Tudor. A Rare Stainless Steel Automatic Dive Watch with “Snowflake” Hands for the French Navy
Model: Oyster Prince Submariner
Case No: 82xxxx
ETA Cal. 2483 automatic movement, 25 jewels, black matte dial, luminous square, baton and triangle numerals, luminous “Snowflake” hands, center seconds, outer minute divisions, circular water-resistant-type case, faded black bezel calibrated to 60 units, screw down crown with crown guards, screw back engraved “M.N. 74” and “Original Oyster Case By Rolex Geneva”, case, dial, and movement signed
Forty-one years after founding Rolex SA, Hans Wildorf launched a second company called Tudor. Tudor watches became popular in their own right for their durability and similar design to the more expensive Rolex tool watches. Tudor’s dive watches were often chosen by various Armed and Naval Forces for their reliability and lower price point than Rolex dive watchse.
The first Tudor Submariner was the reference 7922, released in 1954 as the brand’s first diver’s watch. To keep up with the need for further depth immersion (first at 100m, then 200m), Tudor introduced a several variants of this Submariner model over the next few years, including the reference 7923 (with a manual-winding movement), the reference 7924 in 1958 (depth rated to 200m) and the reference 7928 in 1960 (with crown guards). In 1968, Tudor introduced two new references of the Oyster Prince Submariner that featured newly upgraded ETA movements. References 7016/0 and 7021/0 were available with a choice of blue or black dial color, and had similar case dimensions and design, with the major difference between these two references being the addition of a date mechanism in the 7021/0. These models featured a new dial and hand design, using larger square-shaped and rectangular hour markers, and matching hour hands with uniquely angled ends. Both aesthetically appealing and more legible while diving, these Submariners were dubbed “snowflake” ‘by collectors.
As early as 1954, the French Navy (Marine Nationale) used Tudor watches to outfit their military divers – starting with the Submariner reference 7922. Each subsequent reference increased the durability and likelihood that the watch would last through rigorous military service. Despite this ongoing relationship, the Tudor Submariners produced for the MN were not engraved or marked in any way to indicate they were issued by the military, including many of the reference 7016 examples. It was not until 1974 that a batch of black-dialed reference 7016’s were sent from to Rolex Paris from Geneva, where they received the engraving “MN 74”.
Unfortunately, many of the Tudor Submariner 7016 dials, in particular the black dials, were prone to what is known as “dial rot” due to moisture damage. This phenomenon occurred even on examples sold to civilians. Examples such as the present watch, issued to the MN and still with an original dial that had been spared exposure to moisture, are sought after by collectors. Its rarity is further enhanced by thick lug proportions, original beveled lugs, and crisp engravings on the case back.