1964. The making of SUB.

A team with a mission

And it’s not just about designing an attractive, affordable and watertight watch. The team around Urs fully appreciates that diving is not without its risks. Divers depend on their watch for their safety. It helps that one of the members, Claude Wesly, happens to be one of the first two “aquanauts” of the pioneering “Précontinent I, II, and III” dive missions that study life in an underwater habitat. And so it’s with a true sense of mission that Project SUB gets underway in 1964.

Getting to the core of a true diver’s watch

It would have been easy to simply take over and perhaps even tweak the established characteristics – a black dial, hard to miss indices, fat luminescent hands, a rotating bezel and a heavy-duty strap. But DOXA doesn’t do easy. Every aspect of what makes a watch a true diver’s watch is explored, examined and thought through until the optimum solution is found.

Size and substance

At a diameter of 45 mm to allow for easier handling under water, and accommodate a larger dial for visibility, the first SUB iteration goes beyond the typical size of other diving watch cases available at the time. Made of a single block of stainless steel for absolute watertightness, the case is tested to a depth of 300 meters (1000 feet) and becomes the platform for the DOXA SUB 300.

Orange is the new dial

“Does a black dial really make the most sense?” To find out, the team’s engineers look into the physics of light underwater and divers are sent down to various depths in nearby Lake Neuchatel to test practically all the colors of the rainbow. After countless dives there is one clear winner for the range in which most sports divers operate: bright orange. It becomes a signature trait. Above and below the surface, a DOXA SUB is hard to miss.

An intelligent – and safer – bezel

To dive safely, it is essential to know exactly how long you can stay underwater without requiring a decompression stop on the way back up to the surface. Where others stop at a unidirectional, the team at DOXA goes a leap further by incorporating the US Navy’s no-decompression limit table – the reference for diver safety. The SUB’s patented bezel has two separate scales to reliably calculate and monitor dive times: orange for the outer ‘depth’ ring, and black for the inner ‘minute’ ring.

Where hours are secondary

The pros on Project SUB see beauty not in symmetry, but in functionality. And they agree that, on a diver watch dial, the hour hand takes up valuable real estate. Underwater, time counts in minutes and seconds and you want that information available to you at a glance, without distraction. It’s only logical then to have a larger minute hand along with an easy to spot second hand, so you can check time just by turning your wrist – not by having to cock your elbow.

A sense for comfort and practicality

Taking diver needs to heart, DOXA’s engineers also come up with another first to keep things simple while preserving the elegance of a metal bracelet: an innovative flex buckle so that the SUB’s bracelet can fit around a wetsuit sleeve without having to readjust the watch and fiddle with the links for every dive. The bracelet also features a unique ratchet mechanism built into the clasp so it can be sized without having to add or remove links

Baselworld 1967. The SUB is launched.

The result of three years of research and development, the DOXA SUB 300T makes quite a splash at Baselworld in 1967: the first truly 100% purpose-designed, professional-grade watch for sports diving. The radical innovations it introduces soon establish it as the benchmark for professionals, too. The watch is water resistant to 300 meters (1000 feet). Tritium is used for the luminous material on the hands and dial, hence the name SUB 300T.

The Cousteau Connection

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, co-inventor of the Aqua-Lung and a diving legend in his own time, likes the DOXA SUB concept so much that he negotiates an exclusive distributorship for his company, US Divers. Starting 1968, the orange dial becomes a familiar sight on the wrist of the “Calypso” divers as they take millions of TV viewers on weekly missions to explore “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” – today still the benchmark for underwater documentaries.

The SUB concept, perfected: Conquistador.

In 1969, Urs and his team conquer the final frontier: The SUB 300T Conquistador is the first to feature a helium release valve (HRV) jointly developed with Rolex. In a decompression chamber, divers inhale air-helium-hydrogen mix. Because helium molecules penetrate watch case seals, a sudden pressure differential will cause the crystal to explode. The HRV lets the helium out while preventing water ingress. Today, the Conquistador is one of the most sought-after vintage diver’s watches ever.

Passing the test of time

The world over and across generations of divers and adventurers, DOXA SUB stands for the benchmark for diving watches, greatly contributing to the safety of professional and sports divers thanks to the many technical details they introduced. True to the spirit of adventure, DOXA is the proud sponsor of Mission 31, a project initiated in 2014 by Fabien Cousteau, Jacques-Yves’ grandson. At 31 days, “Aquarius,” the world’s only undersea marine lab in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, sets a submersion record for ocean exploration. A special limited edition of 331 timepieces with the famous orange dial honors the team’s feat.


The legend lives on. 

The adventure continues.