Tudor was born in the shadow of war. It was 1926, and the world was restarting its clock — recovering from the first truly global conflict. In February of that year, Hans Wilsdorf of Rolex registered the trademark “The TUDOR” in Geneva. A decade later, as the world was, once again, winding up for another international war, Wilsdorf took full control of the company — and establishing an icon of a rose as the brand’s symbol.
Ten years after that, as countries and companies alike were busy picking up the pieces of the Second World War, Wilsdorf expanded his empire — creating the “Montres TUDOR S.A.” watchmaking company. This new brand’s timepieces were known for their technical, aesthetic and functional characteristics; offering waterproof cases, luminescent detailing and anti-shock systems — all before 1950.
By 1952, the brand had been called upon to send two dozen Oyster Prince watches on the Royal Navy-organised British scientific expedition to Greenland, sponsored by The Queen and Winston Churchill. And so a lifelong affiliation with the armed forces began.
It makes sense. Tudor watches are elegant, sleek and sophisticated — and built on the reliable Rolex foundation of sturdiness, hardiness and longevity. As such, in the years since the Royal Navy set sail to Greenland, the Swiss watchmaking brand has developed, designed and supplied watches to militaries across the world. Here are some of our favourites…
The TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner ‘Marine Nationale’
Created for: The ref. 9401 pictured above was created for the French Navy, or ‘Marine Nationale‘. This particular model, built while the M.N. were Tudor’s “in the field” research and development partner, ticked to life in 1977.
Special features: The Oyster Prince was first launched in 1954, and the Marine Nationale consistently bulk-bought the watches between 1960 and 1980. With big crowns and snowflake arms, they were highly legible and easy to operate — even in challenging conditions.
Impact on modern watchmaking: Tudor would supply the Oyster Prince Submariners to the M.N. in bulk — without straps. As such, many were worn with military-issued fabric straps, or straps the divers fashioned themselves out of parachute belts. This practice soon became legendary — and inspired the fabric straps Tudor officially manufactures today.
The TUDOR ‘Commando’ Prototype
Created for: The U.S. Navy in the 1960s. The Tudor ‘Commando’ — an unofficial name given to this unofficial prototype — was built to solve horological problems and issues the U.S. military had with its contemporary timepieces.
Special features: An incredibly complicated bezel-locking mechanism, a brushed case finish and a matte dial to ensure anti-reflective, anti-glare properties. We particularly like the original ‘Mercedes’ hour hand — a precursor to Tudor’s ubiquitous snowflake hands of today.
Impact on modern watchmaking: More than you know. In 2019, Tudor unveiled the P01 — a modern take on this classic, mythical watch (see above right). With its idiosyncratic look, 200-metre waterproofness and hybrid leather/rubber strap, it’s a timepiece that wouldn’t even exist without this striking military prototype.
The TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner ‘U.S. Navy’
Created for: Again, the U.S. Navy. From 1959, the ref. 7928 was created with many slight differences and dial variations for the military for many years. The model pictured above left is from 1957.
Special features: The dial has no circle around the minute graduation, making it visually striking — and the square crown guards add a utilitarian feel to this tool watch. Eye-catching hour markers and a ‘Mercedes’ hour hand afford unparalleled levels of legibility — and you can just about spy the iconic rose above the Tudor name.
Impact on modern watchmaking: During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tudor worked alongside the U.S. Navy to conduct scores of underwater tests — with the aim of determining which functions were indispensable to divers. This watch, as the focus of these tests, has helped shape Tudor’s waterproof offerings for decades to come.
Some TUDOR special editions — with military links
Of course, Tudor has gone above and beyond over the years. On top of many millions spent on research and development with world Naval Forces, the Swiss brand has helped celebrate and honour other military-affiliated organisations through special editions.
Two such pieces — well-deserving of honorary mentions — can be seen above. The Tudor Pelagos Royal Engineers Commandos Edition was specially commissioned for 59 serving members of the Royal Engineers Commandos, and features the Fairbairn Sykes Commando dagger on the dial. And the Tudor “Royal” Black Bay was issued to the Metropolitan Police’s Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) Unit.
Want more from Tudor? Here’s why your watch collection needs a Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight ‘Navy Blue’…
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