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Tudor X Marine Nationale – An Official Partnership for 2021

Today Tudor has announced an official partnership with the French Navy that is a celebration of the two organisations long working relationship...

This marks the first time the two entities have officially worked together again since the 80’s and I’m pretty sure there will be some cool collaborations to come over the coming years.

An MN Navy diver wearing a "Big Crown" Submariner

As part of the information Tudor released today are some new interesting elements about the early days of the partnership. We now know that the first batch of watches was delivered in 1956 when the Toulon-based Underwater Study and Research Group (Groupement d’Etude et de Recherches Sous-marines or G.E.R.S.) received both reference 7922 and 7923 Submariner watches for evaluation. The then Commander of the G.E.R.S. send reports back to Tudor saying that the watches were “perfect” in terms of water resistance and the timekeeping was “completely correct”. And so began the saga…

A Tudor 7922 "Small Crown" watch

A Manual-wind ref 7923 "Small Crown" Submariner

In 1958 an updated watch was sent to the MN,  the reference 7924. The 7924 had a new case and oversized winding crown, leading to the nickname “Big Crown”. The 7924 was also a technological advance due to it being depth rated to 200m. The next challenge revolved around ensuring the watch was as waterproof as possible. The most obviously vulnerable point of the 7924 was the winding crown and the extra bulk of the 8mm crown was vulnerable to getting knocked whilst underwater, thus causing the watch’s waterproof properties to be compromised. To address this issue Tudor developed the 7928 – the first Tudor Submariner with shoulders either side of the crown, ensuring that the crown was more protected.

A Tudor 7924 Submariner "Big Crown"

The reference 7928 was produced for a period of almost 10 years and during this time underwent a number of subtle changes to the case design and dial layout. The first run of 7928s featured what we now refer to as ‘square crown guards’. What followed were crown guards known as pointed crown guards or PCGs to use collectors’ parlance which eventually evolved into the final type of crown guards seen on 7928 – the rounded crown guards. All of these versions were used by the MN.

In the late 1960s Tudor unveiled a totally new dial and hand layout that became one of the enduring symbols of Tudor dive watches. The often-murky waters in which the navy divers worked made it difficult to make out the positions of the hands. In a bid to make the watch face more legible, Tudor devised what we now know as the Snowflake watches, primarily due to the shape of the hour hands. The watches were first formally issued to divers in 1974 and continued to be officially used until 1983. The watches are easily identified due to the markings on the caseback. The first batch of watches issued in 1974 had black dials and hands, before the advent of blue dials and hands.  In 1974, the reference 7016 was  the first TUDOR diving watch to bear the famous “TUDOR M.N.” engravings. Composed of the initials M.N. and the year of issue in numbers. Around 1980 Tudor ceased issuing the iconic snowflake hands in the watches and reverted to the mercedes pattern hands.

A 9401 "Snowflake" Submariner

A 9401 with mercedes-pattern hands

The Marine Nationale continued to order Submariners from Tudor right through until the early to mid 1980s. These watches were used, however, until as late as the 2000s.  7928s, 7016s and 9401s were all used by Navy personnel in active service. In fact, it is believed that the snowflake hand design, that is still used by Tudor today in the Black Bay and Pelagos lines, was as a direct result of French navy divers requesting a more legible handset that they could read more easily in low light conditions.

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