Tudor History - The Submariners


Tudor History - The Submariners

Tudor History - The Submariners

Diving into the legend
La Cote des Montres - August 5th, 2016

In 1954, TUDOR set out on a new path which would contribute to forging its legend. It was in that year that the brand’s first divers’ watch, the TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7922, saw the light of day. Designed from its origin to fulfil exceptional criteria of durability, reliability, precision and waterproofness at a moderate price, it quickly positioned itself as an instrument of choice for professionals. Over the next 45 years this original tool-watch continuously evolved to ever better meet the specific requirements of the many types of divers who were clients of the brand.

The first generation of TUDOR Submariners saw numerous versions, and through them, a notable advance in terms of performance; for example, the maximum functional immersion depth, set at 100 metres initially, reached 200 metres with the introduction of reference 7924 in 1958. During this period, multiple experiments were conducted to determine which characteristics were indispensable to the ideal divers’ watch. Each reference in the 7900 series thus featured subtle specificities which, whether or not they were retained in the develop- ment of the product, contributed to its legend. Finally, with the latest variation of reference 7928, recognisable by its round crown guards, it was in the first half of the 60s that the general lines and technical specifications that constituted the TUDOR Submariner were established.

The year 1969 saw the dawn of the second era of the TUDOR Submariner’s history, which would last until 1999, the date of its last appearance in the catalogue. While the general foundations of the product were laid by the 7900 series, its evolution continued. From a technical point of view, the movements used until then were replaced by ETA self-winding movements. Aesthetically, 1969. saw the TUDOR Submariner present a famous new face. Developed for the explicit needs of diving, it was characterised by unique dials with square hour markers and matching hands, known to collectors by the name “snowflakes”. It remained in the catalogue until 1981. As of 1976, models with smaller case diameters also appeared in the catalogue.

In parallel with its civilian marketing and sales, the TUDOR Submariner served the members of important armed forces. Its successive adoption by the Marine nationale française (MN), the US Navy (USN) and other military organisations spoke volumes about the watches’ robustness and reliability.
While the first TUDOR divers’ watch, reference 7922, dated from 1954, it was several years before reference 7928 marked the first mention of a TUDOR Submariner in the brand’s general catalogue. Meanwhile, TUDOR was experimenting with a number of technical solutions to perfect its ideal divers’ tool. This absence of marketing documents did not however keep the first-generation models from being sold and immediately finding an appreciative audience, notably the naval military organisations of major countries.

Thus, while references 7922, 7923, 7924 and 7925 had the shared characteristics of not having crown guards and featuring 37 mm cases, each one offers specificities derived from, and representative of the research conducted by the brand. Reference 7922 was waterproof to a depth of 100 metres, the 7923 had a manually-wound movement, the 7924 was waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, and the 7925 possessed all the characteristics of the 7924 but was waterproof to a depth of 100 metres.

The last reference of the 7900 series, the 7928 included crown guards to protect its winding crown, ensured waterproofness to a depth of 200 metres, and was equipped with a self-winding movement. This list of characteristics was common to the Submariners that TUDOR would market until the end of the 1990s, making reference 7928 the sum of experience acquired over many years of experimentation in the field of divers’ watches.

Tudor Oyster Submariner 7922


The first TUDOR divers’ watch was presented in 1954. It bore the name TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner, reference 7922. It was a self-winding watch unique in the brand’s collection. Its features corresponded to its function as a divers’ watch: a case with a screw-down back and a crown whose waterproofness was guaranteed to a depth of 100 metres, large hour markers and hands with luminous material for easy reading in deep water, as well as a bidirectional rotatable bezel graduated in 5-minute intervals to precisely measure dive time and allow for the adjustment of the decompression stages.

Its black lacquered dial, subtly domed, was designed to optimise contrast with the indications it bears – the gilt inscriptions “OYSTER PRINCE” at noon under the brand logo, and “100 m = 330 ft”, “SUBMARINER”, “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” on four lines at 6 o’clock. There is also a reminder of its guaranteed waterproofness at 6 o’clock, in metres and in feet. Its Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal was dome-shaped for better water pressure resistance.

Its movement was the self-winding calibre 390, developed on a Fleurier movement-blank with a frequency of 18,000 beats per hour. Finally, its 5 mm-diameter screw-down crown and its Oyster-type bracelet, reference 6636 with riveted links, were signed with the Rolex logo.

Tudor Oyster Submariner 7923


Reference 7923 was the only TUDOR Submariner to have been equipped with a manually-wound movement. This technical choice made it a particularly flat divers’ watch. Thanks to its screw-down case back and crown, characteristics proper to the Oyster case, as well as its domed crystal, the waterproofness of the TUDOR Oyster Submariner was ensured to a depth of 100 metres.

Its black lacquered dial was no longer inscribed “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” at 6 o’clock since the movement used was not self-winding. In place of these indications, the dial now bore the epithets “SUBMARINER”, “SHOCK-RESISTING”. A reminder of the waterproofness was not visible on the dial and the hands used were in baton style, different from those that equipped the first-generation Submariners.

Reference 7923 was equipped with the manually-wound ETA calibre 1182 with a frequency of 18,000 beats per hour. Its Oyster-type bracelet with riveted links, reference 6636, bore the Rolex logo. On the example shown here, two straight cylindrical bars replaced the more common curved end links holding the bracelet to the case.

Tudor Oyster Submariner “Big Crown” 7924


Renamed “Big Crown” by collectors, an allusion to its 8 mm winding crown, reference 7924 appeared in 1958. At first glance similar to its predecessors, it presented a fundamental innovation in that its waterproofness was from then on doubled to a maximum immersion depth of 200 metres.

To reach this new threshold, the Submariner case, 37 mm in diameter, had been made thicker and was equipped with a larger screw-down crown. A new Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal, thicker and dome-shaped, was installed for better resistance to great pressure.

With the same self-winding calibre 390 as reference 7922 at its heart, this new Submariner bore at 6 o’clock on its black lacquered dial the inscription “200 m = 660 ft”, a reminder of its waterproofness guarantee. Its hands reverted to the characteristic Submariner design. Its Oyster-type bracelet with riveted links, reference 7206, bore the Rolex signature.

Tudor Oyster Submariner “Square Crown Guards” 7928


In 1959, with the advent of reference 7928, TUDOR for the first time proposed the principle of guards to protect the winding crown from shocks. The variations in the execution of this protection were an illustration of the dynamic continuous evolution of the same reference, very characteristic of the first-generation TUDOR Submariners.

Reference 7928, shown here and produced in 1959, presented the square version of these protections, called “Square Crown Guards” in collectors’ circles. With these new protections, the size of the crown used would now be 6 mm. The case measured 39 mm in diameter, was waterproof to a depth of 200 metres and bore the signature “ORIGINAL OYSTER CASE BY ROLEX GENEVA”. The design of its dial, hands and bezel was similar to that of references 7922, 7924 and 7925. Its movement was the self-winding calibre 390, just as for all the TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariners in the 7900 series.

Tudor Oyster Submariner “Pointed Crown Guards” 7928


The evolution of reference 7928 was continuous, like the changes in the crown guards of its cases. The TUDOR Submariner case was seeking its ultimate line, passing from an initial version of square crown guards to new more pointed ones, with reference 7928, similar to the one produced in 1961, earning the nickname “Pointed Crown Guards” among collectors. It would find its ultimate line several years later, with a rounded shape that would not change until the last of the TUDOR Submariners. Waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, the 39 mm case of reference 7928 bore a Rolex signature, as did its crown and its Oyster-type bracelet. Its dial bore the gilt inscriptions “OYSTER PRINCE” at noon under the brand logo, and “200 m = 660 ft”, “SUBMARINER”, “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” on four lines at 6 o’clock. Its bezel was bidirectional and graduated with a luminous insert placed at zero on the graduation. Finally, its movement was the self-winding calibre 390.

Tudor Oyster Submariner “Tropical” 7928


The TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner presented here and produced in 1964 featured two notable particularities. To begin with, its case had a new rounded version of crown guards. After the square or pointed shapes of the older versions of reference 7928, these new crown guards were progressively adopted by TUDOR Submariners. Ergonomic, they would not change in appearance until the end of the 1990s. The bezel and dial of this example subsequently underwent discolouration due to intense and prolonged exposure to UV rays. Collectors use the term “Tropical” to describe this type of change, which is greatly prized.

The inscriptions on the dial of this example were silver-coloured. In accordance with the components specific to reference 7928, the case and screw-down crown of this model were signed Rolex. Its waterproofness was guaranteed to a depth of 200 metres and it was equipped with the self-winding 390 movement.


Tudor Oyster Submariner 7928


Produced in 1967, the example of the TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner illustrated the subtle evolution of the reference 7928 dial during the 1960s. On earlier versions the minute graduations were imprinted within a circle; now each individual graduation extended to the flange, and the circle disappeared. The gilt, then silver-coloured, inscriptions used formerly were also progressively abandoned in favour of white ones, as demonstrated here. With its dial printed in white, its characteristic hands, its case with rounded crown guards signed Rolex, its domed Plexiglas crystal, its waterproofness guaranteed to a depth of 200 metres, its self-winding 390 movement and its Rolex Oyster-type bracelet, the reference 7928 presented here was the ultimate version of the first generation of the TUDOR Submariner. The result of thirteen years of research and experimentation in the field of divers’ watches, this model defined the foundation on which the next 30 years of the TUDOR Submariner would be built.
As of the late 60s TUDOR began to present versions of the Submariner based on its ideal divers’ watch, whose characteristics were established with the last variation of reference 7928. Indeed in 1969 two new references appeared simultaneously in the catalogue, 7016 and 7021, equipped with new self-winding movements and featuring new dials with characteristic square hour markers and hands, known in collector’s circles as “snowflakes”. Reference 7021 was also the first TUDOR Submariner to offer a calendar function. Finally, an alternative combination of dial and bezel in blue was introduced.

The versions continued in the mid-70s lwith the introduction to the catalogue of a small-size version of the brand’s divers’ watch, the TUDOR Submariner Princess Date. The following years would see the appearance of many smaller versions: the TUDOR Submariner Prince Oysterdate, the Prince Oysterdate Mini-Sub and the Princess Oysterdate Lady-Sub.

The last years of the TUDOR Submariner line would also witness significant innovations with the introduction of highly resistant sapphire crystals, directional bezels with notching, as well as dial and bezel design variations.

In total, from 1969 to 1999, more than 20 different references with numerous variations, all retaining the principal TUDOR Submariner characteristics, would be produced.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7016


In the 1969 catalogue two new TUDOR Submariner references appeared, the 7016 and 7021. With them began the second generation of TUDOR divers’ watches. The example of reference 7016 dating from 1969 presented here shows the detail of certain characteristics, the most visible being the dial and hands. Punctuated with large and highly visible square-shaped hour markers, in place of the rose logo it displayed a shield, symbol of resistance and reliability. Its hands, nicknamed “snowflakes” by collectors, were enhanced with luminous squares intended to optimise readability. This new face was highly recognisable and contributed to the TUDOR identity.

The other major change introduced on reference 7016 was the replacement of the self-winding calibre 390 used until then by an ETA 2483 movement having the same frequency as its predecessor, 18,000 beats per hour.

The watch’s lines remained the same as those established by the preceding generation, a 39 mm case signed Rolex, waterproof to a depth of 200 metres with round crown guards, a screw-down crown signed Rolex, a 60-minute graduated bidirectional rotatable bezel, marked in 5-minute intervals with one-minute subdivisions between the 0 and 15 marks, and a folding link Oyster-type bracelet, signed Rolex. The Plexiglas crystal was no longer domed but flat, thick and prominent.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 7021


The TUDOR Prince Oysterdate Submariner reference 7021 appeared at the same time as the 7016, but in addition offered a calendar function at 3 o’clock. Its Cyclops-type Plexiglas crystal was the same type as that of its contemporary. In addition, it included a magnifying lens placed over the date aperture for easier reading. The example presented here has a black dial with so-called “snowflakes” hour markers and hands. Its date disc was two-coloured: red for the uneven numbers and black for the even numbers.

The movement of reference 7021 was the self-winding ETA calibre 2484 with a date disc, polished decorations and circular Côtes de Genève finishings. Its bracelet was the Oyster-type reference 7836 with folding links and the Rolex signature.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 9401/0


In the mid-1970s, reference 7016 was replaced by reference 9401/0, which welcomed a higher-performance movement with the ETA calibre 2776, notably allowing more precise time-setting thanks to a stop-seconds function. The combinations of dials and bezel available for this reference total four in number: blue or black with “snowflakes” hands and hour markers, as well as blue or black with characteristic Submariner hands and triangular and round hour markers. The 1976 example presented here was fitted with a blue dial and square-ended hands.

Two bracelets were offered on this reference: a folding link Rolex Oyster reference 7836/0 with a classic folding clasp and a Rolex Oyster reference 9315/0, which was the same bracelet but with a “Fliplock” folding clasp, an extension link system which meant the length of the bracelet could be adjusted to fit over a diving suit. The diameter of the watch remained 39 mm and the lines of its case did not change.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner 79090


As of 1989 reference 79090, of which a 1993 example is shown here, replaced the undated TUDOR Submariner, which as of then no longer appeared in the catalogue. The dials offered with this reference were a choice of blue or black with a matching bezel. At 6 o’clock, they displayed a reminder of their waterproofness guarantee, and at 12 o’clock the shield logo. They featured Submariner-type hands. While the general design of the dial recalled that of the first-generation TUDOR Submariners, the hour markers placed at 6 and 9 o’clock were no longer rectangular but triangular.

The 39 mm case, waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, housed a self-winding ETA calibre 2824-2. Its Oyster-type steel bracelet, reference 9315/0, had folding links and a “Fliplock” folding clasp; it bore the TUDOR logo.

Tudor Prince Date Submariner 79190


Reference 79190 arrived in the catalogue in 1995. The last TUDOR Submariner reference produced, it included many interesting developments, including a sapphire crystal with a Cyclops lens, round hour markers, and a unidirectional rotatable bezel with notching. Its dial came in blue or black versions.

The bracelet was a three-link Oyster-type with the TUDOR logo. The 39 mm case diameter remained unchanged.

The model shown here dates from 1997 and presented a particularity unseen until that year, in the form of a disc bezel with an engraved polished steel insert..

Military divers’ watches

A reputation for quality and robustness 

There is no better proof of quality for a tool intended for professionals than its adoption by organisations whose main activities push the use of the item to its ultimate limits. Acclaimed throughout their long history by the Marine nationale française (MN), the US Navy (USN) and other important military organisations throughout the world, which used them to equip their elite personnel, TUDOR Submariners thus extended their reputation for quality and robustness.

The TUDOR divers’ watches delivered to these military organisations were neither custom-designed nor specially developed. They were just references listed in the catalogue, which these organisations chose. As a rule, their only distinction was an engraving on the screw-down case back. Thus for example the TUDOR Submariners used by the Marine nationale française bear the initials M.N. accompanied by the last two digits of the year in which they were delivered.

Since they were used intensely in extremely harsh conditions for many years, it is very rare that examples surviving to this day are in perfect condition. However, the relative rarity of these watches, their respective stories and the world of visions they evoke, make them a highly prized collection theme. The following pages offer detailed descriptions of a non-exhaustive selection of TUDOR Submariners engaged in military roles.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner “US Navy” 7928


The TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner shown here, reference 7928, with pointed crown guards, was produced in 1964. On its screw-down case back it bears the engravings of supplies belonging to the American navy (US Navy or USN) as well as a date. The inscriptions were displayed on three lines: U.S.N., ST-2/015, OCT.68.

This example shows a dial without a circle around the minute graduation, and with white inscriptions. Its case does not show the characteristic marks of having been mounted on a metal bracelet, suggesting that it was mounted only on flexible bracelets – as was often the situation of military TUDOR Submariners. The bracelet shown here was not produced by TUDOR.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner “Marine Nationale” 9401


Marine nationale divers were known to have used parachute belts to make watch straps, as on the example of reference 9401 presented here, dating from 1977.

The elasticity of this material made the watch comfortable to wear and allowed easy adjustment over a diving suit. The back of this watch bears the engraving M.N. 77. The bracelet shown here was not produced by TUDOR.

Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner “Left Hand” 94010


The singular example of reference 94010 shown here and produced in 1981 was a special order placed by a left-handed officer-instructor within the Marine nationale.

The particular arrangement of the crown of this watch did not have a different dedicated reference number. All the other characteristics for this reference remained unchanged. The bracelet shown here was not produced by TUDOR.