUT....and this is just insanity in my opinion, Doxa will not supply those items to watchmakers. You have to send the watch back to Doxa and they will repair it and do a full service and charge you accordingly. This isn't the place for me to discuss building brand loyalty and winning the hearts and minds of customers so I'll just stop and let you think about it. I will however, temper my criticism and say that one watch that they did service came back looking like new and it had some serious wearing over the years but it was gone for months and months. When I asked Maranez about parts, specifically the crown tube in case it ever needed replaced, they gave me design drawings for it and I could easily have sourced a replacement. I didn't need it, I was just asking out of curiosity. They just made a fan of this customer.
Both the Doxa and the Maranez use Superluminova luminous material on the hands and dial and both glow very well when activated by UV light. The Samui dial has wider luminous strips which, not surprisingly, means that the dial is just a lot brighter than the SUB 300. You can see from the image above that the luminous pip at 12 o'clock on the bezel glows brightly too. If you look closely at the same position on the SUB 300 bezel you will see a very faint glow. It seems that there is some luminous material in the red paint used there. The image also shows that depending on the viewing angle the raised sides of the crystal will distort the luminous glow from the markers.
Maranez made a name for itself with the ricebead bracelet used on the 2nd generation Samui. I discovered that it was a perfect fit for the new Synchron Military and when people found out they beat a path to Maranez's door to buy them. The bracelet is a Beads of Rice and is similar in look to the SUB 300. However, there are a number of difference. The Samui bracelet goes from 20mm wide at the lugs to 18mm at the clasp. The Doxa is 20mm from the clasp and flares out to almost 23mm at the last link before the endpiece. This is how the original SUB 300 bracelet was but it wasn't until the release of the 50th Anniversary SUB 300 that Doxa made the change from the bracelet being a constant 20mm over the whole length.
Both the SUB 300 and Samui bracelets are very comfortable. Neither could be classed as "hair pullers" and both have an inbuilt diver's extension hidden in the clasp.
The Maranez bracelet has one distinct advantage over the SUB 300 bracelet and it is that the beads really are a symmetrical bead compared to the flat bottomed Doxa bracelet and the underside profile is brushed. This means that you can turn the bracelet over and wear it with the brushed profile upwards which matches the brushing on the case and bezel.
And before you ask, because I know you are going to ask.... the Samui bracelet does not fit on the SUB 300. The endpieces have a slightly different profile and the springbar holes do not line up with those in the case. The endpieces from each bracelet are not interchangeable either because the bead spacing is different on each bracelet. And, no, the 3rd generation Samui bracelet will not fit the Synchron Military case either. The Military is a much thicker case.
So what are the watches like to wear? Well, not surprisingly they wear very similarly and very well. The extra 1mm in thickness of the Samui is not noticeable at all. I always liked the low profile and very flat caseback of my vintage SUB 300 and the new SUB 300 feels similar. I don't like how the domed crystal shrinks the dial. My wife loves how it looks and snatched both so even if i did want to wear them, tough luck, Pete. Anyway I have the vintage and the crystal on it is perfect. The Samui doesn't have the same amount of dial shrinkage and I prefer that. However, the one thing that did throw me initially was that the Samui dial sits so much deeper in the case than the SUB 300. Many people like this effect and with a flat crystal you can see and appreciate this. However, with the Samui 3rd generation there is less of a depth effect and more of a big magnifying glass sitting on top. It's a bit hard to explain and I hope the photo above and the wrist shot below illustrate what I mean. It kinda threw me at first but the more I wore the watches, especially the silver dial, the more I came to like it. It really is a dial view that I haven't seen on any other watch. You don't get that effect with the SUB 300 because the dial is much closer to the crystal..
To say that Maranez did a fantastic job on the 3rd generation Samui is an understatement. The watch and package punches well above it's weight for the price. It certainly looks like a SUB 300 and wears like one too. However, there is one thing that the Samui will never have, no matter how well made or how good a watch it is, and that is the word Doxa on the dial. It may look like a Doxa SUB but it is not one and that 4 letter word and all the brand history is enough reason for many people to pay over $2,000 more to buy one. Paying $399 for a Samui will not give you any connection to dive watch history or Dirk Pitt but it will give you a great watch.
But I'll leave the last words about the Samui to a forum member who summed the situation up brilliantly........If I can get 90% of the watch at 20% of the price, it's at least worth a punt.