Glorious. There is no better way to describe this journey into the world of hands. And one word sums up a success story better than any other: Doxa. Coming from the Greek, it means “glory” and, not surprisingly, it is also the name that Georges Ducommun, at the age of 21, chose to set up “Georges Ducommun, Fabriques des montres Doxa”. In more than 130 years of activity, the company, which is now headquartered in Biel, has won a number of awards, starting with a gold medal at the 1906 Milan World’s Fair. This success story culminated with a meeting with Jacques Yves Cousteau who, in the mid-1960s, indissolubly linked the Maison to the sea, decreeing a success that, as CEO Jan Edöcs tells us in the following interview, continues still today, with the new SUB 300 carbon COSC collection.
Doxa’s history began in 1889 but it wasn’t until 1967 with the introduction of the SUB that it gained the attention of the general public. What were the reasons that prompted the company to opt for a diver’s watch and why was this a successful choice? To understand the reasons, we must take a look to the past.. Founded in 1889 in Le Locle under the name of “Georges Ducommun, Fabriques des Montres Doxa”, the company immediately distinguished itself not only for the production of pocket watches but also for the quality of its movements, such as the Doxa 8-day calibre that powered the watches installed on the dashboards of Bugatti racing cars. In 1906, a gold medal was awarded at the Universal Exhibition in Milan. By 1915, the company was already employing hundreds of master watchmakers, engineers and designers.
In 1925, Georges Ducommun was elected vice-president of the International Horology Group and president of the Swiss Watchmaking Association. When he died, he was succeeded by Jacques Nardin, grandson of Ulysse Nardin, another legendary watchmaker from Le Locle. In 1964, Doxa was awarded first prize at the Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne. The same year, Product Development Manager Urs Eschle noticed a growing interest in the sixth continent. He also realized that diver’s watches were not only very expensive, but were only designed for professional or military purposes. So, he decided to set up a team of professional divers, including Claude Wesly, who had been on several missions with Jacques Cousteau. The aim was to produce a high-quality yet affordable timepiece for a wider public.
What were the most important innovations introduced by that model from a technical point of view?
Nothing was overlooked in the development of the Doxa SUB. Every single aspect was examined in depth until the best solution was found. This research work culminated in a number of innovative choices, such as the orange colour for the dial to make it more legible even in poor visibility; or the larger and easier-to-read minute hand, because during a dive, time is measured in minutes and not hours; and finally, the case was made from a single piece of steel to ensure absolute waterproofness. But the most important new feature was the bezel, which for the first time ever bore the US Navy’s table of no-decompression diving limit times, which has become a reference standard. The result of a patent, and still a distinctive feature today, this solution features two scales for monitoring dive times, marked orange for the outer “depth” ring and black for the inner “minutes” ring.
Among the supporters of the SUB there was also the commander Cousteau. Was the link with the French explorer crucial for the its success?
Absolutely! Jacques-Yves Coustealiked the DOXA SUB concept so much that he negotiated an exclusive distributorship for his US-based company, US Diver. DOXA diving watches retailed by US Divers in the Americas featured the Aqua Lung logo on their dials, characterized by the twin-hose SCUBA tank design which Cousteau and fellow Frenchman Émile Gagnan patented in 1942. Starting 1968, the orange dial becomes a sign of recognition on the wrist of divers who jumped from the “Calypso” to take millions of TV viewers on the legendary weekly missions to explore “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”.
Does the sea represent a source of inspiration for Doxa and a valuable research laboratory for new solutions?
It’s a question of mindset. Our attachment to the sea is deep. It’s not a question of following a trend or seizing an opportunity. We are an independent watchmaker and we are not obliged to follow market trends. Our customers use the watches for diving and their feedback is important for continuous improvement. They are our test bench.
What is the most important news of the year for Doxa?
The use of carbon for the new Doxa SUB 300 carbon COSC collection. This family of watches builds on the success of the Sub 300 Aqua Lung US Divers in 2020, a limited edition of just 300 units. The SUB 300 carbon COSC comes in six colours – Orange Professional, Silver Searambler, Black Sharkhunter, Navy Caribbean, Yellow Divingstar and Turquoise Aquamarine – and ten versions.
Which Doxa’s model do you love the most to wear?
I love to wear the SUB 300T. We launched it in 2019. This is a re-interpretation of the famous DOXA SUB 300T Conquistador from 1969. But I am also very proud to wear the SUB 300 carbon COSC we launched this year. This watch represents for me the vision oF the future at DOXA