Back in August, Doxa announced that it was bringing back the SUB 300, and the impressions were, to put it simply, mixed. Those who know the brand know that a 2020 SUB 300 re-issue was never going to be something that the whole community was behind and, while it’s absolutely a watch that Doxa should make as part of its standard line up, there were complications. You see, this is not the brand’s first attempt to revive its beloved funky late ’60s design.
Before I go further into this look at the latest SUB 300, I figure it’s only fair to state openly that I am a huge fan of this general watch, be it the original “thin case” models from the late ’60s, or any of the more modern re-creations of the form. I own two such examples, and I love wearing both. Furthermore, for those of us who love a dive watch brand with a great backstory, Doxa remains highly under-acknowledged alongside a cadre of much more famous and successful brands that grew to prominence in the ’50s and ’60s.
As HODINKEE has published a lot about this in the past, I will be brief in my explanation regarding the SUB 300’s legacy. Originally launched in 1967, the SUB 300 was, at the time, a modern tool dive watch that prioritized legibility and function over all else. While not Doxa’s first dive watch, it is the design that has informed much of the brand’s success in the resulting years, and with its bold use of color, its uncommon “no-deco” bezel, and its distinctive general design, nothing else looks like a Doxa, and in a sea of black-dialed divers, little has been lost in terms of raw visual effect for Doxa over the past five decades.
Starting in 2017, Doxa launched limited-edition versions that sought to re-create its iconic diver, and thus, the SUB 300 50th Anniversary models were born, with each of the core colors (orange, black, or silver) limited to just 300 units. A few other variations were created shortly thereafter in an expanded attempt to capture the allure of this classic model via the offering of a modern iteration. These watches proved popular, and my personal modern Doxa interest is entirely informed by these 50th Anniversary examples, of which I am the proud owner of a Searambler (silver dial) and a Professional (orange dial).
With that in mind, imagine the surprise when, just this past summer, Doxa announced a new SUB 300 that was very similar to its recent limited edition. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth, but, and I’ve had time to think about this, what else was Doxa to do? Now under new management, how could the brand simply ignore its own core appeal? I’ll return to this shortly, but six new models were announced, and this post will focus on the two colorways that were most requested via the comments, the blue Caribbean and the yellow Divingstar.
Much like the format that was established in 1967, and then laser copied for 2017, the new SUB 300 is 42.5mm wide, 13.4mm thick, and 45mm lug-to-lug, with a wrist presence that wears much smaller than those numbers would suggest. Water resistance is 300 meters, with Super-LumiNova lume and the option of either a rubber (as seen for the Divingstar iteration) or a “beads of rice” steel bracelet (seen on the Caribbean, above).
As is common to Doxa’s three-handers, the SUB 300 uses an ETA 2824-2 Swiss automatic movement. With a date at three, controls via a single screw-down crown, and COSC certification, the SUB 300 is fitted with a solid and dependable movement that is also easily serviced and capable of excellent performance.
With the above outlined as simply as possible, there are two issues at hand. First, there is the issue of Doxa deciding to make a non-limited watch that follows closely to the format established by a previous limited edition. Second, there is the straightforward consideration of how successful it was with the execution of this SUB 300 – aka, is it any good? Let’s start with the limited edition elephant in the room.
In delving into such a topic, it’s worth highlighting that this is a practice not uncommon to any brand. Limited editions are cool, but there is always a chance that sometime in the future, the brand will decide to simply make a mass-production model that captures much of what people loved about a previous LE. Does it suck for limited edition owners? Yes. Is it something that brands should endeavor to avoid? Also, yes. Is the new non-limited SUB 300 something Doxa has to do in order to survive? To my eyes, yes, absolutely.
As the owner of two SUB 300 50th Anniversary models, I was not originally all that pumped to see Doxa release a non-limited edition that is so similar. But with time, and as I mentioned in my original Introducing post, I think this is a watch that Doxa should make, and I totally see how the brand’s new leadership looked at the line-up and saw a SUB 300-shaped hole. In this way, I think we need to see the SUB 300 not as the McRib (may it return), but as Doxa’s BigMac. It’s the classic. That being said, I don’t think that 50th Anniversary owners need to get too worked up. The watches are similar, but not identical, and I think the 2017 LE models will always retain a certain x-factor (my bias being quite clear).
In terms of what sets them apart, take a look at the above image that shows my Searambler Doxa SUB 300 50th Anniversary (left) next to the 2020 standard production SUB 300 in Caribbean spec. For the latest non-limited model, Doxa has COSC timekeeping, a dive bezel in meters rather than feet, Super-LumiNova C3 (vs. the aged-effect “Old Radium” lume, it’s brighter but not by much), a new font for the dial, an orange Doxa fish for the crown, some variance in color and design for the seconds and minutes hand, a new rubber strap with ratcheting dive extension, and the introduction of three new colors; “Caribbean” (navy blue), “Divingstar” (yellow), and “Aquamarine” (turquoise).
Side by side, the two most modern of the SUB 300s feel like any watch model separated by a generation. Small tweaks, more models, etc. It’s all here, but after spending time with both, I don’t think that the new SUB 300 manages to completely drink the 50th Anniversary’s milkshake. They are similar, but not the same. And the sum of the changes for the 2020 model feel more modern and certainly a bit flatter, with the somewhat heavier font (and additional colorways) feeling distinct from my Searambler or Professional. If you’re an LE owner, and you’re upset, I get it. But I would also suggest that the 50th Anniversary models are simply an older generation, and that a new generation was all but unavoidable if Doxa is expected to put its best foot forward. As I said in my initial post, to my eyes, the 2020 SUB 300 is almost certainly the brand’s most desirable model, and I do not feel differently today. So the second question remains: “Is it any good?”
For those not wishing to read any further, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. If you’ve got the coin and want that heady dream-like Doxa buzz, the SUB 300 has it in spades, and the brand has managed to make a few small tweaks go a very long way in making the 2020 SUB 300 stand on its own.
This is my first time spending more than 10 minutes with any Doxa of the Divingstar or Caribbean variety, and both offer the same charm I’ve come to love from the Searambler or Professional. While I will always be a Searamblin’ man at heart, the punch of the Divingstar is endlessly fun (especially on the matched yellow bracelet), and the Caribbean offers a splash of color without the general fatigue of a brightly-dialed watch, making for an excellent everyday iteration that puts its orange accents to good use. I also really like how the Divingstar gets yellow lettering for the bezel while the Caribbean looks perfect with orange text (and I wish the brand had followed suit with the color of the fish on the crown).
While I will always prefer a Doxa SUB 300 on either a tropic rubber strap, a NATO, or a simple leather, both of these examples made strong cases for the stock mount options. The Caribbean suits the “beads-of-rice” bracelet nicely, and the yellow Divingstar rubber strap really seals the deal on the SUB 300’s ability to capture Doxa’s fun-loving and always funky design language. The steel bracelet is simple but comfortable and offers single side-screwed links, solid end links, and a fold-over safety clasp with micro-adjust. Perhaps more impressively, the rubber strap feels perfectly matched to the case and has a push-button ratcheting extension that only further establishes its acumen as a great vacation watch (be it for diving or when quickly loosening the watch on a hot day by the pool).
As I’ve said many times in the past, nothing wears like a Doxa SUB 300. The manner in which the small dial, the curvy case, and the short lugs come together is nothing short of lovely, and these (be they from 1967, 2017, or 2020) remain some of my favorite watches to have on wrist.
Priced from $ 2,450 on rubber and $ 2,490 on steel, I’d likely go for steel and then just swap in a trimmed NATO to make the most out of a very wearable package. As always, legibility is strong, COSC timekeeping is welcome, and the two main touchpoints, the bezel and the crown, both feel more solid and refined than that of either of my 2017 limited editions. The bezel is light and clicky with minimal slop, and the crown, while a bit wobbly in its neutral unscrewed position, is easy to manipulate and screws down in a fashion most buttery.
Competition is far from limited, with brands like Oris, Zodiac, Longines, Rado, Mido, Seiko, Sinn, and TAG Heuer all fighting for supremacy in the $ 1,500 to $ 3,000 space. But the way I see it, if you want a Doxa, you likely don’t want anything else. As something of a Doxa fan, I’m not sure how I would (at a personal level) approach cross-shopping something like the Doxa SUB 300. Sure, it would come down to whatever else is available at ~$ 2,500, but I still see the brand as offering a charm that is unique to Doxa. In fact, in many ways, that charm is unique to the SUB 300 and the essence therein has simply been sprinkled on other models from the brand’s line up. Like the Speedmaster is to Omega or the Submariner is to Rolex’s sports line, the SUB 300 is Doxa.
And ultimately, that’s why I’m not too upset about Doxa undermining the 2017 50th Anniversary LE with its latest SUB 300. Sure, it made a few tweaks and is offering a much wider range of colors – but really – Doxa needs to make a SUB 300 or it kind of isn’t Doxa. It’s not that any other Doxa is somehow less Doxa-y, it’s more like how a band can be solidified around the presence of the lead singer. The SUB 300 is Doxa’s front-person, and with the new SUB 300, they’ve returned to the studio, dug some of their old standards out of storage, made a few changes to the arrangements, and cut a new track that feels like it came from the peak of their powers. Long live the SUB 300.
The Doxa Sub 300 is a steel dive watch with a case that measures 42.5 x 45 x 13.4mm. Using an ETA 2824, the SUB 300 is an automatic watch with a sapphire crystal, a dive-specific “no deco” bezel,” and 300 meters of water resistance. The SUB 300 retails from $ 2,450 (a bit more if you want the steel bracelet) and comes in six different dial colors. Learn more at doxawatches.com.