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Authored by tintin125

Comparative Review: Seiko SBDX001 Marinemaster vs Doxa Sub750T GMT

As some of you may already know from my previous postings on the Seiko MarineMaster, I cannot say enough about the quality and value of this high-end Seiko Prospex diver. Its quality and finish is unrivalled in its price category of under $2000 and more so could easily go toe-to-toe with many of the more expensive high-end divers from the bigger names.

And then about a month or so ago, I accidentally stumbled across the Doxa brand. More specifically the Doxa SUB divers (I had previously heard of the Doxa brand but they were more renown for lower-end Swiss dress watches here in the Far-East). Some pictures of the Doxa SUB sent to me by another forum member planted the seed. To be honest, my first thought of the Doxa SUB was “geeez... what an ugly looking watch it is”. Well little did I know that in the following week with a little more reading up, checking out the Doxa website, lurking on the official Doxa forum @ WUS and so on out of pure WIS curiosity…. the design, history and cult status of the Doxa SUB began to grew on me much like the Seiko MM.

Symptoms of mild Doxaholism began to emerge…. I became a daily ghost lurker on the Doxa forum (still am)… I began adding the Doxa website, WUS Doxa forum and Dr Pete Miller’s site to “My favorite” explorer tab (much like I did for Seiko). I changed my Window’s screenshot to a Doxa GMT Sharkhunter. I bought the “Sahara” movie to catch a glimpse of the Doxa SUB on Matthew McConaughey (aka Dirk Pitt). I started checking out Clive Cussler’s novels at the local bookstore. I bought and started reading my first Dirk Pitt novel this week (Black Wind for those interested to know). This is my first fiction novel in more than 10 years by my reckoning.

So with my mind made up that the Doxa SUB was my next “must have” watch, I had to scrap some funds together. Unfortunately the very recently acquired and beloved Tuna 300m, Orange Samurai and 6R15 Alpinist would have to be the sacrificial lambs. A quick order placed with Doxa and a week later, I had the 750T GMT Sharkhunter happily on my wrist. Now with a cozy few weeks spent with the Doxa SUB and a good couple of month with the MM, the thought of doing an amateurish review pitting my two grail watches against each other wouldn’t be such a bad idea seeing that they’re both in and around the same price range and essentially are both divers.

Before I begin, I must state that I’m not a professional diver, nor even a recreational diver (I’m guessing diving into a 5 foot residential pool and the occasional visit to the beach for a swim just doesn’t cut it). I’m your as average as they come desk diver who just happens to find dive watches very cool. So my technical expertise for dive watches and or movements are pretty much minimal. The following long winded write-up is just my personal opinion base on my ownership experience of both watches for those interested. So here goes…

Brand diver history

Doxa: According to the Doxa website, the first Doxa dive watch was first introduced at the Basel Show in 1966 after initial development in 1964. Pioneered & developed with the assistance from famous professional diver (French diver Claude Wesly) & strong association with renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau & the US Diver Company, the Doxa diver quickly became a cult watch for many professional and recreational divers. It certainly enjoyed a storied dive history and many “first”.

It was the first watch company to develop and offer a wrist watch primarily dedicated for sports diving purpose. The first to introduce dive watches with the legendary orange face so common and copied among today’s divers. The first to use the US Navy maximum no decompression dive table on its bezel. The first to introduce helium release valve on the SUB300T Conquistador in 1969 (Rolex did not introduce the HRV in its Submariner SeaDweller for the public until 1971). Doxa interestingly shares the patent for the HRV with Rolex.

However, the fairly tale success of Doxa divers did not last long as the quartz era saw the company merged and sold in the late 1970’s. It wasn’t until 2002 that the Doxa SUB was revived with reissue models, 35 years after the original SUB was launched. During its period of long absence, the legendary Doxa SUB survived and lived on through the adventure novels of Clive Cussler & his fictional hero Dirk Pitt. Today Doxa SUB enjoys a fantastic cult following from the so-called Doxaholics.

Seiko: The history of Seiko diver can be traced back to 1965 when the first dive watch the 150m 62MAS-010 was introduced. The most amazing aspect of Seiko dive history is its almost uninterrupted production run from the mid-1960s to present day. Much like the Grand Seiko series, the development of Seiko diver for its domestic market was an attempt by the company to match the Swiss in terms of quality and performance when national pride swept the country after it re-entered the world stage with the 1964 Tokyo Olympic.

However in 1968 Seiko divers hit a wall so to speak. Following 3 successive models released in 4 short years, the next new Seiko diver was not released for another 7 years until 1975 following a letter received by Seiko from a professional SAT diver from Kure City in the Hiroshima Prefecture complaining of the many failing of his numerous Seiko divers when working in SAT dive depth. Shocked by the letter and serious about developing a dive watch capable for the professional divers, the 7 year span saw Seiko sports division engineers tested and researched to create a professional dive watch.

In 1975, Seiko unveiled the Seiko Professional 600m 6159-022. The 7 years development period saw Seiko engineered many first and improvements. It was the first dive watch to use titanium case, first with a rubber strap with three ribbed vents. It also designed and patented the L-shaped gasket to vent helium gases much like the function of the HRV without the HRV crown.

From inexpensive market entry divers like the current 7S series to the professional Prospex series, Seiko divers are certainly the most popular and widely used everyday diver’s watches. The many anecdotes of Seiko divers withstanding harsh beating and many years of abuse by soldiers, professionals and the average Joe makes it one of the most undervalued and underappreciated watches in the market and thus the developing status of Seiko watches today.

OK, with so much words penned already, let’s have a look at some pictures of the 2 watches side-by-side



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Now lets look into detail some of the features of both watches.

[u][b]Case

[/b][/u]The tonneau-case of the Doxa SUB is one of the most unique diver watch case with its cushion side (ala a Seiko 6309-70xx). The watch looks and wears wide on the wrist. The Doxa SUB case is a large part satin brushed with polished sides. The case overall measures 44.7mm x 14mm so it is a lot of watch but wears comfortably because of its unique design. It is also very impressive that for a screw back case the Doxa has a water resistant rating of 750m. It would be interesting to know what structural features enable this watch to have a 2.5 times better water resistant rating compared to the MM.

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The MM case is also very unique in terms of its 1-piece case structure that makes this a helium gas diver watch. I must say the precision and smoothness of the line and cut of this high polished case with some brushed sections makes the MM a dressier tool watch. The very solid MM case structure also oozes a level of finish far beyond its class. The MM case measures 42mm x 14.6mm so it does look smaller (funny how a 42mm watch can now be described as smaller) but sits higher than the Doxa SUB. With a higher polished case, the MM you would tend to “baby” it more when wearing. Though the unique design of the Doxa SUB makes the watch more “fun” to wear, the polish and finish on the MM is better. The MM is also a much heavier watch.

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[color=rgb(0, 0, 0)][img]http://lh4.google.com/tintin125/RpXrWOemAYI/AAAAAAAABKM/16br8UzFffQ/s800/mmdoxagmt%20051.jpg










Bezel

The bezel for these 2 watches could not be more contrasting. The Doxa SUB 120 click unidirectional bezel is unique with its patented US Navy no decompression time dive table on the insert. The double bezel chapter ring on the Doxa SUB can look busy and hard to read because there are obviously more numbers on the rings as well as the bezel and case undifferentiated in colour. The ratcheting on the Doxa is firmer and more robust with each click. The MM bezel on the other hand is 60 very smooth unidirectional engine clicks with the standard 60 minutes dive watch insert in ceramic black. The ceramic-like polish to the MM bezel again is characteristic of the MM looking sharper and a dressier tool watch. Although the MM bezel rotates smoother, personally I feel it could be better off being a little tighter likes the Doxa to ensure the bezel does not rotate from accidental knocks. The Doxa also has a better teeth grip on its bezel. But as you can see from the lower pics, the Doxa bezel teeth is a magnet for dirt even though I have had it for a shorter period than the MM.












Bracelet

Without a doubt, the Doxa SUB rice bead bracelet is a love it or hate it proposition with its unique styling. Many Doxaholics swear that the rice bead bracelet on the SUB is the most comfortable and stylish bracelet they have ever worn. But since I’m writing this review from my personal perspective, I have to say I belong to the minorities that don’t like it. The rice bead bracelet is abit disappointing on the SUB because it does feel a little cheap IMO with its average finishing. I have no problem with the rice bead style (I quite like its unique look actually), rather it is the construction of the rice beads links soldered together that I have real problem with (Grand Seiko & Omega have great examples of solid rice bead bracelet that comes to mind). The lug end-piece also detaches from the bracelet. The clasp and diver extension on the Doxa SUB are also pretty standard. The bracelet on the 750T GMT apparently is a thicker and an improved version on the standard 750T. Unfortunately I feel its still not as good as it should be for a $1700 watch.





The MM 3-link bracelet is a cross between the Rolex oyster and the Omega Seamaster style bracelet. While aesthetically it looks pretty standard, the greatest feature of the MM bracelet has to be the unique ratcheting diver extension clasp. The lock-jaw extension is easy to use by simply putting a little backward pressure on the flip-lock safety clasp. It makes diver extension sizing or immediate sizing a breeze and so convenient. However the knock on the MM bracelet is that I tend to find it is like many Seiko steel bracelet rather easy to scratch. Plus the pin-collar system of the links is a real pain in the butt when making the initial bracelet sizing on the MM (whereas the Doxa SUB uses the more convenient and modern approach of screw pins).






Rubber straps

I have previously written that the MM OEM rubber strap is one of the best looking and original design straps I have seen for a diver. The pyramid studs on the top end with the vertical pattern running across on the bottom just looks perfect for me. However, one criticism is that this is a very tough and stiff son of a gun strap to wear new out of the box. I guess Seiko made sure that this rubber is made tough enough to last a lifetime and for use in the harshest environment. I basically had to give mine a good working out of flexing, bending and twisting to break into it. Nowadays, I even keep mine rolled up to store when I change the strap over to something else to keep the curve shape. I guess it would be great if the MM rubber strap was more comfortable "out of the box". Though the rubber strap is package with the MM, you can get an additional one for around $35.





For one reason or another (mainly my dislike for the rice bead bracelet), I have strictly worn the Doxa GMT on the OEM black rubber strap. Note, the rubber strap for the Doxa is not packaged with the watch. It can be purchased additionally from Doxa accessories for $59 last time I checked, though I was able to pick up mine as a bonus when I ordered from Doxa. And my word I am glad I did. The Doxa strap made from a composition of silicon and polyprene is super comfortable. The design is simple, curved end, relatively thick, with multiple Doxa logos on the inner side for a comfortable wear and a nice pin buckle. However, one criticism I have of the Doxa rubber is it can be a real struggle to put the strap end through the double loops or when taking the watch off because the soft rubber tends to stick after a while and very hard to move. Maybe it is just me and my clumsy fingers but I wish there was a better solution to this as I really love the Doxa rubber. All in all if you’re planning to get a Doxa SUB or have a SUB but not the strap, I still highly recommend it as it is super comfortable and looks very summer cool.

Lugs

The MM lug width is the more common 20mm while the Doxa is the less conventional 21mm. This is a small problem if you like to play around with aftermarket straps for your Doxa as 21mm straps are less commonly available. The spring bars for the Doxa are also a little thin for a tough diver when compared to Seiko’s fat spring bars. Personally, I would prefer a 22mm lug size for both the MM, Doxa SUB or any dive watch over 42mm to accommodate for a wider strap/bracelet.

The argument over drilled through lugs (MM) vs. non-drilled through (Doxa SUB) may also be important for some that are less adapt at changing over strap/bracelet. The Doxa is also packaged with a Bergeon screwdriver which I highly advice you NOT use this as your tool for strap/bracelet change over unless you’re experience. Just get a proper spring bar tool that is a lot easier to use if you want your lugs to be scratch-free.





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[u][b]Dial

[/b][/u]The Doxa SUB GMT dial is simply beautiful. When I first laid eyes on the Sharkhunter (black) dial, I just fell in love with it. The combination of the jet black dial, the splash of orange on the GMT chapter ring, the lume, the sharp orange minute hand, the skeleton GMT hand, the dwarf hour hand, it all really came together perfectly for me. Personally, I don’t find the GMT dial too busy. I guess the wider dial opening and the jet black dial really makes all the index, fonts and hands jumps out crystal clear on the flat 3mm sapphire crystal.

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The MM is more your traditional diver with a slate black dial with round luminous hour index (except at the 3, 6, 9 & 12) that are bounded by silver borders. As the colour contrast on the MM is not as strong compared to the Doxa along with the slightly curved hardlex crystal, the MM dial looks deeper with more depth. It isn’t as in-your-face as the Doxa yet clearly is the easier to read dial because of its simplicity. The date aperture for the MM is also detailed with a brushed steel background on black fonts. I guess the best way to describe the difference between the 2 is the Doxa is more loud and fun while the MM is more subtle and professional.

[color=rgb(0, 0, 0)][img]http://lh4.google.com/tintin125/RpXrdOemAjI/AAAAAAAABLk/gGYxUgFDO4g/s800/mmdoxagmt%20075.jpg



Hands

The Tetris-style hands on the Doxa SUB GMT are really nice. As I mentioned above, the combination of the sharp orange minute hand, the white skeleton GMT hand, the white dwarf hour hand and the second hand all really came together perfectly for me. However, in terms of detail finishing, the MM hands are really spectacular and on another level reminiscent of some of the Grand Seiko hands. With beveled edges and combination of brushed and polished steel, they really are very handsome looking hands on the MM.



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[u][b]Lume

[/b][/u]It is somewhat unfair to compare the lume of the Seiko divers to any other divers IMO because the lumibrite paint engineered and used by Seiko is one of the best. The Doxa SUB uses superluminova lume for its hour markers and hands. The superluminova on the hour markers are actually only found on the middle 1/3 of the rectangular index you see on the Doxa. So it covers a relatively smaller area compared to the MM. I also find that the lume on the Doxa hour index a tad weaker than the hands. The MM lumibrite lume although appear “mouldy” textured and uneven in normal light is very nice. It appears to light brighter and relatively longer than the Doxa lume.

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Movement

As I mentioned earlier, I’m no technical expert when it comes to the mechanical intricacy of watch movements. The following are just a summary of the movement specifications I have found for the 2 watches. The Doxa SUB uses a 21 jewel self-winding Swiss made movement based on the ETA 2893-2 which is the GMT version of the ETA workhorse 2892-A2. It is a bi-directional winding automatic, with manual wind and hacking second mechanisms, 28’800 vph, 42 hours power reserves, Glucydur balance and Nivarox hairspring. It is adjusted to 5 positions and has Incabloc shock protection.

The MM uses a Seiko in-house 26 jewel calibre 8L35 self-winding movement that is the base movement or variants for the higher end 9S55 calibre Grand Seiko. With manual wind and hacking second mechanisms, 28’800 vph, 50 hours power reserves, it is unadjusted, rhodium plated and has an accuracy rating by Seiko of +15 ~ -10 seconds per day.

Base on my experience of the 2 watches, the MM runs on average about +7 seconds per day while the Doxa GMT over the last week has been around +10 seconds per day. I believe both can run even better over a longer period of time if they were given more wrist time. I have not done any monitoring in a controlled environment (such as how long the watch was worn, how much the watch was initially wound, the position it rest in, temperature and so forth). I’ll just say that both watches certainly runs within the rating given so I’m more than satisfy with it now and not an accuracy freak. In terms of the feel of the hand winding, the MM does wind smoother with an almost auto forward action (it kinds of push you along when the winding is in motion). The winding also feels more solid as if you can feel the power reserves is recharged with each forward turn of the crown. The Doxa SUB ETA movement just feels lighter as if it requires 2 turns to equal 1 turn on the MM. Unfortunately I do not have any photos available to compare the 2 movements to view the level of finishing for each.



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[u][b]Packaging, box & warranty

[/b][/u]The anodized aluminum scuba tube that the Doxa SUB comes in definitely leave no mistake that it is a divers watch (the plastic lid is a little cheap though). Along with this unique packaging, the Doxa SUB comes with a 2 year factory warranty (big thumbs up over the standard 1 year for most factory), manuals in the form of a DVD and a Bergeon screwdriver. For US clients, Doxa do have a service center in the US. But for international clients that require warranty servicing, one would expect the need to send the watch back to Switzerland.

The MM is packaged in a hard cardboard Prospex box. It is packaged with a spare OEM rubber strap, English/Japanese manual booklet and a 1 year Japan only warranty (however if you purchase the MM through one of the renowned AD like Higuchi & Seiya, the warranty issue is covered). The MM of course must be sent back to Japan if you require any warranty servicing.

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[color=rgb(0, 0, 0)][img]http://lh6.google.com/tintin125/RpXrruemA9I/AAAAAAAABO0/4V6a0RlW6m8/s800/mmdoxagmt%20227.jpg


Price & Value

I got my Doxa SUB GMT with the standard 30% discount prior to the July 1 retail price mark-up at net price $1’690. Today the retail price is $2’390 with no discount (unless you’re returning customer). The MM retail price is 250’000 Yen ($2’030). I purchased mine from Higuchi at net price 188’000 Yen ($1’530). I was charged around Hk$12’100 so that exchange rate in USD works out just about spot on for me. Both watches are absolute value for money IMO. But with the recent retail mark-up on the Doxa, it does put it a step back or a step up towards the next price category of divers. Without the 30% discount, the difference in value is certainly significant in any language. The price comparison between the Doxa GMT and MM is also a little unfair with the Doxa’s extra complication. For comparison sake, interestingly the standard edition Doxa 750T without the GMT function now retails for $1’969 or $1’378 (for returning customer can still get the 30% discount until March 2008). So price wise the Doxa 750T and MM are almost identical if the 30% discount continued. In terms of 2nd hand value in the used market, both watches seem to retain their value pretty well with no more than 15-20% drop-off in price amid the watch condition is not too shabby. I guess this is help by the cult status of these 2 watches and when they do find their way into the market, they’re normally snapped up relatively quickly.




[u][b]Customer service

[/b][/u]In my so far limited experience with the customer service from Seiko, I have to say my purchase experience with Doxa and its customer service is simply second to none. For a Swiss factory to have such a direct line of communication with its customer, Doxa SA has to be applauded and congratulated. Its participation at the WUS Doxa forum and unique internet sales set-up (prior to the retail expansion) really is commendable. For sure this is one reason why the company has such a high percentage rate of returning customers. Finger’s cross that this hands-on approach and direct line of communication from Doxa SA with the Doxaholics will continue even after the retail expansion.

[color=rgb(0, 0, 0)][img]http://lh3.google.com/tintin125/RpXrR-emASI/AAAAAAAABJc/W4eKmV60s4w/s800/mmdoxagmt%20237.jpg




Conclusion
In conclusion, if you ask me today if I could only keep one watch which one would it be? It would be a hard choice but I would have to pick the completely in-house MM for all the positives I have mentioned. It is just simply an exceptional watch that is everything I want in a watch. Yes some parts could be better done such as having a signed crown and a more robust crown thread (not a problem really but definitely could be better is what I’m implying). Picking the MM should not take anything away from the Doxa SUB either because there’s really not a lot not to like about the Doxa. In fact, I’m pretty certain before March 2008, I will pick up a 2nd Doxa just to proof that Doxaholics will keep returning (the orange Professional is singing a beautiful tune to me). And that’s the thing about the Doxa, it keeps drawing you back for more. At the end of the day, I’m just glad I have managed to discover 2 growing legendary divers that not a lot of watch enthusiasts would know about outside of the 2 brands forum.
 
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