French Navy 1950’s – 1983.
The french navy use of Tudor is perhaps the closest cooperation between a countrys armed forces and Rolex, except for the Panerai and UK Milsub connection. The very first french “Marine Nationale” watches seen date back to the mid 1950’s with the Tudor Reference 7922 Submariner.
The french navy employed Rolex military issued Submariners from the early 1960’s till around 1968. At this time Tudor took over. It should be noted that the French navy also used other brands – including Doxa. Because of this, it is hard to ascertain how many Tudor Submariners were issued all together. However considering the rarity in the market, it is realistic to believe that the amount is similar to that of the UK Military Rolex equivilant.
Early 1950’s. Reference 7922 is developed. Introduced circa 1953. Some say for prototype use at M.N. French navy and Rolex has always been close and it is fair to assume that Rolex developed military watches together with M.N. in similar fashion to the Comex / Rolex association.
Circa 1957. Reference 7924 turn up circa. They all run in a specific serial number range. No engravings known.
1959 (late) till 1968. Tudor Reference 7928 Submariner. The case developments described in the submariner section is similar to the Military spec versions.
1968 till 1975 (approx.) the M.N issued Tudor Reference 7016 and 7016/0 Submariners. These had black dials and this dial variation were very prone to dial rot. Few good examples exist today. This is not a problem specific for M.N issued versions though. The same issue exist on civilian versions. Snowflake configuration ran from 1974-1975
1976 till 1980 (approx.) the M.N issued Tudor Reference 94010 Snowflake submariners. These had blue dials and blue bezels. The dials were the “new” generation and not AS prone to dial discoloration. The snowflake design is quite classic with the square minute hand and square markers.
1980 till 1983 (approx.) the M.N issued Reference 94010 with Triangle markers and regular mercedes hands.
TUDOR MN ’77. Reference 94010. Blue combination dial/bezel. Photo by Morgan
TUDOR MN ’77. Reference 94010. Twoliner MN 77 engraving. Note that there is no bracelet wear. Photo by Morgan
S.M Beveziers. Submarine. Photo by French Navy.
Note that the MN 81 has a 5 digit serial number. In approx. 1980 the serials reached 999.999 (This run from mid 1950’s till 1980 – 1 million watches produced) and as a consequence Tudor started again from zero. Precisely what number they started at is unknown, but 60.000 serials has been seen – I am certain lower ones also exist.
The 5 digit serials run till around 82-83 at which point they reach 100.000 and continue from there. In the late 1980’s the serials are prefixed by a letter. Starting with B. It appears that the B was added before 999.999 was reached again. More details in our serial # section.
Verification & Authentication.
In general a M.N. Tudor is a ordinary Tudor Submariner however there are a few fine points that make then unique.
– An M.N. produced in the 1960’s and onwards have caseback engravings. All watches were delivered on NATO straps. Therefore they have no bracelet marks/wear between the lugs. However sometime bracelets were retrofitted after end of service.
– Dial variations within their production period should be correct (i.e. blue dials on 94010)
They can be verified by the following means:
– Most newer (after 1960’s) pieces were decommissioned correctly and unlike the UK milsubs they were not stolen. Therefore decommissioning papers were issued. These should be scrutinized in detail. (as it is basically a piece of cardboard)
– If the decommissioning papers are lost or does not exist certain watches can be verified by other means. Typically military service records of maintenance performed on the watch at Navy base Toulon.
– Tudor M.N. were delivered in serial number ranges known to serious collectors (not posted online due to fakes). A watch matching the configurations above, and in the correct range – will also be considered an genuine M.N. issued piece.
Watches that does not meet these two requirements will typically be impossible to verify unless special provenance follow the watch or the serial # has been run by Rolex Geneva.
Marine Nationale Service Ledger.
The ledger was an accounts book for the local Toulon watchmaker who was working on contract for the french navy. On some of the copies you
can see he charged about 40 dollars for a service. He also had a Rolex parts account. The ledger books were official Navy documents he
was holding and maintaining as part of the contract. The descriptions also sometimes shows various repairs done etc.
Toulon was the main staging area for navy watches so they were all shipped there, then stored, engraved (at a local key making shop!) and
then issued or sent to the other big bases (Brest and L’orient – sometimes even overseas).
Interesting enough, decommissioning only happened at Brest and L’orient – so no Tudor MN left Toulon left as a decommissioned watch.
We have had incidents where a watch has decom papers from Brest (i.e. sold in the late 90’s by the navy quartermaster as surplus) but also
show up in the Toulon ledger. I think that for certain periods of time pieces were sent to Toulon, even from other bases, to be serviced..