DOXA SUB 200 T.GRAPH CHRONO COMPARED TO THE POLJOT ORANGE CHRONO
© Dr. Peter McClean Millar - March 2003
Put yourself in this position. You want a SUB 200 T.GRAPH CHRONO. They are as rare as hen's teeth. They come up for auction about 3 times a year and the last one, which was in reasonably good condition, sold for over 1,000 dollars. Doxa don't look like they will make a reissue anytime soon. You look around at alternatives and the closest thing is a Poljot orange faced chronograph. Just what is a poor boy to do? The price is around 200 bucks, so you buy it. Does it even come close to the classic 200 T.Graph Chrono? A watch worn by luminaries likes Jacques Cousteau and Gene Cernan. Would Uri Gagarin have worn the Poljot "Orange Bruteski" if it had been around at the time? Actually, chances are, probably, yes!
So that was my position. I knew that given my somewhat impecunious, student circumstances for the next 18 months, the chance of owning a 200 T.Graph Chrono were slim indeed, so I ordered an orange Poljot from Frank Spar at Russian Souvenirs. Delivery took less than 3 weeks and I recommend Frank highly as someone to do business with. Now before I start this comparison review, I need to make a few things clear. I don't actually own a 200 T.Graph Chrono. I have a fair amount of information on them and a load of photos, so this review is a little bit virtual, however, hopefully people will enjoy the exercise. Another thing is that it was really difficult to get the orange colour of the Poljot to photograph correctly. The images tended to be a bit more yellow than the watch dial is in real life. I am also indebted to David Harwell, Michael Fall, Pete Gardella and a few other nameless individuals for the use of their photos and information on the Doxa.
The Poljot arrived in a standard watch box with a comprehensive manual in both Russian and English. I also ordered a separate steel bracelet because I thought the original rubberized strap was a bit too eye catching from the photos I had seen of the watch before buying it. However, when it arrived I was quite surprised at how well the strap matched the look of the watch. The bracelet is matte finish and is perhaps a little darker than the brushed finish of the case. It is hard to tell, but I think a shiney finish bracelet would have been too shiney for the case. Although not quite perfect, the one I bought is probably the best match.
It is unlikely that any of the original SUB 200 T.Graph boxes are still around. I'm guessing that the package looked something like the box for the SUB 300T Professional. Similarly, I would have expected the manual to be along the lines of that which came with the SUB 300T.
One of the things that Doxa get requested for the most is a replacement bracelet for the SUB series of watches. The original 'rice grain' bracelet that shipped with the SUB 200 T.Graph was innovative for its day. On closing the clasp, the length could be adjusted with a ratchet, sliding movement and the two pieces at either side of the clasp were spring loaded and allowed the bracelet to expand when the wrist was flexed. Fancy, it was, but strong and durable, it wasn't. The bracelets tended to self destruct fairly quickly. This wasn't surprising as the watch itself had a big, heavy case and the bracelet wasn't up to dealing with it. The extra bracelet I ordered with the Poljot is a heavy stainless steel unit with a side mounted push button clasp. It is reminiscent of the movement on the Seiko bracelet. It completely transformed the Poljot when I replaced the orange strap with it. One word of warning. It was a b#$@%&d to resize. It uses normal link split pins but they were so stiff that I even broke my link splitter trying to remove a few links. The links on the 200 T.Graph are held together by screwed pins, not unlike those used on the Doxa SUB 300T reissues. It is now clear that Doxa tried very hard to make the reissue as close to the old SUBs as possible.
The photo above shows the Poljot dial up close. This image is probably the closest to the actual colour of the dial. Just like the SUB 200 T.Graph it has 2 subdial indicators and a date window. The minute counter is at the "3 o'clock" position, the date window at "6 o'clock" and the second counter is at the "9 o'clock" position.
The main sweep-type second hand of the chronograph is operated by the stop - start pushers on the side of the case. The sweep hand resets very fast and dead on the 12 marker. For many people it is a change to see a mechanical chrono reset compared to the slow, smooth movement of a quartz watch. The bezel which is graded in 360 degrees and has compass point markings rotates freely in an anti-clockwise direction. There is a small amount of play in the bezel but it feels quite tight and rotates with a resounding click. For those that are interested, here is a great piece on using your watch as a compass. The Bezel on the 200 T.Graph is the famous Doxa non decompression dive table bezel. It rotates unidirectionally and just like that on the SUB 300T models is stiff and clicks firmly into place. The size of the Poljot case is very similar to the SUB 200 T.Graph, the Poljot being 45mm lug to lug, 45mm wide (including the crown) and almost 14mm thick. The Doxa measures 46mm lug to lug, 46mm wide (including crown) and just over 14mm thick. Both watches also weigh about the same at around 160 grams (including bracelets).
The hands and numerals of the Poljot are coated with superluminova. The hands glow very brighly even without charging them with a light source. The numerals are a different matter. At first I thought that they hadn't been coated at all, but on closer examination it is possible to see a very faint glow. However, if you charge the dial, then the hands really light up and the numerals glow fairly well too. My initial tests showed that the numeral glow fades fairly quickly and after around 10 minutes they are quite dim. The hands retain their luminosity for about 30 minutes before becoming weak. This test was done by leaving the watch in a totally dark room. My first reaction was that the superluminova was just useless. However, when I did the same test with the Orange Monster Seiko and reissue Doxa, the same thing happened. The luminosity died very quickly indeed. I then did a "real world" test, where I charged the Poljot dial for 15 seconds and left it beside my bed overnight. The room is not totally dark as there is a dim light from outside. The hands and numbers on the Poljot were still readable, if somewhat dim, 6 hours later. The only way I can explain the phenomenon is that in the bedroom the small amount of light and photons were enough to keep the superluminova material active, whereas in a totally dark room the energy level fell off quickly. On the second showing, the Poljot luminosity is as good as the reissue Doxas. The SUB 200 T.Graph hands and markers are coated with Tritium. The dial is marked <25 MC, which means the strength, is less than 25 miliCuries. I have an old SUB 300T Sharkhunter and its dial has the same markings as the 200 T.Graph. Even after almost 30 years the hands and markers glow quite well.
The 200 T.Graph used the Cal. 287 chronograph movement. It is 17 jewels and was fairly complicated for its day. It was also used by a number of other Swiss watch manufacturers and proved to be reliable and accurate. Finding any other information on the movement has proven to be almost impossible.
The Poljot uses its own movement called the 3133. The 3133 movement has the following attributes: 23 Ruby jewels, Balance period 0.33(3)s, Mean daily rate from -10 to +20 s/day, 43-h winding with stopwatch turned-off and 37-h winding with stopwatch turned-on. The movement is based on a Valjoux 7734 but parts are not interchangable. Feedback on a number of forums suggests that the movement is reliable and accurate. Informal tests over a 24 hour period shows a gain of 16 seconds. This isn't bad at all for a new watch which has not bedded in yet and I would expect the accuracy to improve over the next few weeks.
The Poljot movement is fairly well finished and I ordered a glass caseback for the watch. This shows the movement very nicely. The original caseback says that it is stainless steel and water resistant to 3 atmospheres. This is 30 meters or 100 feet, so the Poljot could easily be used for scuba diving. However, the crown is not screw down and I'd take the depth rating with a pinch of salt until it was proven to be reliable. The SUB 200 T.Graph is rated to 200 Meters or 666 feet. Again, if I was buying a 30 year old example, I'd be very wary of diving with it no matter how well it was looked after.
Ultimately, the question is not, would I buy a Poljot "Orange Bruteski" over a Doxa SUB 200 T.Graph, but more; would I want to buy a Poljot "Orange Brutski" at all? It's a simple answer. YES. The Poljot is a great watch for the money. It is a limited edition (only 1,200 made). It is an accurate mechanical chronograph with the potential for long life and reliability. It is comfortable to wear, stands out from the crowd and is fairly inexpensive. Where else can you get a mechanical chronograph of this quality for the same price? It isn't a substitute for a 200 T.Graph, however, having said that, it is available and within the price range of most people. The 200 T.Graph most certainly isn't. Poljot may not have the history and 'name' that Doxa has but they are coming of age in the watch world and more and more people are beginning to sit up and take notice. Besides, until Doxa bring out a SUB 200 T.Graph, the Poljot is a pretty good substitute.