The grail watch I never knew I wanted...
There have been quite a few grail watches over the years. Royal Oaks, Nautiluses, Milsubs etc. But they have always been out of reach, which quickly made them boring and therefore losing their grail status. These last few years I actually haven’t had a grail watch. Sure, some have been more interesting than others, but my restlessness eventually makes me find flaws with all of them. Well, that was until I found Doxa.Doxa as a brand was founded way back in 1889 and were mainly creating dressier watches until the 1960’s when they introduced the Sub. Back then they patented their iconic No Deco bezel and might have actually been the brand which introduced the first ever Helium Escape Valve, but that is a story for another time. Fast forward to today and the brand is still going. Incredibly enough the only watches in their lineup are remakes of their old Sub watches. Which in my opinion says a lot about how great the design is. These watches were originally designed to be tools and were even one of legendary diver Jacques Cousteau favourites.
Now in 2020 Doxa decided to update the 55-year-old design. Luckily not by changing the shape too much, but instead change the material and make a modern interpretation in Forged Carbon. This was now the grail watch which I never knew I wanted. The full story is that, before buying it, I was actually looking to get a Panerai Submersible 960 Carbotech, but at €16.900 it just wasn’t realistic.
The price of the Sub 300 Carbon seems to be one of its weak spots. Before and after pre-ordering it I read a lot of comments about how overpriced it was for a Doxa. Because, you know, people on the internet know everything. I’ll be honest though, the price was what initially made me hesitate to buy it, but I’m incredibly happy that I did.
Having had a few months to think about it, the price is actually pretty spot on. It is after all a Forged Carbon, 300m water resistant, COSC certified watch, with a Forged Carbon bezel, dial and crown. Try finding a watch with the same or better specs for less than €10.000. I bet you won’t find it.
I pre-ordered the watch in May and finally got delivery of it in August. Seeing it for the first time blew my mind! Not only was it pretty light (94g on the rubber) but incredibly well made. In all honesty, it’s one of the best finishes I have ever come across. All edges are sharp and perfect, the print on the dial is crisp, bezel action is the tightest and strongest I’ve ever experienced and the hands are perfectly painted.
The PVD-coated clasp and rubber are also up there with some of the best, although I wouldn’t say that the clasp, which is stainless steel, has that premium/luxury feel, but mechanically and finish-wise It’s amazing. The watch runs an ETA 2824-2 with 38h power reserve and COSC Certification, which is an easily serviced movement and a real work horse. I usually don’t care too much about the movement, as long as it keeps decent time. But just to comment on it anyway it has been running well within COSC this first month which is great.I wore the watch on the original rubber the first few days but decided to try something different. Switched to a NATO strap and weight dropped down to 54g. The first nato I tried on was one I’d had laying around for years. Only problem though was that it had silver hardware, which on a black/stealth watch looked a bit off. My solution was to take a spray can and paint the hardware black. Which looked great for about a day, then it started flaking, which looked pretty cool but not what I wanted.
Luckily ZULUDIVER has selectable hardware on some of their straps making it an easy choice. I tried both the ZULUDIVER 141 Nylon NATO in Admiral Grey and the Classic Bond NATO with IP Black hardware. The ZULUDIVER nylon natos are among my favourites when it comes to nato straps, and believe me, I’ve owned a lot of different natos. I’m more into safe and practical straps and these are reasonably priced, are well made and come in different types of hardware. Having a buckle that is sewn in is a must-have for me when it comes to natos. It just adds that extra security.As I was in the mood for trying different straps, I also tried out a Winstone MKII Leather in Dark Brown that I just got for my Silverlung. This strap doesn’t have black hardware but as it’s not a nato you don’t really notice it. I was a little sceptical before trying it but it turned out great! The dark brown leather is just dark enough to work with the case and softens the look of the very modern carbon, giving it a little more warmth.
As I own both a Stainless Steel and the Carbon Sub 300 I have done a few comparisons because there are some slight differences. First I just have to point out that the Carbon version is in a whole different league when it comes to feel and finish. Not that the steel version is bad by any means, it’s actually really good, but the Carbon is just a lot more refined. The lugs and case of the Carbon are slightly thinner which makes it look and feel thinner on the wrist. The crown on the Carbon has deeper grooves and the bezel has no small grooves on the teeth like the steel version. Weight is of course one of the biggest differences.
The steel version weighs in at 76g(head only) and the carbon 46g(head only), which is roughly 40% lighter. And to put that into perspective, as mentioned previously, the carbon weighs 54g on a nato. Both cases are 42.5mm wide 13.4mm thick and 45mm lug to lug.
The durability of the forged carbon is hard to judge after just over a month. But so far I have worn this watch almost daily (I forced myself to wear something else some days) since I got it. I have banged and scraped it against things and it’s still identical to when I got it. I don’t baby my watches and wouldn’t have bought this watch if I thought the material was fragile. Where I feel this watch is let down slightly is in the lume. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It never really reaches high strength but it does shine for a very long time. So long in fact that you can still easily read it in the dark after a full night's sleep.If I were to summarize this watch in one sentence it would be “The grail watch I never knew I wanted”. It truly is a fantastic watch and in my opinion, decently priced, believe it or not. It’s not a watch for everyone, much like the other offerings from Doxa. Some might be put off by the looks, price or even the low weight. But I’m sure that the shimmering marble effect of the matt forged carbon and contrasting white and yellow markings could mesmerize even the toughest of naysayers.
Be sure to follow Chris on Instagram here @fadedbezel.
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