Review: Doxa’s SUB-300 Sharkhunter Above and Below The Atlantic

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As part of their 50th Anniversary Collection, Doxa recreated 1967’s SUB 300 Sharkhunter. Doxa only made 300 of this 42.5-millimeter COSC-certified watch, and they were trusting enough to let me dive with #107 in Bermuda this past summer.

Nothing looks or wears like a Doxa. Iconic divers like the similarly styled Seiko Turtle and the Bulova Devil Diver somehow fail to be as eccentric as the Sharkhunter. The Doxa is so odd that it made no sense until I landed in Bermuda, heaved my SCUBA gear over my shoulder, and walked outside. Under Bermuda’s famously deep blue sky, warm sun, and tropical foliage, the Sharkunter’s peculiar beauty and sole purpose as a dive tool began to reveal themselves. Underwater the next day, the Sharkhunter sprung to life as an incredibly legible, thoroughly professional, and easy-wearing dive watch.

Under the hot sun, next to the ocean, the Sharkhunter starts to make sense as the purpose-built tool that it is.
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$2990

Review: Doxa’s SUB-300 Sharkhunter Above and Below The Atlantic

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
ETA 2824-2 (COSC)
Dial
Black
Lume
Beige Super-LumiNova
Lens
Boxed Sapphire
Strap
Beads of Rice Bracelet
Water Resistance
300 meters
Dimensions
42.5 x 45mm
Thickness
13.4mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screwed In
Warranty
Yes
Price
$2990

In fact, the Sharkhunter is one of the most comfortable watches I’ve ever worn. Once I sized the highly polished beads-of-rice bracelet—a task far simpler than this complex link system would suggest—the Sharkhunter completely belied its 13.4-millimeter thickness and snuggled onto my wrist like a sleepy cat. Tapering from 24 millimeters down to just 20 at the clasp, this bracelet cascades around the wrist with a liquid quality. Jubilee bracelets have nothing on Doxa’s beads-of-rice.

Seen here at about 30 feet underwater, the Sharkhunter reveals itself as a high-performance tool.

How Doxa packs so much info onto this 25.5-millimeter dial without causing a single visual collision is beyond me. None of this should work—the dial is too small, the markers crammed in, the four lines of text off-center and asymmetrical—and yet, even with the box sapphire crystal distorting all markers at every conceivable viewing angle, the Sharkunter’s dial is perfectly legible.

The bright white hands, which are accurate replicas of those from 1967, leap out against the black dial. The minute hand is famously fat, which is ideal for taking a bezel reading while SCUBA diving. The less relevant “dwarf” hour hand does its job quietly, while the big pip on the seconds hand—abstract, cantilevered, and slowly revolving—gives the Sharkhunter the aura of a Calder mobile turning in a light breeze. Love it or hate it, this dial is a fantastic example of Mid-Century aesthetics, leaving no trace of the line between form and function.

Lume is restricted to the hands and markers (with the lack of an illuminated bezel pip being an odd omission for a dive watch, though not entirely uncommon on vintage divers). The markers and hands get a fauxtina touch from their beige Super-LumiNova. Under a loupe I could see that the recessed edge around the lume on the hands casts a shadow, but to the naked eye this shadow looks more like patina creeping into the lume plot—not the worst result, really, as it gives the watch a more convincing vintage touch than the beige lume does.

Beige Super-LumiNova looks vintage-ish, but it’s the shadows cast by the recessed channels in the hands that really give the illusion of patina in the lume.
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There’s also a tiny lume dot where the dial’s cross-hair marking meets the painted frame around the date aperture; this dot neither offends nor excites. The date window’s frame mimics the shape of the larger markers at 6, 9 and 12 and, thus, helps the aperture integrate with the rest of the dial. All of this is vintage-accurate, so no date-window complaining allowed.

The bezel is a conundrum above water, because its mirror-polished outer ring reflects light to the point of distraction. Quite literally, there were times in direct sunlight when I was glad to be wearing sunglasses while looking at the Sharkhunter. The orange filled engraving on the outer ring is no help either, and the bezel seems more token than tool above water. Underwater, however, that outer bezel ring becomes a highly legible and useful tool. The mirror polish goes from blinding to merely bright, distinguishing itself from the brushed inner timing ring.

At around 50 feet, the water filters out most red and orange light. This shot was taken while hovering over Bermuda’s Pelinaion wreck, about 60 feet below water.

The dual registers on the Sharkhunter’s bezel relate to each other by corresponding the depth (listed on the polished outer ring) with how long one can stay at that depth (listed on the brushed inner ring) without making extra decompression stops. Stay down longer than the bezel’s tables recommend, and you’ll have to make extra stops to “off-gas” nitrogen and/or helium that have moved from your blood into your tissues; most divers avoid these stops because they eat up dive time. Though dive computers now use real-time data streams to calculate no-decompression times with high precision, the Sharkhunter’s bezel employs the US Navy’s conservative no-decompression table, the international standard for decades.

The Sharkhunter’s patented bezel gives you instant reference to the US Navy’s no-decompression table.

Putting the Navy’s no-decompression table on the bezel was a no-brainer, yet because Doxa holds US Patent #3505808 for this bezel, it can not appear on other brand’s dive watches without them ponying up for a license—which, it seems, rarely, if ever, happens. Doxa’s patented bezel helped convince Jaques Cousteau to make the SUB 300 standard equipment aboard the Calypso, and to this day there has never been a stronger endorsement for a dive watch.

The other reasons Cousteau chose Doxa dive watches include their 300-meter water resistance, the accurate movement (here a decorated COSC-certified ETA 2824-2, and originally an ETA 2852 auto-winder), the reliable crown and case seals, the wide case flange that protects everything else, and—if my impression of Cousteau as a filmmaker is accurate—probably also because the Doxa diver watches look badass. It’s hard for us to see something as old as the SUB 300 series watches as the modern marvels that they were back in the late 1960s, but Doxas were once futuristic fashion statements, as well as cutting-edge tools.

With Cousteau’s endorsement behind it, wearing the SUB 300 Sharkhunter in and around the Atlantic Ocean made me feel (though, I’m sure, not appear) pretty badass myself. Above water, it’s various mirror finished parts and distinctive shape make it an eye-catching piece of jewelry. With the Sharkhunter on wrist, my khakis, sandals, and boring old white button-down went from “meh” to “yeh.” Swapping in a pair of loafers and a sport jacket for the cocktail hour stirred up all my latent fantasies of being a SCUBA-diving spy.

While bluetooth transmitters are rapidly replacing them, most divers still use old-school analog gauges for air pressure. The author’s Mares units show air pressure, depth, and water temperature. Using a dive watch is almost unheard of today, unless there’s a serious computer failure.
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Fantasies like that swiftly evaporated as I stepped onto the boat that would take me out to the sunken Pelinaion for my first wreck dive. Sunken ships have creeped me out since I was a kid (there was a half-exposed sunken freighter just off the beach where I went to summer camp), so I was quite nervous about this dive. Happily, I instantly relaxed once we descended to the wreck site and got our first look at the sprawling Pelinaion wreck.

Waiting for everyone to get in the water before our group descended to the wreck site.

Christened in 1907, in 1939 this 385-foot steel freighter from Greece was carrying iron ore from West Africa to Baltimore when she approached David’s Head on Bermuda’s West end at night with hopes of refueling. Due to the war with Germany, Bermuda had blacked out all signal lights, and the Pelinaion’s captain—who was about to retire with a perfect record— ran aground, sinking the ship in 65 feet of water. Her stern came to rest on the bottom, while her bow remains only 20 feet down. Amazingly, to this day the Pelinaion’s enormous engine tower remains upright and reaches from around 60 feet of depth up to just ten.

Making way under the stern of The Pelinaion at about 65 feet of depth. The Sharkhunter’s lume is actually glowing in this photo, but everything is blue so it doesn’t leap out like it would on land. Legibility was excellent among the wreck’s shadows.

As I relaxed into the dive, the Sharkhunter regained sway over my imagination until I felt like an adventure-obsessed kid again. Even though I rely on a dive computer (the discontinued Scubapro Meridian), as a watch-head I enjoyed referring to the Sharkhunter’s bezel and my handsome new Mares vintage-styled air pressure and depth gauges to make rough calculations during the dive. Making these frivolous calculations is akin to using an abacus to do your taxes, but, as anachronistic as the Mares gauges and the Sharkhunter are, they make for a solid analog back-up system should a computer fail.

Exploring the wreck along with me was an older gentleman named David who had retired to Bermuda to fulfill his dream of becoming a full-time dive bum. Charmingly, David brings cookies to every dive and generously pushes them on everyone aboard the boat. The other divers were a family of four who, upon learning that I was a watch writer, unexpectedly lit up. As it turns out, their college-aged twin children personally knew the Boston-based vintage dealers Those Watch Guys (from whom I had bought a cool chronograph at the Windup Watch Fair the previous year), and the son, Aiden, is a big fan of Worn & Wound.

Worn & Wound fan and brand new friend, Aiden, was thrilled to wear the Sharkhunter while diving The Cathedrial , one of the most stunning reef sites in Bermuda.

Needless to say, the Doxa started making its way around the boat, and on our second dive that day at the gorgeous reef site named The Cathedrial, Aiden wore the Sharkhunter and an ear-to-ear smile. That smile tells us everything we need to know about the enduring charms of the Doxa SUB 300 Sharkhunter. Doxa

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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