Tudor Submariner – A Historical Overview
If you know thing or two about watches you’ve probably heard about Tudor by now. You might also be aware of the fact that Tudor and Rolex have to do something with each other. Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf founded Tudor as daughter company of the big crown. One of the daughter companies I should say, there were more brands in the Rolex stable.
Tudor was meant to be able to offer a cheaper watch, but with the same high quality as its big brother. In many cases, only the wording on the dial and the movements that Tudor used were different to those from Rolex. Some collections were really similar, such as the Submariner. With this article about the Tudor Submariner I’d like to give you an overview of the different models of that collection over the years.
People tend to look at Tudor Submariners as the underdogs, the poor man’s Rolex Submariner watch. However, this is far from the truth. Tudor was, and still is, a very interesting brand to collectors of both new and vintage watches. They surprise us with great watches year after year as we have seen this a few months ago during BaselWorld as well. With their Heritage collection Tudor makes vintage themed watches that belong to the coolest on the market. So I think it is only fair of us to have a look at the long and interesting history of Tudor Submariners and shed some light on the different models and references, as we did a while ago with the Rolex Submariners.
A bit of Tudor history
Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, and later Tudor, acquired the brand in 1926. A few years passed and in the early years of the 1930’s the first Tudor watches were brought to the market. At the end of the 1930’s the World War II started and the industry was occupied with everything else but expanding. One year after the war, Mr Wilsdorf founded the Tudor company as we know it today, on the 6th of March 1946. He envisioned Tudor as a second brand next to Rolex and used the already present technical advantages on his new second line of watches.
Birth of the Tudor Submariner
The first Submariner from Rolex and its little Tudor brother were both developed at the same time. Of course, Rolex had to come out first with this new diver’s watch. Please bear in mind that at this point, Rolex had to go first simply because of the fact that they were the first brand and Tudor was the newcomer within Wilsdorf’s businesses. The first Rolex Submariners (the company launched 3 different models at the same time: the ref. 6200, 6204 and 6205) were introduced in 1953 and a few months later, in 1954, the Tudor Submariner followed. This model was given the reference number 7922 and it was almost identical to the Rolex Submariner. The watch set the major design elements for future Tudor Submariner models, it had a self-winding movement of course (Fleurier caliber 390) and water resistant to 100 meters.
The watch that never existed
This reference was only short lived as it was quickly followed-up by the Tudor Submariner ref. 7923. This model is so rare that for a long time, people did not even believe it ever existed. They called the reference anything between a prototype and frankenwatch. While the 7922 had an automatic movement this new reference had a manual-wind movement (caliber 1156-1188). It is the only manual movement used in the Tudor Submariner collection. The design was very similar to the predecessor but not 100% identical. The dial for example, is simpler, there is no depth-marking on it; it actually bears resemblance to the Rolex 6205. Due to the manual-wind movement, the case of the watch was thinner and lighter, nothing remotely similar to today’s Tudor dive watches. More about those later.
Tudor Submariner 7924
Like the 7922 and the 7923, the 7924 Tudor Submariner reference had a very short production run. Because of this we do not have certain information about some of the details of this watch. The Tudor Submariner 7924 was most likely produced in or around 1958 and it had a thicker crystal compared to its predecessors. It was water resistant to 200 meters.
The classic Tudor Submariner
In 1960, Tudor brought the 4th reference to the market with the Tudor Submariner 7928. This is – in my opinion – one of the most classic looking Tudor Submariner watches in their time line (very similar to the Rolex Submariner 5512 and 5513 references). Whereas the previous two references were smaller in size (roughly 37mm) this watch was bigger (39mm) and much more rugged. The bezel changed to the riveted version where the first 15 minutes are also marked. The watch was very popular due to the significantly lower price than a Rolex Submariner. Unlike the Rolex Submariner, this movement was not chronometer certified. It was an automatic movement though; the Fleurier 390. It had a pretty long production run, from 1960 to around 1968.
The 2nd generation
The next two Tudor Submariner references were milestones in the history of the collection in many ways. The company stopped using the caliber 390 supplied by Fleurier and changed to ETA’s 2483 movement for the new references 7016 (and later 7021) around 1968-1969. Rumor has it that the new type of hands were also introduced with this model – they are called snowflake by collectors – were requested by the French Navy (Marine Nationale Francé). The company had to come up with a variation that would be easier to see under water. Tudor changed the design and it determined the look of their Submariner models for the coming years. Not only the hands were changed, the indexes became square (previous ones were round), and the dial was now also available in blue. The case and bezel stayed the same as it was on the Tudor Submariner 7928. Shortly after the introduction of the reference 7016, Tudor introduced the Tudor Submariner reference 7021, which was identical to the previous model but had a date feature at 3 o’clock. Characteristic of these models is the fact that many models have damaged dials. In many cases the lacquered dial started to flake or bubble up after a while due to the combination of lousy quality of manufacture and lack of proper care.
Tudor Submariner 9401
In 1975, the Tudor Submariner 9401 was introduced (and 9411 again for the date version). This version was also available in both black and blue. As a matter of fact, this blue version was the one the afore mentioned French Navy bought and supplied to their divers. Production under various variations of these references ran from 1975 until around 1983. The movement Tudor used was still supplied by ETA, using their own caliber numbers (caliber 2776 and caliber 2784 for the date version). The movements were slightly modified by Tudor.
Transitional Tudor Submariner
The 76100 was a reference Tudor collectors often call a transitional model. It seems that the watch was produced roughly at the same time as the 94110 so technically it is identical to that watch. However upon closer inspection we realize that this has different hands than the 94110. Production of the 76100 can be placed around 1984, which was a great year to be born, it could be a cool, rare and pretty interesting watch to celebrate one’s year of birth. Quite the conversation starter in my opinion. Image below is a beautiful 76100 as seen on Thirtyfivemill.
The Tudor Submariner 79000 series of reference (79090, 79190) was the 3rd and last generation of Tudor’s classic Submariner collection. They were introduced by the brand in the 1980’s and in – different variation – ran until 1999. The watches had a different dial version than the previous ones; the indexes at 9 and 6o’clock were changed from square to triangle, the color variation was once again extended with the burgundy color, and the date became permanent. The movement was ETA’s solid 2824-2. While the previous models had snowflake hands for this reference the hands are already so-called Mercedes hands, the ones you see on Rolex as well of course.
The Tudor Submariner Aftermath
After the 79000 series Tudor did not continue the production of the Submariner collection. Of course, there have been many other references connected to Tudor Submariner like the mini Sub produced for the Asian market, or the lady Sub for the female watch lover. When it comes to the original simple Tudor Submariner watch, the above references are the backbone of the collection. Obviously, the 79000 series is not considered vintage yet and they are still readily available for cheap money on various on-line watch market paces like Chrono24. As written in the introduction, I love the Heritage models by Tudor, especially the Tudor Blackbay and the Pelagos collections. They are a great combination of past and present, tradition and innovation. Not to mention that with their simple design, they are surely becoming future classics. Until then, I’ll have any of the vintage ones, please!
Below an image of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay in Midnight Blue, just an awesome reinterpretation of the coolest vintage Tudor Subs.
If you would like to know more about vintage Tudors please pay a visit to Tudor Collector’s site. There is a bunch of interesting stuff including vintage brochures, military issues and just general cool Tudor stuff. Also, make sure to check out the amazing video by our friends over at Hodinkee about their private visit to Tudor’s vault not too long ago. We at Fratello Watches, covered Tudor numerous times as we love the brand. Check out our other Tudor articles as well, click on highlighted texts for insert links.