MY PERFECT SUB
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - February 2021
I've spent the last 20 years writing about DOXA watches and over those years many people have asked me what my perfect SUB would be? I thought it was about time I did a formal "discussion" on what I think such a watch would actually look like. I was wondering if it would be possible to build one sourcing parts from DOXA SUBs produced over the last 20 years. I'm going to call it the SUB 300T FD, The FD is short for Flying Doctor. It's a nickname I've used for over 30 years. The name is a nod to the Flying Doctor service in Australia and was given to me by my drinking buddies because I'm a couple of Doctors and I fly a lot (or used to). It did become Flying Dog Turd at one stage, but that's a story for another time.
Before kicking off, I also want to say that in discussing the following watches, I'm being hyper critical of small details. Don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging off DOXA or their watches and I hope people don't get bent out of shape because I criticize certain elements. This is just a literary exercise which gives my personal opinion on what I think the perfect SUB would be and why certain watches just don't make the grade. I love the DOXA brand. I've owned over 30 of them and still have 14. Who knows, I may even buy more since my wife is lusting after a turquoise SUB 300.
So, let's start this by saying I think the best DOXA was the first generation of the SUB 300T from around late 1967 early 1968. It really became the poster boy for the DOXA SUB we all know today. Is it my perfect SUB? No but it gets pretty darned close. But this discussion is about a modern version that could take its place.
Why do I like it so much? The two major elements are flat crystal and flat caseback. I'll talk more about this later but the shortened version is: the flat crystal doesn't suffer as much reflection from overhead office lights as a domed one does and the flat caseback allows the watch to wear better / more comfortably on my wrist.
Another thing to clarify. My wrist is 6.75 inches. Anatomically the back and front surfaces are fairly flat which tends to make my wrist more rectangular shape in cross section rather than circular. I also tend to wear my watches lose which means they sit below my Ulnar Styloid - the knobby bit on the little finger side of your wrist. So, what may be the perfect wearing watch for me may not be for someone else.
And talking about what works for me, I'm going to completely discount the larger SUBs like the 300T Reissue, 750T, 800Ti, 4000T, 5000T and T-Graphs. Absolutely fantastic watches in their own right but just too big for my skinny wrist. Having said that, I still think the SUB 750T is probably one of the best wearing modern SUBs because even though it is bigger than the traditional size SUB it has a very large flat caseback and it relatively thin with a lower center of gravity.
My gold standard for best wearing watch is the old Omega SMP 300 Professional, but more on it later. Had one for years and regret selling it. It has the flattest caseback of any watch I ever owned and is only 11mm thick. The image above is from one of my old reviews which shows it against a SUB 750T
I'm going to list a couple of measurements which I'll use to compare different models of the SUB.
A - Thickness of the bezel
B - Thickness of the case
C - Thickness of caseback
D - Diameter of medal part of caseback
E - Diameter of caseback
F - Thickness of curved part of case side
G - Total Thickness of watch
When I list the measurements of the various watches you will notice that A + B + C does not equal G. This is because without disassembling the watches it was quite difficult to get exact measurements by eyeballing edges of some parts against the calipers and for every watch other than the vintage 300T all the crystals were domed. The Jenny fish logo also protruded slightly below the bottom of the caseback and added to the thickness.
|A mm||B mm||C mm||D mm||E mm||F mm||G mm|
|Vintage SUB 300T||3.0||7.4||2.1||24.5||37.0||3.4||12.7|
|Vintage SUB 300||3.0||4.6||1.8||23.4||35.0||3.0||11.9|
To show what some of those numbers mean in real life, here are some images of the cases stacked on top of each other.
OK, let's take a look at the vintage 300T first generation. It had the thinnest of the 300T cases and in my opinion a better bezel number profile than the later Synchron bezels. The bezel is about the same thickness as a number of the modern SUBs but the profile is different. The grip area is only about 50% of the bezel thickness. It was also only 60 clicks as opposed to the majority of the modern SUBs which have a 120 click rotation. Where the 300T scores highly for me is that the case accounts for most of the watch thickness. The trend with the modern SUBs is to increase the bezel and caseback thickness at the expense of the case thickness. This just unbalances the watch in my view. Look at the original 300T case above and compare it with the new 300T in the image below. I don't have any of the new 300T models but my friend bought one and sent the image. Boy have things changed, and not for the better in my opinion. Compare the component ratio between this watch and the vintage SUB 300T. More than 50% of the watch height was comprised of the case in the vintage 300T. Look at the new 300T, now it is the bezel and the caseback which make up the majority of the height.
When DOXA released the 600T it was almost a home run. The length and width and lug width dimensions were the same as the vintage. It faithfully used the 60 click bezel with almost the same size grip area which although a nice touch, the rotation of the bezel actually feels rough compared to the later 120 click bezels and my perfect SUB would have to have a 120 click bezel. The 600T also replaced the original flat mineral crystal with a slightly domed sapphire crystal and also had a bracelet which resembled the vintage beads of rice bracelet.
However as nice as it was, the beads were not individual pieces. Where the 600T really missed the mark was the crown and caseback. The crown design resulted in particularly sharp edges and both it and the caseback used the Jenny fish symbol instead of the correct DOXA name and sailing boat. Sadly, this continued throughout the whole of the 20 year Marei era until the release of Rick's swan song, the 50th Anniversary SUB 300. A watch that would have been an excellent contender for my perfect SUB except for the crystal. It singlehandedly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But more of it later.
So lets pause here for a moment and get one thing out of the way. I don't like the Jenny fish logo on my DOXA watches. Yes, Jenny own DOXA but they don't need to pollute their own history and that of DOXA with some kind of misplaced cross pollination. Jenny made some tremendous dive watches. They have a great history but when they start calling the Jenny fish the DOXA fish then you know that the dimwit marketing people have taken over the funny farm. The Jenny fish has a big J in it for God's sake. It's as much a DOXA fish as I am Mike Tyson's sister. Heck, it has got so bad that they now paint the darn thing orange on the crown....Sigh!!!!!!!! It's a DOXA, not a Jenny.
Ah, heck, while I'm on a rant. I just can't consider the new SUB 200 and the C-Graph as true SUBs. If I was to be honest, I'd say they are actually quite nice watches, but they don't have Tonneau cases, they don't have NODECO bezels, they don't have classic quadrant dials, they don't have the classic big / small hands but they do have the Jenny fish plastered all over them. Call them a Jenny watch or a DOXA Diveline or something, but not a DOXA SUB. If they had called the C-Graph something like the DOXA OceanTimer or even C-Graph without the SUB it would have been so much better. There is nothing about them that even vaguely looks like a DOXA SUB. Seriously, DOXA need to sack the dimwit marketing people.
The problem with the DOXA SUB, and in some ways it is a nice problem to have, is that it is such an iconic watch that there isn't much you can do with it. There are only so many dial colors you can use before it gets ridiculous looking. DOXA have tried a couple of different things like increasing the size, hence the 750T or changing the material resulting in the titanium 800Ti, but there are only so many things they can do. As much as I dislike the SUB 300 Carbon, it looks like a true DOXA SUB. It also looks awful as far as I'm concerned. If they had made it a true carbon fiber watch I would have definitely given it a thumbs up with a few points docked for the stupid price but even though it is in essence a resin case which has a few flakes of carbon fiber thrown in, they at least tried something different. Yep, you probably guessed it, although it meets the size requirements, it sure ain't on my list of perfect SUB contenders.
OK, on with the show. Then came the SUB 1000T. I think the 1000T came pretty close with the case and bezel and crown. The crystal was still domed but less than the 600T, the crown had lost its sharp edges and the bezel was 120 clicks. The case thickness was still pretty close to that of the 600T, however the overall watch thickness increased by more than 1mm because of the increased thickness of both the bezel and caseback. Why was this? Well, pretty much because of the water depth arms race. Each generation of modern SUB had to have a higher depth rating so I was told it necessitated a thicker caseback partly because of the stress calculation and partly to allow the movement to sit lower in the case because of the thicker crystal. I'm not going to argue because I never saw any of the engineering drawings or stress calculations but the caseback alone kicked the watch out of contention. But seriously, who the hell needs a watch rated to 600, 1000, 1200 meters? Realistically, even 300 meters is overkill. I'm glad to see that DOXA has now gone back to its roots with a SUB 300T.
Next came the 1200T which was just an evolution of the 1000T with a higher depth rating and a Helium Escape Valve (HEV). Yea, the HEV that totally pulled the 1200T right off the stage before it even got started singing. Man, it annoys me so much. The way it is offset towards the top of the case side and not centered is absolutely sloppy design. DOXA got it right on the 5000T but totally screwed the aesthetic on the 1200T. But its not the first time. Cough, cough... 750 GMT 24 hour ring ... cough, cough!!!! I was also going to say that something like that would never have been released by the likes of Rolex or Hublot, then I remembered the two watches shown below. As my mother would have said…"Sweet, Merciful Jesus!!!!". Although in fairness they are not engineering design mistakes, they are just the antithesis of everything that is good taste.
The sad thing about the 1200T HEV is that the new 300T uses the same case. DOXA had a chance to fix it. They initially released the new 300T with no HEV then decided to use the 1200T case with the same offset HEV. Interestingly enough they did change the crystal from slightly domed to flat. Now that gets a double thumbs up. Sadly, the 1200T case is bottom of my list of possibles for the 300T FD.
It's not that the 1200T HEV is a failure and for most people it's a total non event, but for me if the HEV had been centered it would have made the case the perfect modern DOXA SUB case. Kinda, hero to zero for the sake of 0.3mm. It's all about attention to detail. My father always said: "It's not just about being better, it's about being seen to be better. There is a lot of competition out there. Don't let yourself down by being sloppy and thinking: it will do". The original Conquistador did the HEV differently. The underside of the case shows the HEV tube. Yes it too was offset but trying to center it about the curved edge would have destroyed the line of the case. Ultimately the simple answer for the 1200T would have entailed a slight modification to the angle of the underside of the case.
I was one of the design team for the first ever 15,000 psi DST (Drill Stem Test) tools. It was a million years ago and my design drawings were done by hand on a drawing board rather than use AutoCAD which was in its infancy. I still have my copy of the Mechanical Engineers Reference book and my Bullshit-O-Meter still twitches when someone tells me they couldn't do something because …insert lame excuse… We were pushing the envelope of high pressure, high temperature downhole tools and if you screwed up it cost a ton of money. Last time I was offshore a couple of years ago, the rental of a drilling rig was north of $500,000 a day, so say it was even half of that back then, if your DST or wireline tool crapped out, the company man was over you like a cheap suit and the words: "I'm going to run you off" were the last thing you wanted to hear. We did some pretty demanding stuff but probably nothing near as hard as fixing the position of a SUB 1200T HEV.
And just to prove a point, I took a picture showing why the caseback thickness had to be increased to accomodate the movement position change because of the increased crystal thickness for depth rating, blah, blah, blah. The image above shows how much the movement rotor protrudes below the bottom of the case. Oh, no, wait a minute, it doesn't. Anyone else's Bullshit-O-Meter twitching?
However, as much as I sigh deeply whenever I look at the HEV, I love my 1200T DWL. Heck it basically signifies reaching the top of Everest for any watch collector. I got my own watch. Yea, a watch forever associated with me, the Flying Doctor, the DOXA guy. I am forever grateful to the Legends who's stories make up the book and to Rick Marei for producing the DWL SUB and, icing on the cake, giving me number 1. Other than the HEV, the case really does come close to the perfect SUB case and if DOXA ever produce one with a properly aligned HEV, I will buy one and transpose my DWL innards into it.
And that brings us to the SUB 300 50th Anniversary which compares very favorably to the vintage 300 it is based on. Just look at the images above and below. OK wipe away the drool from your screen. The SUB 300 50th was almost an exact replica of the original SUB 300 even down to the US Divers logo on the dial. I'd like to give a shout out to Ty Alley here because it was him who set up the DOXA and US Divers co-operation which resulted in getting that spectacular logo on the dial.
The 50th SUB 300 ticked so many boxes. It really is the best of the best in so many ways.
The thin bezel with non luminous black inner dot, just like the original, same high domed crown with DOXA on it and even the rotor only had DOXA with no Jenny fish logo. Heck, the only place with the fish was on the bracelet clasp, but you could almost forgive that because of the flared last links of the bracelet.
The SUB 300 50th could almost have been the perfect DOXA SUB except for one thing..... the crystal. You see the thing that makes the vintage SUB 300 different to the SUB 300T isn't just that it is thinner and lighter. The outside case dimensions are the same but the case thickness is smaller and it uses a domed crystal rather than a flat one. No what really sets it apart is that the dial is smaller. The SUB 300 dial is 26mm in diameter whereas the SUB 300T is 27mm. Doesn't sound like a lot and in the vintage watches it really isn't noticeable until both watches are side by side. So how can that be if the watches have the same size bezel etc. Well, it's the chapter ring. In the 300T chapter ring the edges are parallel whereas in the 300 they slope inwards reducing the dial area by 1mm. Just for information and comparison, the dial size for the modern SUB 1200T / 300T is 27.4mm and for the new SUB 300 it is 26.4mm.
The image above may not be the best I've ever taken but as they say: a picture is worth a thousand words. Look at what the domed sapphire crystal does to the dial. Because of the parallax ring, it effecively shrinks the dial to 23mm. I guess for many people it doesn't bother them but for me it is such a distraction. In fairness, the image above shows the worst position. At different angles, it isn't as noticable but I just wish they had used a 600T style domed crystal. For my wife, who basically commandeered both 50th watches, it doesn't bother her in the slightest. She thinks the watches are just plain beautiful and I ain't getting them back.
So what about the dial? Orange of course but for me I'd use the SUB 1000T dial. Why? Because of the extra sub minute markers. Go back and look closely at the SUB 1000T image or the 5000T above. The sub minute markers were only ever used on the 1000T for the smaller cased watches but can be found on the larger cases like the 5000T and 800Ti. And here's where I come right out of left field and say…"and use applied markers". I'd asked about using these on a SUB many times over the years but basically never got a response. Although they did appear on the 5000T but not the way I wanted them to be, which would have been a rectangular ring with 3 segments. The inner filled with lume and the two outside ones filled with black paint. The 5000T markers really look a bit crude but I think they would have worked if DOXA had painted the outside surfaces black. I've tried to show what they would look like in the image above. Also note the raised metal band around the date window. Lovely!
Why do I want them? Because I want the SUB 300T FD to stand out from every other DOXA SUB made. Take a look at the image above. It shows two Omega 300 Seamasters. A 2254 on the left and a 2230 on the right. Notice the differences on the dial. The one on the left is just like a Doxa SUB. It uses painted on lume and lettering. Now look at the one on the right. It uses applied steel bands around the markers and an applied Omega. In my mind it just looks classier. Yes, it is basically still the same Seamaster dive watch but it's been taken up a notch.
I'd leave the lettering painted on. But I'd stick to the original font for the wording as I just don't like the font used on the new SUBs.
As for the caseback, I'd use the one from the 50th Anniversary SUB 300, but just make it a bit thinner. I think DOXA did an excellent job on the caseback, crown and bezel on that watch so I'd use the crown and bezel too.
For a bracelet I'd use the tapered bracelet from the New 300 but ditch the fish logo. I certainly wouldn't use the endlinks from the new 300T. They look terrible because of the way they protrude past the edge of the case. Look at the image above. Twitch, twitch...... The Marei era solid endlinks are fine. Not completely flush but not poke you in the eye the way the new ones are. The pressed steel SUB 600T endlinks are actually a better fit. Keep the Marei era folded clasp as opposed to the newer one on the 5000T and new SUB 300T. The new one is a great clasp and suits the larger cased SUBs but I think it just overpowers the smaller case.
Also make endlinks with a flat profile like on the vintage bracelet. New endlinks with the beads profile are purely a Marei era artifact. I prefer the flat vintage style. I've modified the images above to show what they could look like. I'm sure it would be possible to reproduce the brushed finish on the case to match.
So where does that leave us? Assuming all the modern SUB parts were interchangeable, the closest I could get to the perfect SUB for my 300T FD would be this:
CASE - SUB 1000T
BEZEL - SUB 300 50th
CASEBACK - SUB 300 50th
CRYSTAL - SUB 300T
CROWN - SUB 300 50th
BRACELET - SUB 300 50th
CLASP - SUB 1000T
ENDLINKS - SUB 600T
It would be a watch I'd buy in a heartbeat. Would it be perfect? No. I'd need a HEV, brushed endlinks and the applied markers dial to add the finishing touches.
Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world and most of the modern DOXA SUB parts are not interchangeable. The first thing I did when I got the SUB 300 50th was to remove the caseback to see it it would fit my 1200T DWL. Sadly it didn't. I've never tried to remove a bezel from a modern SUB so I have no idea if they would be interchangeable either so I'm really back to the land of make believe where one day DOXA made a SUB with all the ingredients of my SUB 300T FD. I can but dream, but in the meantime any one of the watches in the group shot above comes pretty close. It may not be my perfect watch but it is a hell of a great dive watch. As I said on the Author's Note page of the 50th Anniversary book: "It's not just another Dive watch, it's a DOXA." That makes it good enough for me!