DOXA - The Watch You've Never Heard Of

Mar 17, 2014

There are many reasons people collect vintage timepieces; some do it for the aesthetic, others for the investment, and others just do it for the love of old things.  The reason we collect vintage wristwatches is to enjoy a tangible connection to the past.  Of course, not every old watch is worth collecting.  Many collectors stick to just one brand, but we prefer to have a diverse collection representing interesting, iconic, and historically significant timepieces.  Sometimes this means taking the path less traveled.

There are a handful of iconic brand names that always make the ‘favorites’ list amongst collectors.  Think Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Heuer.  No one would argue that these are prominent brands with important contributions to horology, and worthy of being collected.  Yet it is easy to overlook the fact that there are other, lesser-known ­‑ even forgotten ­­­‑ brands that have had their own impact in the history of timekeeping.  There is one in brand in particular that created a timepiece which is arguably the most important diver’s watch you’ve never heard of.


Doxa Sub 300 Professional Watch

The brand is DOXA and the watch is the Sub 300 Professional.  Unveiled in 1967, the watch was developed to meet the needs of the burgeoning sport of SCUBA Diving, and was created with the collaboration of the father of SCUBA himself, Jacques Cousteau.  The Sub 300 was developed from the ground-up to be the ultimate tool for professionals and amateur divers alike, and featured a number of important innovations in wristwatch design that are still used today.

Here is a quick look at a few of DOXA’s contributions to diving watches.  We’d be willing to bet you had no idea where these came from:

  • Uni-Directional Rotating Bezel with No-Decompression Markings:  The bezel is the single most important component of the original DOXA Sub.  Unlike earlier divers, the bezel on the Sub 300 only rotates in one direction, to avoid possible mishaps while diving.  Furthermore, the stainless bezel is engraved with the US Navy’s no-decompression dive limits, which allow the user to time their dives using the bezel as a simple dive time computer.
  • Orange Dial:  Before the Sub 300, most diving watches had black dials, which were not easily read in dark, murky waters.  Breaking this mold, DOXA experimented with brightly colored dials that would enhance legibility underwater. The choice of an orange dial was bold, and made the watch much easier to read at depth.  Although modern science has proven that light blue dials are the most easily read underwater (blue is the last color in the spectrum to be filtered out in water, which is why water appears blue), orange dials remain the brand’s signature, and have since been copied by numerous other brands.
  • Helium Release Valve (HRV): An invention that is generally credited to Rolex, the development of the HRV was essential for saturation divers performing work at extreme depths.  The valve releases helium build-up in the case as the pressure increases with depth, preventing the crystal from blowing off and causing catastrophic failure.  Although records are sparse, patent documents show that DOXA patented the world’s first HRV in 1969, and made it available commercially the same year in their Conquistador model.  Rolex also released an HRV in 1969 on a non-date Submariner model known as the 5514 but that was only available to COMEX divers.  The now-famous Seadweller model didn’t become commercially available until 1972.  It has been suggested by timepiece historians that the technology was co-developed between the two brands, but there is no question that DOXA brought it to market commercially before Rolex.

These innovations played an important role in the evolution of the modern diving watch, and although DOXA faded into obscurity for over 20 years during the quartz crisis, the impact of their innovative diver’s timepiece is still felt today.

Words by: James Lamdin - A vintage watch connoisseur and founder of analog/shift ( , an online boutique for a curated selection of exceptional wristwatches.

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