A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today for more stories like this one, plus receive a $15 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store.
In the sixties and seventies, Doxa, Aquadive and Aquastar made the kinds of serious watches you’d find for sale in dive shops rather than at jewelers, while Tropic and ISOfrane made waterproof rubber straps that came standard on many such watches. It was a time when sport diving was still young and dangerous, and watches from this era have a special appeal to today’s vintage collectors. After these brands faded into obscurity, Rick Marei brought each back to life, one by one.
Resurrecting defunct dive-watch brands was a natural extension of Marei’s passion as a collector. It all started in the 1990s, when most collectors were hunting for pocket watches — few were interested in the mechanical workhorse timepieces from the 1970s the way he was. Marei became obsessed with recreating a famous Doxa dive watch, the 1969 SUB 300T Conquistador, which was developed with the legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Its unique design — which includes a bright orange dial for increased underwater legibility — helped it later become a cult classic.
Marei, who spent the first decade of his career working for Microsoft, cashed in his stock options and offered to buy 1,000 units for resale if Doxa remade the SUB 300T. Following three years of negotiations, they finally did so, and Marei went on to help steer the company to newfound success using e-commerce. Other manufacturers sought him out to replicate this success, but he was simply too busy to help them.
After two decades of work with Doxa, Marei parted ways with the brand, and has now moved on to resuscitate a range of other companies under his Synchron umbrella. The reissued Deepstar diver’s chronograph, from fan-favorite brand Aquastar, is the latest in a long list of his projects, which also includes Tropic and ISOfrane rubber straps. And while Marei is based in Europe, he’s benefitted from big interest in recent years from this side of the pond: “If it weren’t for the U.S. and the American watch-buying mentality, none of this would be possible,” he says.
Rick Marei was not only far ahead of today’s vintage-watch reissue trend, but he pioneered online sales when such a concept was alien to watchmakers. The watch industry is only now catching up on both fronts, but Marei isn’t slowing down.