Ah summertime, it’s finally officially here despite the fact that it’s been seriously hot throughout most of northern Europe for the last couple of months. With Summer comes vacations and that means that most of us will make our way towards the beach or at least a refreshing pool. And what watch to wear? The natural response is a dive watch, that casual genre of timepiece that can handle the water just as easily as the condensation dripping from the glass of a poolside cocktail. But let’s say you’re a real vintage nut and the thought of wearing the same newer (read: watertight) diver for 1,2 or 3 weeks in a row sounds mundane, then we have some suggestions. In today’s article, we’ll head back 50 or so years, so apologies up front, they won’t be cheap. But, hey, no one spends money like when they’re on vacation. Welcome to the 60’s vintage diver shootout featuring Rolex, Omega, Seiko and Doxa, a two-part article focused, first, on the facts and, second, on our thoughts about these fantastic watches.
We’ve discussed the 60’s as the golden era for scuba diving and the fact that the pastime became more widespread. There were scads of brands getting into the act of making some sort of dive-ready watch and looking back, some were more of an act than others. Many brands didn’t survive and some now look comically unsafe to trust while trying to time a dive. Of course, there were various levels of dive watch, but today’s 60’s vintage diver shootout focuses on pieces more apt for the professional, or at least meant for someone who planned to use them frequently under the surface. And since these are all classic collectibles, it’s now acceptable for them to betray their tool intentions and to show up under a long-sleeved shirt. Of course, wearing them with your favorite Hawaiian shirt will work as well.
For our 60’s vintage diver shootout, I chose four watches that, for me, define the look of divers from the middle to later part of the decade. Two are obvious choices while the remaining two are a bit more eccentric. More frankly, the choices of a Rolex and an Omega are straightforward: the selection of a Seiko and a Doxa perhaps less so. Up until a couple years ago, the Seiko and Doxa would have been valeting cars at a party held by Rolex and Omega, but time and deeper interest in these brands have served to change opinion. Plus, and this goes for all brands, it helps that all of these watches have a modern counterpart. Let’s meet the contenders .
The Doxa SUB 300 Searambler
If you read Fratello Watches somewhat regularly, then you’re no stranger to the Doxa SUB. It’s a watch that makes perfect sense for our 60’s vintage diver shootout because it was groundbreaking for its time design-wise, in its functionality, and the fact that one Jacques Cousteau had some involvement with the brand (ok, he was involved with almost every brand). Doxa was a key contributor to the helium release valve (HRV) invention alongside Rolex and their introduction of an orange-dialed diver shook up the establishment. For today’s comparison, we have the earliest of the SUBs and that’s a so-called “No T” dial with a skinny case. This lovely piece was made for exactly one year, 1966, before it was replaced with a similar but less svelte design. Doxa made the aforementioned orange dial version, the Professional, a black variant, the Sharkhunter, and this silver edition, the Searambler.
This Searambler has been through its paces and may be familiar to some who are active on Instagram. Even though I acquired it somewhat recently, I passed on buying this very watch almost three(!!) years ago. The main hands have been relumed, I touched up the orange bits on the bezel, the crystal and crown aren’t original and someone saw fit to polish the case nicely but wrongly – there shouldn’t be any sunburst finishing or a beveled edge.
Furthermore, the case back appears if someone ran a reamer around the logo and, thus, the serial number is gone. Yikes! Normally, I’d run, not walk, away from a watch with these flaws, but they’re very hard to find in original condition as so many were worn for their intended purpose. It’s a survivor and now it’s my survivor.
- 5mm diameter stainless case, 44.5mm lug to lug, 20mm lug width, 12.5mm thickness
- 300M water resistance, acrylic crystal
- Doxa 118 caliber (ETA 2472) automatic, non-hacking, 21J, 18,000 bph, 42-hour power reserve. Non-quickset date, but toggling between 10:30pm and 12:00 changes the date.
- Current day alternatives: any current Doxa SUB or the 2016 50th Anniversary limited pieces (sold out, but available on the market) or the 2017 Limited Edition Black Lung (also, sold out)
The Omega Seamaster 300 166.024
Next up in our 60’s vintage diver shootout is the legendary 2nd generation Omega Seamaster 300 reference 166.024. This model was introduced in 1967 with its “big triangle” at 12:00. It was made until roughly 1970 while this example dates to 1968. This is a highly collectible watch that’s a real bear to find in original condition. Variants with and without date (165.024) exist with differing hands, dials and crowns throughout the production run.
The piece you see here is in nice shape, but I’d guess that the “big triangle” saw a bit of a touch-up a long time ago. Everything on this watch irradiates evenly under a black light and fades out at the same time, so perhaps tritium was used if it was altered. Also, the light background date wheel was in question, but Omega brochures show that this variant was made at some point.
- 42mm diameter stainless case, 47.5mm lug to lug, 20mm lug width, 14.5mm thickness
- 200M water resistance, acrylic crystal
- Omega 565 caliber automatic movement, non-hacking, 24J, 19,800 bph, 50-hour power reserve. Quickset date.
- Current day alternatives: Omega Seamaster 300 (more like the 1st generation 300) and the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean
The Rolex Submariner 1680
A 60’s vintage diver shootout wouldn’t be complete without a Rolex Submariner and due to the date feature on the rest of the combatants; we figured a Sub Date was appropriate. The earliest of those, if we ignore the Double Red Sea Dweller, is the 1680 “Red” Submariner.
Introduced in 1969 and produced in this guise until roughly 1973, this is one of the more iconic and collectible models from the marque. We reviewed this watch on #TBT last year and it remains as a popular choice for my wrist. This piece is from 1970 and is original and its only “flaw” is some missing lume on the lollipop of the sweep seconds hand.
- 40mm diameter stainless case, 47mm lug to lug, 20mm lug width, 14.3mm thickness
- 200M water resistance, acrylic crystal
- Rolex 1575 caliber automatic movement, non-hacking (until 1972), 25J, 19,800 bph, 48-hour power reserve. Non-quickset date.
- Current day alternatives: Rolex Submariner Date 116610 in either green or black
The Seiko 300M Professional 6159-7001
The absolute dark horse in our 60’s vintage diver shootout comes via one of our favorite brands: Seiko. With the 6159-7001, we get to take a look at Seiko’s 2nd Professional diver (the first was the visually identical 6215 made for one year in 1967) produced in 1968 and 1969. When we get into the details, we’ll see that this watch is feature-rich, but it was famously or, rather, infamously this model that caused Seiko to take a time out from producing deep divers in order to develop the Seiko 6159 Tuna that debuted in 1975. The 6159-7001, it seems, wasn’t flawless, but it’s still worthy of consideration in our eyes.
This model from 1969 contains one change and that’s a “Resist” dial that is commonly thought of as a service dial that may have been meant for production had the brand continued to produce this watch after naming laws changed in mid-1970. Strangely, despite a so-called “service” dial, some Seiko diehards seek this out as an addition to their collections.
- ~43.8mm diameter stainless monobloc case, 50mm lug to lug, 19mm lug width, 15.4mm thickness
- 300M water resistance, Hardlex mineral crystal
- Seiko 6159 caliber automatic movement, hacking, 25J, 36,000 bph, 46-hour power reserve. Quickset date.
- Current day alternatives: Seiko SLA025 limited edition 6159 reissue and the “discontinued” Seiko Marinemaster 300 SBDX017
A quick comparison of the specs shows some similarities, but, as always, it’s the details that count. Water resistances differ as the pieces are either rated at 200 or 300M and so do the movements. We have a variety of movement frequencies and case styles as well.
Which piece will end up claiming victory in our 60’s vintage diver shootout and will there be a clear winner? Could it be from one of the predictable and traditional brands or from a relative upstart? Stay tuned as we’ll come back in a couple weeks with our impressions and thoughts.