In the spring of 1970, around the time I was born in Rockford, Illinois, a 17-year-old high school junior, Bill Storch, signed up for a scuba course 90 miles to the east. New Trier High School, on the shore of Lake Michigan in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, offered a PADI diving class for interested students. The basics of safety, techniques, and gear were taught in the school’s pool, while the open water portion was done in a cold and murky lake north of the state line in Wisconsin. PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, was founded only four years earlier in Chicago, and its courses would soon become the most popular way to learn what was then a burgeoning adventure sport.*
Bill Storch, circa 1970, wearing his Doxa T.Graph Sharkhunter. (photo: Bill Storch)
Storch, a lanky, tow-haired wrestler, lifeguard, and part-time sailing instructor, needed some basic gear for the class and visited a Chicago dive shop, a US Divers dealer. There he bought a mask, fins, and ordered an Imperial Turtle wetsuit to fend off the chill of a flooded quarry. While there, something in the case near the register caught his eye—a huge steel dive watch with a sawtooth bezel and what looked like a chain mail bracelet. It had a name that captured young Bill’s imagination: "Sharkhunter." It was Doxa’s brand new T.Graph, a diving chronograph released only the year before. At $179, it was well beyond his teenaged means and he dismissed the idea of buying it, but the shop manager said, "Put down $20 now and it’s yours if you make payments."
Remember layaway? I didn’t think so. Having to wait to acquire something only after making numerous payments requires a patience now foreign in an age of instant credit and Paypal. But in 1970, that’s exactly what Bill Storch did, and after a couple months of teaching sailing courses on Lake Michigan and lifeguarding, he made the final payment and the Doxa was on his wrist. On July 6th of that year, he also got his dive certification card, signed by Ralph Erickson and John Cronin, the two founders of PADI itself.*
Storch's certification card, signed by the co-founders of PADI.
Do you recall the feeling your first watch gave you? I sure do. Like Bill Storch, I was 17, living in suburban Milwaukee, and on a bored meander through a local mall, a big, steel dive watch called to me from the window case of a jeweler. It was an automatic Seiko with a red and blue bezel and an impossibly long rubber strap. It was $85 and I had to have it. I did odd jobs—cutting grass, painting garages—for a few months to save for it and finally it was mine. I wore it during my senior year of high school when no one else really wore watches like that, and it became an extension of my personality. I went from being a jock to a dreamer, a reader of adventure books, J. Peterman catalogs, and Outside magazine. I felt like an action hero or secret agent wearing that burly watch. It’s not a stretch to say that I’ve been trying to recapture that feeling with every watch I’ve owned since then.
Storch with a friend on the dock at Lake Vermillion in northern Minnesota.
The Storch family owned a cabin and some property on Lake Vermillion in far northern Minnesota and spent several weeks each summer up there. Bill remembers the summers of 1970 and ’71, before college and adulthood beckoned, freediving into the murky weeds, waterskiing, and boating around the big lake before returning to Illinois with a dark tan and sun-bleached hair.*
Through it all the Doxa was on his wrist, helping define who he was at that time in life when we're all trying to figure out who we want to be. Bill was a Midwestern beach boy, a waterman, who learned to scuba dive using the no-decompression bezel, and raced sailboats on Lake Michigan using the minute register on his T.Graph to count down to a regatta’s start. His high school friends remember him wearing that watch and how proud he was of it. You can see it in his eyes in old photos, the growing confidence in the man he was becoming. After all, how cool would you feel wearing a giant dive chronograph—the same watch owned by astronaut Gene Cernan!—on your wrist, at age 17? I remember that feeling.
Does this strap make me look younger? A 50-year old Doxa dives again.
Teenagers are hard on watches, but back in 1971, there were no G-Shock beaters, and Bill wanted to wear his hard-won Doxa for everything and anything. One day, a family friend drove the boat while Bill was waterskiing behind it. "He didn’t have any idea how fast you were supposed to go," Bill remembers. "If I’d stepped out of the skis, I could have gone barefoot behind the boat, he was going so fast." Finally, unable to hold on, he took a flying header into the boat’s wake.*
"My first thought was, ‘My watch!’" He reached down and to his horror, the Doxa wasn’t on his wrist. But in a stroke of luck, the clasp had opened up and the expanding bracelet slid all the way up to his elbow, and the watch remained unscathed.
He graduated from high school in 1971, and went on to college. By the mid-'70s, he decided to pull up stakes, and move west, to Oregon, where he established himself as a skilled carpenter and opened his own woodworking business. The nature of the work, around power tools, with hands in tight spaces, didn’t lend itself to wearing a chunky wristwatch, so the Doxa was retired to a desk drawer. Bill would take it out to wind up occasionally but seldom wore it. Also, he’d moved on, reinvented himself. No longer was he a "beach boy" but a man of the West. "That was the time of Jeremiah Johnson (Ed: the 1972 film with Robert Redford) and I wanted to be a mountain man."
Tested to 10 bar and ready for duty.
When I acquired Bill Storch’s Doxa T.Graph last year, I already owned another, the silver dial Searambler variant, though that one has the metric depth markings on its bezel, presumably because it was originally sold in the European market. Before I offered to buy it, I spoke with Bill on the phone from his home in Corvallis, Oregon about his watch. Though I’m not a collector in the traditional sense, his story resonated with me—a fellow child of the Midwest with a penchant for imagination, big dreams, and a healthy respect for the intangible notion of what a burly wristwatch can do for you.
It arrived needing some attention. Somewhere in its history, the sweep seconds hand had come loose and was flopping around on its post. Bill also told me he couldn’t remember the last time it had been serviced. I’ve been warned that old chronographs are difficult to work on – this one in particular. Inside ticks a hand-wound, column wheel-actuated Doxa caliber 287, which is really an Eberhard 310 (both companies owned by Synchron back then), replacement parts for which are virtually non-existent. Now I had two of them.
The Doxa caliber 287, aka the Eberhard 310.
I approached a local WOSTEP-trained watchmaker, Josh Wilkes, who works at JB Hudson Jewelers in Minneapolis. Wilkes was game to give it a shot, essentially learning the movement as he disassembled both identical watches.
"The first thing you notice with the Doxa 287 caliber is the muted, almost workman-like finishing of the parts," Wilkes remarked, "I can't speak to any other Eberhard executions, but this one really speaks to that 'tool watch' aesthetic. There isn't any of this 'gentleman pilot' stuff going on here; this is a risky-conditions watch, and they're saving their energy for functionality."
Watchmaker Josh Wilkes gets up close with the T.Graph.
Wilkes disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, lubricated, and adjusted the caliber 287, which came with a few small issues. A reversing spring was broken, the mainplate was worn at the keyless works, and the crystal was chipped, among some other minor nuisances. Wilkes had to have a new crystal manufactured, since the one on the watch is not a standard, off the shelf part. "That crystal really is something—super-thick, and with a stepped edge that must have just about quadrupled the cost of making it. With the original gasket, no one was going to get water in that way," Wilkes told me.*
Still, when I told him I wanted to take this 50-year old diver back underwater, he flinched, and proceeded to tell me, even though it had passed a 10-bar pressure test, why I shouldn’t get it anywhere deeper than the kitchen sink. "Sure, Josh, sure thing," I replied with a wink.
Two 50-year old divers.
Mid-April, on the island of Bonaire, I waded into the warm, salty Caribbean. On one wrist, a Garmin Descent, a formidable dive computer bristling with everything from underwater heart rate sensing, to GPS that plots your dive site entry and exit points. On my other wrist was a 50-year-old, hand-wound chronograph, still monstrous in proportions, mounted on a thick orange Isofrane rubber strap. I won’t lie, I felt some trepidation as my left arm, which was venting air from my buoyancy wing, was the last thing to slip beneath the surface. I had chickened out once before, taking the T.Graph on a dive trip to icy Lake Huron but leaving it on board before striding into the water.
T plus 50. The details of this old watch are still like nothing that's come since.
I’ve said it before, but when you’re diving, it’s not really about the watch. I’ve spent entire dives without really paying attention to my left wrist. But there is something special about wearing a big steel dive watch that enhances the whole experience— strapping it on over a wetsuit sleeve, checking the crown, and spinning the bezel to zero out your bottom time. It's one of those rituals that ties a diver to a 75-year lineage of underwater exploration, like spitting in your mask, zipping up a wetsuit, or tightening your heel straps. And not to lay it on too thick, but watching that blocky orange seconds hand march around its dial at 60 feet was truly special. This watch was at home here.
"A boat is safe in harbor, but that’s not what boats are for," someone once said. The same sentiment applies to dive watches. They are singular in design and purpose and to deny them that is a pity. Many years after my first Seiko dive watch, I bought an Omega Seamaster for considerably more than a summer’s worth of grass-cutting money. It bothered me to wear this pinnacle of rugged aquatic precision and not know how to dive. That propelled me to take a PADI dive course, during which I promptly scraped the bezel of my watch on the concrete pool steps. But the die was cast, I was smitten, and diving with watches would soon come to be not only my job, but a passion that entirely changed my life. Perhaps at some point I’ll emerge from the sea, set aside my watches, and reinvent myself: a chef, a carpenter, a mountain man perhaps. But until then, I remain a Midwestern beach boy, often with an old Doxa on my wrist.
Photography by Gishani Ratnayake


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