Dive Watch Fanatics, Your Grail Has Arrived
Gear Patrol Contributor Jason Heaton showing his approval for the Doxa SUB 800Ti.
In the late 1960s, Doxa, a venerable Swiss watchmaker, developed one of the most enduring and unique designs in a purpose-built dive watch. The Doxa SUB was like nothing else, with its distinctive orange dial and patented bezel that displayed the U.S. Navy’s recommended no-decompression limits. Wearing the SUB meant that you’d better have some good dive stories to back up your hardware.
Doxa has enjoyed a resurgence in the past eight years, reissuing some of the classic SUB models. Its latest offering is the SUB 800Ti, and it represents all that Doxa has learned about how to make a true diver’s tool watch and is designed to military specifications, no less. I recently had the opportunity to test a SUB 800Ti on a dive trip to the Florida Keys, where I dove a mix of colorful reefs and deep wrecks. Read my review after the jump.
The Doxa arrived in an all-business metal tube, packaged with a small tool for sizing the bracelet. It’s a lovely timepiece to behold. The ‘60s-style “cushion-shaped” case is made from a block, matte finished titanium. The bezel is extremely grippy and easy to turn, with a confident, counterclockwise, 120 clicks.
Timekeeping is accomplished via a Swiss mechanical automatic movement, and the example I tested kept time to within two seconds per 24 hours. You can’t get much better than that without a battery.
A prerequisite for any dive watch is the ability to be read in low-light environments. While most watches use luminescent paint, Doxa has incorporated small tubes of tritium for bright, steady lume that requires no “charging” under a light source to glow constantly. Blocky markers and an oversize orange minute hand make reading the elapsed dive time easy, whether on a night dive or deep inside a shipwreck.
The pièce de résistance of the SUB 800Ti, however, is its bracelet. The links are connected to each other and to the case with screws, not pins. The clasp is pure genius. It features a ratcheting dive extension for on-the-fly lengthening to accommodate a wetsuit sleeve. In practice, it works beautifully. I opened it up, slid it over my sleeve and ratcheted it down to a tight fit. At depths where neoprene compresses, it takes merely another click or two to tighten up. I smiled through my regulator the first time I tried it.
Does the SUB 800Ti have any downsides? Well, the polished bezel surfaces are prone to scratching, though some might find this a positive aspect, since patina on a tool watch gives it credibility. Also, to date, Doxa does not offer a rubber strap for this model, only the bracelet and a synthetic military-style strap. So, those who want rubber are stuck going aftermarket. Once you experience the ratcheting clasp, however, you might never look at rubber again.