Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung
Doxa have been brought to the forefront of the minds of Dive Watch fanatics relatively recently with the triumphant re-release of the SUB 300T. Arguably, one of the most well thought out tool watches in existence, the SUB 300T set the bench mark in the late 1960s with innovative features that have been
copied, plagiarised, adopted by other brands since. The pioneers at Doxa endowed the SUB 300T with a helium escape valve, a no-decompression calculator bezel and that infamous orange dial.
Little was wrong with the original, so little was changed for the reissue. An up-to-date movement and sapphire glass was all it took to take the dive watch market by storm once again. Multiple dial colours also aided in creating a wholesome catalogue.
So, who are Aqua Lung and what is their relevance here? US Divers was the company of the most famous underwater explorer of all time, Jacques Cousteau. He had such high regards for the first Doxa SUB 300T, after himself and his crew wore them aboard his aquatic research vessel, Calypso, that he brokered a deal for it to be exclusively distributed by US Divers. The current name for this company is Aqua Lung and was thus monikered after the Aqua Lung, created by Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in 1943. Aqua Lung is world renowned and regularly considered the benchmark for all professional and recreational diving equipment.
The Aqua Lung logo proudly emblazoned on the carbon dial
The brand new 42.5mm (width) x 45mm (lug to lug) case with a height of 13.4mm is constructed from forged carbon. This high-end material proffers vastly improved impact and scratch resistant whilst being incredibly light (a remarkable 45 grams), to the point where you forget you are wearing it. I discuss the weight of a timepiece with many customers. They often do not like the carbon based materials because they are light and psychologically do not represent the robust nature of a tool watch. However, I always argue that they are trying the watch in isolation within the time constraints of a store viewing. Once you get to wear that oversized divers watch, with case and bracelet manufactured from high-density stainless steel, on a permanent basis with your daily activities constantly moving said watch up and down your wrist as a combination of its inherent heft and the pendulum motion of your arm, it will start to become fatiguing in short order. Through extensive experience I can say that wearing a lighter watch is more pleasurable long term than the heavier alternative. For what is, ostensibly, a form over function utility timepiece, it has now been elevated to an every day, every hour, every minute companion by this extraordinary case material.
The Doxa 300T case is the ideal platform for this material aesthetically because of those strong, tapered lugs which offer beneficial real estate to highlight the optical illusion of an ever changing surface, as if cream is slowly dispersing into hot coffee. Gazing upon the case can be likened to witnessing the carving of black marble.
I do love a curved sapphire glass and the one supplemented on the SUB Aqua Lung is a design success. This is borrowed from the popular, and incredible value, SUB 200. Itself a contemporary re-styling of a vintage Doxa Diver. It causes a mesmerising distortion of the dial edge, which I personally find captivating and reminiscent of the refracted disfigurement of items below the water’s surface, which is where the Doxa SUB families were created for.
I also like the additional height this box glass conveys. The SUB 300 Carbon is a relatively slim watch within the diving watch industry (only 11mm without the glass) and can easily afford this extra dimension.
The domed glass of the superb SUB 200T
All great dive watches need bold, legible hands and the Doxa Aqua Lung is no exception. The stark white hour hand and hour markers contrast perfectly with the forged carbon dial. As does the attention grabbing yellow minute hand (the most important indicator on a dive watch) in Aqua Lung’s corporate yellow hue.
Below is a close up of the unique carbon dial, which also highlights the desired level of contrast to create practical legibility.
After dark and deep water legibility is a given with such liberally applied Superluminova©.
A carbon forged screw down crown and titanium inner plus screw down case back allow an impressive 300m water resistance.
The engraved case back also highlights the Limited Edition status of just 300 pieces worldwide.
The patented uni-directional bezel, with integrated no-decompression dive time calculator, is also presented in forged carbon. It has a flawless feel to it with a precise click and locations for each of the 120 positions.
The chronometer certified movement is based on ETA’s tried and tested 2824-2 movement. This 25 ruby ebauche runs at a smooth 28800 vph and offers 38 hours of power reserve.
The synthetic rubber strap is incredibly flexible, very strong and joyfully comfortable. This is enhanced by a PVD coated clasp with Doxa Fish symbol, that can be extended at will by the wearer by pressing the two buttons either side of the clasp. Designed primarily to offer on-the-fly expansion when wearing a wet suit, the clever ratchet mechanism allows integer increments of about 1mm to give the ideal fit year round, as your wrist inevitably expands during heat increases or as you work out. As hinted at before, this diver’s watch can be worn infinitum with no detrimental affects to the wearer. This is much rarer than you may think.
Unique packaging has been created for the Aqua Lung limited edition in the form of a water resistant (no depth given) zipped pouch. A Doxa/Aqua Lung logo’d lanyard is also included for convenient portability.
It is impossible to sum up the Doxa Aqua Lung without paying respect to the proprietary forged carbon case. This light-as-a-feather, strong-as-an-ox, rare-as-hen’s-teeth, cool-as-**** material would elevate the desirability of any watch to a point where it could mask other inferior specifications or design.
However, the SUB 300 Aqua Lung Limited Edition is no one-trick pony. The SUB 300T, of which it is based, is arguably the most recognisable and respected dive watch on the market.
The wristwatch world changed overnight when this was released in 1967. Very little has changed with the design since then because Doxa got it right first time, with the help of a few of its friends (the aforementioned Jacques Cousteau and the US Divers Company).
One of the new design elements that consistently fills me with delight is the domed sapphire crystal. This double box glass at once offers a contemporary characteristic whilst borrowing from an aesthetical element ubiquitous in a by-gone era. Historically, the “glass” in a wristwatch wasn’t. It was often a form of transparent plastic (Hardlex©, Hesalite©, etc). It was relatively easy to create a pronounced domed profile as each glass was stamped individually. Sapphire glass, by comparison, is grown in a cylindrical tube that is then, usually, sliced to create your common-garden-variety glass of today. Therefore, creating a double-box sapphire crystal is not exactly cost effective. But, boy, is it worth it. The stealthy forged carbon case and optically contrasting bright yellow hands, logo and bezel script are enhanced by the stylistic and practical prone sapphire glass. What a stunning triumvirate.
One unfortunate consequence of the forged carbon case is the omission of a helium escape valve which, whilst being redundant to 99.99% of all SUB 300T wearers, has historical pertinence as it was Doxa who inaugurated this technology into the first ever commercially available dive watch with this saturation diving technology, the Conquistador in 1969.
One perplexing aspect of the SUB 300 Aqua Lung is the outlandish length of the rubber strap straight from the box. I appreciate I do not have the largest wrist in the world (an athletic 18cm) and that future purchasers may wish to have the SUB 300T Aqua Lung fit over a wet suit, but why oh why did it have to be 35cm? Flippancy aside, this will, of course, be cut down to fit you perfectly by our technicians at Andrew Michaels Jewellers.
Why so long Doxa?
How much extra strap do you really need?????
It’s not as if the head doesn’t suit my 18cm wrist.
To sum up, Doxa have taken one of the best dive watches ever designed and bestowed it with an industry leading material, a chronometer rated movement plus confident, yet pertinent, design details to create, arguably, one of the best utilitarian timepieces I have ever worn. Well, sort of worn (see bemusing images above). There are so many enthralling and attractive visual details that I often found myself staring at it without a care for what the time was in actuality.
The class leading SUB 300 Carbon is gorgeous to look at, incredibly robust, guaranteed accurate, always legible and infinitely wearable. The initial reaction to the 242% price increase over the standard model may be one of incongruous astonishment but I would gladly argue that this is influenced by the fact that the standard 300T is an absolute bargain and the Aqua Lung Limited Edition is also worth every single penny of the £4590 asking price. In fact, it is my favourite sub-£5000 dive watch, and I begrudgingly congratulate the lucky 300 people who will get to own one.
The SUB 300 Aqua Lung Carbon Sharkhunter Limited Edition heralds a new chapter for Doxa and a new standard for Dive Watches.