What makes an iconic watch? Is it the one that did something first, or the one that did it best? When we look into the history of dive watches there were several released in the wake of World War 2 that have become modern icons; the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms from 1953, followed a year later by Rolex’s Submariner in 1954, and then the Omega Seamaster 300 in 1957.
A decade later Doxa entered the dive watch scene with their SUB, and while the original trio could be considered the founders of the dive watch formula, it was Doxa that perfected it.
The Fifty Fathoms, Submariner and Seamaster laid the design code foundations for every dive watch that has followed; a uni-directional rotating bezel to track immersion time, luminous hands and hour markers for increased visibility at depth, and of course water-resistant cases.
Water-resistance, in particular, became something of an arms race for dive watches of this era, with Blancpain’s original diver capable of withstanding 10 Bars of pressure (fifty fathoms = 100 meters), as did Rolex’s first Submariners. When Omega followed suit a few years later their Seamaster 300 was promoted as resistant to twice that pressure (and probably should have been called the Seamaster 200 as a result, but that’s a story for another day).
Doxa may have come late to the dive watch party, but they certainly made a big entrance, with the SUB being watch resistant to 30 Bar/300 meters as well as the first to feature a helium escape valve for saturation diving, an invention co-designed with Rolex. While most dive watches of the era featured black dials, the Doxa SUB was bright orange for maximum underwater visibility, as tested by the brand in Neuchatel Lake.
The hands were selected with practical considerations in mind as well; the hour of the day is unimportant while diving, so the hour hand was shrunk in size, while the minute hand is all-important for measuring immersion time, and was made massive as a result.
In addition to the standard count-up timer bezel, DOXA added a US Navy decompression table to the SUB, allowing the wearer to determine what depths they could stay at before needing to decompress. Last but not least the brand equipped the SUB with an “Expando” bracelet that could conform to the size of the wrist, with or without a wetsuit.
As a result of these no-nonsense technical innovations, the Doxa SUB became the watch of choice for French diving legend, conservationist and naval officer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This is the man who co-invented the Aqua-Lung, a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (or “SCUBA”) that made exploring the depths possible without a submersible, as well as pioneering marine conservation with documentaries like The Silent World in 1956.
Cousteau was such a fan of the Doxa SUB that he provided them to his entire Calypso diving team, and his company became the sole distributor of Doxa watches in North America.
Which finally brings us to the Watch of the Week, the modern Doxa 1500T. This model builds on the same philosophy as its predecessor the SUB; form must follow function, and the function of this watch is to be the most capable diving watch possible. To that end, the case of the 1500T has been hewn out of a solid block of 316L stainless steel so that there are no seams or joins to present weak points in the case structure.
As a result, this watch is water-resistant to 150 Bar, or said another way, 1,500 meters. Let that sink in for a moment, if you’ll forgive the pun. Even in the context of modern dive watches, that’s a massive achievement of engineering. By way of comparison, the mighty Omega Ploprof can “only” withstand pressures up to 120 Bar.
The sector-style dial and date window at 3 o’clock helps orient the Doxa 1500T in the dark, and the shrunken hour hand gives way to a massive hour hand just like the original SUB. A 5-link “engineer” style bracelet secured with screws rather than spring bars assures both robust solidity as well as flexibility on the wrist, while the clasp is milled from a solid block of steel and features a twin-trigger release mechanism and an on-the-fly adjustment mechanism.
This clasp and bracelet are leagues ahead of the Doxa’s competitors in their price bracket, and easily equal to the likes of the Omega Seamaster Professional bracelet or the Rolex Oyster bracelet with Glidelock clasp as found on the Submariner.
The 1500T is powered by the reliable and easily serviceable ETA 2892-2 with 42 hours of power reserve, which may disappoint in-house movement purists, but I feel that this is a sensible choice for a tool watch whose entire ethos is reliability and durability. The ETA 2892 is well-proven and time-tested, while many a manufacture calibre are not.
Wearability and Price
While this watch measures large on paper, with a 45mm dial and 16mm thickness, it wears surprisingly well due to the modest lug-to-lug measurement of 47mm and the way the bezel and cushion-shaped case help make the dial look smaller. Make no mistake, this isn’t some svelte dress watch, nor is it even a dressy diver like the Tudor Black Bay. The 1500T is thoroughly a tool watch and makes no pretence at being anything else, but despite its massive dimensions and technical credit, it remains wearable even on modestly sized wrists.
It is also well priced, with a recommended retail value of $3,850 USD but available on the used market between $1,816-$2,273 at the time of writing, according to WatchCharts analytics. By way of comparison, the most serious professional diver from Omega, the Seamaster Ploprof sells for $4,970-$7112, while the Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 126600 goes for between $11,806-$13,695.
This makes the Doxa 1500T a true bargain in this segment, offering history, innovation, technical prowess, and a bold, distinctive aesthetic for a significantly more palatable outlay than its competitors.