I have been researching military Tudors for many years and one of my favorite occurrences is when I receive an email from an original owner of a watch; especially if it’s a military piece. I have been fortunate enough to receive a number of emails from Canadian Navy divers whose invaluable information has helped shaped research on these watches.
Virtually all military Tudor MilSubs are essentially factory-specification watches with no discernable markings on the dials, unusual bezel inserts or hands. This is different to the Rolex MilSubs which had a number of unique factors. Where it usually gets interesting with Tudor military watches is the caseback. With the French Navy watches, we see “MN” (“Marine Nationale”) engraved on the reverse of the watch, with the South African watches the serial number, and so is the case with the other documented examples we have. Not all Canadian Navy-issued pieces have engravings. Those that do, however, are marked with either the owner’s name and rank, the serial number or the Navy Stores stock number.
Building knowledge on the Canadian MilSubs has been painstaking and, I dare say, there is still a lot to learn. As I mentioned earlier, I have had first-hand experience of talking to Canadian Navy divers and have pieced together information gathered from various online watch forums, as well as emails with friends who have also spoken to navy personnel, including divers and administrators.
We know that Tudor reserved batches of watches for Department of Defence orders. These batches become apparent over time as serial numbers of well-provenanced examples are collated and we form an understanding of “correct” serial numbers for certain issued references.
There is one Canadian-issued watch that is possibly the most fascinating of any issued 9401/0 non-date Submariner. The watches have dials that are very similar to matte Rolex 5513s, with rectangular “3-6-9” plots, triangular “12” plot and the remaining circular plots. The interesting twist is that these watches are fitted with “snowflake” hand sets. Now, I’ve seen a number of “oddball” MilSubs, where Navy watchmakers have fitted watches with whatever they had lying around; this is the fun part about finding MilSubs in their combat state. The abovementioned combination, however, has been seen in this configuration many, many times and nearly all have a history in the Canadian Navy.
We know that these watches were delivered in a reasonably small-serial-number batch and I suspect they were delivered in this configuration. One school of thought is that the Canadian Navy added the “snowflake” hands at the request of divers, to improve legibility as the logical use of hands with this dial would be Mercedes hands. These 9401/0 watches in this configuration actually had the same layout as the Tudor Heritage Black Bay watches.
The watches were issued as a stores item. In the case of the diving stores, the diving officer signed out all the equipment (regulators, watches, masks, fins, etc.) on “Temporary Loan Cards” to individual divers. The diving officer kept a log of this equipment, but this log unfortunately did not go into details such as the model or serial number of the watch; it was more of just a checklist to ensure that if six watches were handed out, that six came back when the divers either left the team or were posted off the vessel. The markings seen on a number of the 9401/0 is most likely a stores number. The rough “field” engraving, its style and placement on the caseback would indicate that these markings enabled the officer to keep track of the watches he was issuing.