DOXA [SWISS] SUB 1200T ‘PROFESSIONAL’ LTD ED. FOR DW
STEVE PARHAM OCTOBER 2017
On July 2, 2017, Diver’s Watches Facebook Group Founder, Andreas S. Gregoriades, posted a teaser to the group’s forum that promised a “big announcement” on the following day, Monday, July 3 at 1400 GMT. The oranges featured prominently in the background of the post created quite a stir – could it be possible that the announcement would be tied to DOXA, the Swiss dive watch company best known for its iconic orange dial “Professional” series of dive watches? On July 3 at the appointed time, Andreas revealed that, yes, in fact, this surprise was tied to DOXA in the best way possible – a new limited edition watch was available to the group – specifically a DOXA Model 1200T Professional. Following in the steps of the Aquadive Bathyscaphe, Gruppo Gamma Chrononaut, and Zelos DMT limited edition Diver’s Watches models, the 1200T would be a small production run and would feature prominently the (new) Diver’s Watches group logo on the orange dial. 25 numbered watches (the smallest limited production in the history of DOXA) were made available, and, in less than 60 minutes, all of the watches were reserved.
I was lucky enough to be there in time to get my reservation in, and I have had watch No. 15 of 25 for the last week. I am not a professional watch reviewer by any stretch but, I wanted to share with you what I find to be compelling about this model and why, if you have not done so already, you should seriously consider adding a non-limited edition 1200T (available in various dial colors – Sharkhunter (black), Searambler (silver), Professional (orange), and Caribbean (blue)) to your collection. As an initial matter, my own fascination with SCUBA began as a child watching Jacques Cousteau on TV, and the chance to own (and dive) the same brand of watch with which he made thousands of dives truly makes me feel connected to history.
Speaking of history, in 1969, DOXA released the first helium release valve (HRV) equipped dive watch for sale to the general public. This legendary watch was known as the SUB300 Conquistador. DOXA’s move to release what amounted to a commercial diving tool to the public was a strikingly important development. In 1969, the recreational sport of SCUBA diving was still in its relative infancy. Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan obtained the U.S. patent for their “aqua-lung” regulator in 1963, less than a decade before DOXA’s release of the Conquistador. Blancpain had developed the first modern dive watch, the famous Fifty Fathoms, barely ten years before that in 1953, and Rolex, which had been working on screw-down crowns since the 1920’s, followed along soon thereafter with the Submariner (which was showcased at Basel in 1954). Omega’s Seamaster 300 came out in 1957. However, neither the Fifty Fathoms nor the Submariner nor the Seamaster came with HRV’s. By providing a watch that was designed for BOTH professional and recreational divers, DOXA helped feed the growing fascination with undersea exploration and provided instant credibility for the brand. If the watch could be used in saturation diving for the men tasked with risking their lives undersea in places the like of the North Sea oil fields, then, surely it was more than qualified to take on the barrier reefs and shallow dives of warmer recreational waters.
In 2010, DOXA paid tribute to the ground-breaking Conquistador model with the DOXA SUB1200T (“1200” stands for the 1200 meter depth rating), which was the template for the DWFG limited edition.
It’s more than fair to describe the DWFG 1200T as a modernized version of the original classic Conquistador.
How so? I’m glad you asked:
Case and Dial
The 316L stainless steel case of the DWFG 1200T is the classic cushion-shape that DOXA has long used. General dimensions hearken back more to the SUB300 than to the endlessly growing “standard” dimensions of today, with a lug to lug length of 44.60mm and a case diameter of 42.70mm, excluding the crown (44.50mm including the crown). Thickness, including the 3mm domed sapphire crystal, is a manageable 14.40mm and will fit under most cuffs. Combining those features with a fairly small dial aperture of 27mm, this watch looks and wears more like a 40mm watch than one almost 10% larger. Put simply, the smaller dial results in the optical illusion that the watch is smaller than its actual measurements and creates something of a “porthole” perspective when viewing the face.
I personally find the 1200T’s wearability to dimension ratio similar to that of the Seiko MM300, which to me, has always worn smaller than one would assume based on its paper specifications. However, the “smaller” size does not affect legibility, and the 1200T still enjoys some size advantage over the recent 50th anniversary 300SUB, which features a 25.50mm dial and double domed sapphire crystal making for typically even a smaller wear. The 1200T’s size does not diminish wrist presence, and the crisply printed dial (no applied indices here, which is, in some people’s minds, a shortcoming) combined with the rich orange color make it a conversation piece. And, speaking of orange, no photos do the color justice. It’s a rich creamy orange color that I’ve never seen on another watch.
The fit and finish of the case on my No. 15 are what you would expect in a Swiss-made watch at this price point (approximately $2k USD) – virtually flawless.
Featuring the U.S. Navy’s no-decompression scales, the “Professional” series bezel really defines a DOXA 1200T as much, if not more so, than the orange color of its dial. Although dive computers dominate recreational diving today, it’s nice to know that, if all else fails, I can use this bezel on my first dive of the day to establish No–Deco safety limits. For those who will never dive with the 1200T, the saw-toothed bezel turns easily and clicks satisfyingly with no play and, although actually more subtle in person than in pictures, is guaranteed to be a conversation piece when someone asks “Hey, what’s that on your wrist?”
Although Doxa does not specifically advertise on its web site what lume compound is used in the 1200T, secondary sources place it as Super-Luminova. Without rising to the blazing torch levels of some Seikos or micro-brands (Helson, etc.), the lume is still very good. I wear a watch to bed every night, and I have no problems reading the dial and hands easily in the early morning after several hours of complete darkness. The bezel features only a lumed pip at 12:00. Disclaimer – my experience with the 1200T has been after wearing it in outdoors or in artificial light sufficient to give the lume a full charge or very close to it. Your mileage may vary if you pull the 1200T out of a drawer, pop it onto your wrist, and then call it a night.
Like the 300SUB Conquistador, the 1200T features a Helium Release Valve on the outside of the case at the 9:00 position. Although the vast majority of 1200T wearers will never need the HRV, it’s an important historical feature and one that is crucial to professional commercial divers. When commercial divers operate at great depths, they often spend prolonged hours in diving bells under pressure breathing a mixture of gasses that contain helium and/or hydrogen. Since helium atoms are the smallest natural gas particles found in nature, these gas atoms are able to work their way inside the watch, around any o-rings or other seals the watch may feature. This is not a problem as long as the divers stay under pressure, but during decompression stops for resurfacing, a pressure difference may build up between the trapped gas (es) inside the watch case and its environment. Depending on the construction of the watch case and crystal, this effect can cause damage to the watch, such as the crystal popping off.
Rolex and DOXA co-created the Helium Release Valve in the 1960’s; a small, spring-loaded one-way valve integrated in the watch case that is activated when the differential between the inner and the outside pressure reaches a critical level. As a result, the valve releases the helium, hydrogen and/or other gases used in the breathing gas mix trapped inside the watch case. Over-engineering for recreational diving? Some might say “perhaps” but, DOXA’s commitment to its roots as a designer of professional grade dive instruments is a welcome feature to me.
Another disclaimer: I am not a bracelet guy. My first move is usually to take the watch off the bracelet and put it on rubber or leather, and I have done that here. The DWFG 1200T comes with the famous polished Beads of Rice (BOR) bracelet that is synonymous with DOXA. As with the other features noted, this version of the BOR is modernized – the “beads of rice” are not individual. Although they move somewhat independently of one another, the beads are joined together into a screwed single link that is user-friendly to remove for adjustment. If metal bracelets are your thing, I think you will find this one to be very comfortable. Lug width is 20mm, and, so there are a host of strap options out there. I have chosen, for now, to wear the fitted DOXA branded poly/rubber bracelet which, unfortunately, is no longer available on the company’s web site. It’s incredibly comfortable, rivaled in my own collection only by a custom-cut Sinn U-1 rubber bracelet. This watch looks good on virtually anything and, as part of the DWFG limited edition package, came with a 20mm Isofrane which I will get around to trying eventually (and which is the resident strap of choice on my DOXA 1500T, the 1200T’s bigger sibling).
DOXA advertises the 1200T movement as a “high grade 25 jewel self-winding Swiss made movement, hacking seconds, 28800 beats per hour, 42 hour power reserve, based upon the ETA 2824-2, or SW200, decorated by DOXA.” To date, mine has been running about +4-5 seconds per day, which is at the outer edge of COSC specs – more than serviceable for a non-chronometer certified model. As the movement settles in, I will be interested to see whether it can maintain this level of performance. DOXA also touts the movement’s incabloc shock protection. For the record, the 25 DW 1200Ts were fitted with ETA movements.
What? A review of the box? Yes, indeed. It’s not just “any” box. It’s a tube designed to look like a scuba tank/cylinder! The internal foam cutouts package the watch and warranty card in a way that makes one think you could drop it off the roof and the watch would survive. That said, I’m not going to be the one who tries it. But, regardless, it wins the “most creative” outer box award in my book.
A Lot of Pros, but What About the Cons?
Given the target audience for the 1200T, there’s honestly not much I would change on this watch. If I did have to point to one thing, I would say that the lug holes are recessed in such a way that fitting the model-specific Doxa rubber strap to it became an exercise in sheer willpower. I literally worked up a sweat trying to make it fit, and, now that it’s on, it’ll stay a good long time. In this day and age of dive watch competition, it would also be nice to see a second strap included in the non-limited edition 1200T package available directly from DOXA.
Summary and Final Thoughts
A modernized retro classic that wears smaller than many other competitors in the dive watch market but which still maintains eminent legibility and magnificent wrist presence. My wife, who very rarely comments on the parade of watches that she sees on my wrist, actually summed it up best the first time she saw the DWFG 1200T: “That’s a cool watch!”
Steve Parham is an attorney and business owner from Atlanta, Georgia who bought his first dive watch in 1988 when he became a PADI- certified SCUBA diver. Steve has several thousand logged dives all over the world, and his current watch collection, comprised solely of dive watches, runs the gamut from micro brands to major manufacturers. As much as he loves diving and dive watches, Steve’s real passion in life are his two daughters, Becca and Merritt. Steve is a member of the Diver’s Watches Facebook Group.