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Doxa  - SUB 300T Professionnal: Orange is the New Black

Doxa SUB 300T Professionnal: Orange is the New Black

Ordinarily, a game-changing watch’s claim to fame is technical — for Doxa’s SUB 300T, it was nearly all about the dial colour, the diving watch that made orange the de rigueur hue*

Whether art imitates life or vice versa, when real-world watches cross into the realm of fiction, they acquire their own sort of kudos. It’s no accident that Ian Fleming strapped a Rolex to James Bond’s wrist in the novels, and — in a rare case of respecting the source material — that Sean Connery wore a Rolex in the early films. For thriller writer Clive Cussler, his adventurer hero Dirk Pitt could only wear one watch, the model favoured by his creator: an orange dialled Doxa SUB 300T. Cussler’s choice for his macho protagonist was apt, for the Doxa SUB 300T was and remains an outsized, rugged tool watch that can withstand the abuse one would expect it to sustain if worn by a man of action. While its most distinctive feature might to the uninitiated seem to be some sort of fashion statement, the signature orange dial was developed for a valid reason. At the time of its creation, orange was judged to provide the best underwater legibility for professional and civilian divers. 

Although by the Noughties orange has proven to be ubiquitous, even appearing on land-based timepieces never expected to get wet, few would contest that the SUB 300T was the watch that put orange dials on the map. It’s appeared on models as affordable as Seiko’s ‘Orange Monster’, up through to assorted Models from Oris, Chopard, Breitling and TAG Heuer. Today we may accept it as yet another dial colour choice, but it must have been a shocker in 1966.

In addition to proving to the diving community the choice of orange as the colour of for superior legibility, the SUB 300T gave Doxa its own icon. The distinctive dial hue was accompanied by a tonneau-shaped case and multi-link ‘beads of rice’ bracelet, enabling the brand to create a family of watches that has featured chronographs and GMTs, as well as versions with black or silvertoned dials. More recently, Doxa has added other shades, while over the decades the depth rating has gone up to 1200M

SUB 300T Professionnal: Orange is the New Black

SUB 300T Professionnal © Doxa

Lake Colours

First shown as a prototype at the 1966 Basel watch fair, the SUB 300T was Doxa’s entry into the sport diving sector, the civilian offshoot of professional and military applications. In 1964, the brand’s then-Commercial Director Urs Eschle set up a team to create an affordable alternative to the Rolex and Blancpain models preferred by professionals. French diver Claude Wesly, a protégé of Jacques Cousteau, was part of the team of watchmakers and professional divers who would develop it.

Contemporary watch enthusiasts hardly blink at a 42mm case, but in the 1960s, that was considered massive. It ensured, however, that reliability and security would match the watch’s legibility. The SUB 300T also featured a helium release valve and an easy-to-grip unidirectional bezel and scale, developed with the US Navy decompression table as its model and thus resulting in a patent for Doxa.

Doxa used Lake Neuchatel as a testing ground for the dial colours and the team also experimented with red, yellow and turquoise. Orange proved the winner, the dial enhanced by bold luminous hands and indices, including an extra-fat minute hand, as minutes are of far greater concern to divers than hours. Despite its commercial appeal based in part on price — and Doxa’s SUB models remain bargains to this day — the watch met the approval of the US Divers Company (now Aqua Lung America) research team, so credibility was assured.

But back to Dirk Pitt. Without being courted by Doxa, Cussler chose the SUB 300T himself, wearing one for more than 60 underwater expeditions since 1968, especially diving for shipwrecks. A grateful Doxa repaid Cussler for the exposure, producing a special ‘Dirk Pitt’ edition of the SUB 750T Professional timed to coincide with the release of 2005’s Sahara.

Regarded by Doxa as a ‘reinterpretation’ of the original, it extends water resistance to 750m, and a case size 2mm larger than the 42mm of the 1966 original prototype, with a flat sapphire crystal. The dial is gloss orange, with white Super-LumiNova for the markers and hands. It differs from the regular SUB 750T thanks to engraving on the back commemorating the film and identifying its number within a series of 5,000.

In 2021, Doxa released the SUB 600T collection with a choice of two bezel versions — featuring a steel or ceramic insert — and in six colours, increasing the appeal of the SUB models to a new demographic. For 2022, the company released the all-black Army Watch. But the SUB 300T remains at the heart of the range, still in steel, its features intact — and still best-dressed in orange.

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

*Written by Ken Kessler


The brand

DOXA was founded in 1889 by an independent Swiss entrepreneur, Georges Ducommun. Located in Le Locle (NE), in the heart of the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking, the brand has always offered technical watches with thoughtful pricing. Established in its first years (1905), creative (8-day calibre dedicated to automotive), DOXA also distinguished themselves from the competition with their designs (the Grafic watch, 1957).

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