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Tudor’s Tactically-Mastered Deep Dive Watches With a Military Backstory

By Terence Poh

Taking cues from the Oyster Prince Submariner (right), the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue (left) sports the specific shade of blue, chosen by the French Navy in the mid-1970s, on its matte dial and bezel. For a more contemporary and refined appearance on this vintage-inspired timepiece, a coin edge circles the bezel rather than the jagged edge seen on its predecessor.
 
Taking cues from the Oyster Prince Submariner (right), the Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue (left) sports the specific shade of blue, chosen by the French Navy in the mid-1970s, on its matte dial and bezel. For a more contemporary and refined appearance on this vintage-inspired timepiece, a coin edge circles the bezel rather than the jagged edge seen on its predecessor.

In this era of the ubiquitous smartphone, time can be told with Borgian precision at the touch of a fingertip. Even then, people remain loyal to wearing watches, to the point where just one isn’t enough for most of us, let alone the fervent and overzealous watch aficionados among us. There’s even a community of folks who photograph themselves wearing their watches in front of landmarks and post them on timepiece forums. It is quite clear that watches no longer just tell time for us — they tell stories.

And the wristwatch maker Tudor has a story to tell, specifically a history of equipping game-changing individuals with timepieces that connect them to the world. 

In 1954, the Swiss brand debuted its Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7922 which combined the house’s robust construction with technical functionality to create an affordable timepiece. Made to sustain prolonged, extensive underwater activities, the Submariner was ideal for military diving operations. Tudor targeted the emerging needs of military divers and, in 1956, partnered with the French Navy’s Underwater Study and Research Group (Groupement d’Étude et de Recherche Sous-marine) to equip French combat divers with the Submariner. Tudor was able to hone the first generation of the watch through test-driving them at military operations. Improvements to the Submariner included, for instance, the extension of the maximum immersion depth from 100m in the reference 7922 to 200m in the reference 7924 created in 1958. After a series of delicate, subtle refinements in the early 1960s, the reference 7928 was born — the iconic piece with distinct round crown guards that would go on to provide the technical blueprint for the Tudor Submariners.

Equipping divers from the largest navies in the world for over half a century, the Tudor Submariners constitute the house’s noble naval heritage, and its modern timepieces still make numerous aesthetic and functional references to them today. It is a story of Tudor’s innovative contributions to the movers and shakers that have come to define world history. To wear a Tudor timepiece is to carry a slice of important history, a history of marine exploration and experimentation — and be the one to tell it. 

The two lug covers that secure the bi-directional bezel on the Black Bay P01 add to the piece’s beefy appearance.
The two lug covers that secure the bi-directional bezel on the Black Bay P01 add to the piece’s beefy appearance.

Tudor’s Black Bay series, its seminal Heritage model created in 2012 to celebrate the house’s legacy achievements, embodies this nautical excellence. The Black Bay Fifty-Eight in navy blue, released just this summer, is a resurrection of the Tudor Submariner as it encompasses all the hallmarks of the brand. The French Navy had chosen this specific shade of blue, as it was ideal for military operations requiring extreme stealth. For the watch enthusiast of today, though, the slightly deepened blue on the dial with a matte texture serves not just as a nod to the past, but as a way to channel an understated elegance when worn on the wrist. This is a departure from the original Black Bay Fifty-Eight which sports a black dial and black bezel, accented with gold markers and the red triangle on the bezel.

A coin edge circles the bezel, instead of the semi-circular indentations seen on Tudor Submariners, for an even more refined appearance. While the contemporary, vintage-inspired piece boasts highly polished sides, it is finished in a satin texture everywhere else. Taking inspiration from the 1958 Tudor Submariner reference 7924 (crucial to the history of Tudor as the first 200m rated reference in the Submariner’s history), the sidewinding crown takes on an oversized proportion and sports the rose within a rose embossment, a nod to the brand’s British history. 

In 1967, Tudor was looking to create a model that satisfied a list of specifications ordered by the US government based on the Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7982. The project, code-named “Commando,” was about constructing a cutting-edge model superior to the divers’ watches supplied to the American Navy in the late 1950s. A series of prototypes was developed, but eventually abandoned, and is now maintained in the house’s archives. 

The Black Bay P01 model is descended from one of the concept timepieces from that era. From the case to the lugs to the bezel, it is finished in brushed stainless steel, with a lock mechanism that secures a bi-directional bezel and simultaneously buffs up the appearance of the watch. It retains the placement of the winding crown at four o’clock and the striking lug covers, both seen on the original prototypes, making it a classically nostalgic timepiece.

Made from a corrosion-resistant cupro-aluminium alloy, the Black Bay Bronze’s case is primed for a subtle, rustic patina to form over time.
Made from a corrosion-resistant cupro-aluminium alloy, the Black Bay Bronze’s case is primed for a subtle, rustic patina to form over time.

In the Black Bay series, there is also one model — the Black Bay Bronze — that isn’t ostensibly based on one of Tudor’s constructions for navies around the globe. But what it lacks in faithful replication, it compensates for with symbolic affirmations of the brand’s seafaring influences. The chrome yellow-hued bronze case in a brushed finish is built from a cupro-aluminium alloy resistant to corrosion, a material used in manufacturing ships and diving equipment. The choice of material is intended to ensure the piece ages gracefully: As the metal tarnishes over time, a subtle patina forms in a rustic, pleasing manner, evoking the feel and look of a sailor’s watch that has endured the hardships out at sea.

A great watchmaker uses a great timepiece as a worldly construction to capture critical and symbolic moments in time, achieving a certain pure timelessness that goes beyond mere aesthetic. For Tudor, the beating of a watch against the wrist is obviously a beautiful thing to see and feel. In the present day, and especially in such chaotic times, furnishing the people who contribute to the building of empires and shaping of history with a functional work of art is a laudable way of honouring heritage — and telling the story of human endeavour.