Tudor was founded by none other than the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, in 1946 to be an affordable alternative to Rolex, using the parent company’s cases but fitting them with third-party movements to keep prices lower. With a few exceptions, the early Tudor watches largely mimicked Rolex models, and even sometimes bore the Rolex name and logo on the caseback and crown. It wasn’t long after the introduction of the Rolex Submariner in 1954 that Tudor came out with its own version, also called the Submariner. The two watches looked identical, from their bezels to their crowns and “Mercedes” hands.
By the 1970s, Rolex Submariners ascended to luxury-icon status and would rarely see bottom time in the ocean. Meanwhile, the Tudor version filled the niche of the true tool watch for real divers, given its affordability and easily serviced, reliable ETA movement. Several navies issued Tudor Submariners to their divers, including the US Navy to its elite SEALs, and the French to their famous Marine Nationale. The watches of this latter group have become extremely desirable to collectors, due to the military markings, blue dial and bezel, and the now-famous “snowflake” hands that really set the watch apart from its Rolex counterpart.
No one is quite certain where the idea for the snowflake hands came about, or why Tudor decided to offer this alternative to the iconic Rolex Mercedes hands, but this style of hands, with the blocky diamond shape on the hour and sweep seconds, proved far more legible at a glance than the skinny Mercedes hands. The design also provided a distinguishing feature for Tudor from its more prestigious sibling, and has been revived by Tudor in its latest dive-watch offerings.[Excerpted from an article by Jason Heaton, available here.]