Tudor’s mark in horology is unique, not because of its association with the reigning crown of Swiss watchmaking, but rather that it has managed to pave its own identity, despite this affiliation.
In 1926, when Hans Wilsdorf established the Tudor Watch Company, the idea behind the company was to produce watches that his agents could sell at a more affordable price range. He added a caveat, however, by also saying that Tudor watches would bear the same uncompromising reliability. What we have then are watches that are more accessible, and made valuable by Wilsdorf’s assurance of dependability.
As it built its name through the course of the 20th century, there have been many instances where Tudor has exceeded expectations. But to fully appreciate the worth of what Tudor was offering, there is perhaps no greater case study than that of the Tudor Submariner.
Tudor’s own Submariner came into being a year after Rolex introduced its very first Submariner, the ref. 6204. It is important to mention here that in the same period Rolex did release two other references of its Submariner: the ref. 6200 and the ref. 6205.
This is why when we look at the 1954 Tudor Submariner, the ref. 7922, we find that it’s almost a hybrid of all these early Rolex Submariners. The ref. 7922 has the ref. 6204’s bezel and dial furnishing, save for the hands, which seem to have been brought over from the refs. 6200 and 6205.
Some mention-worthy details on the ref. 7922 include the slightly domed, black lacquered dial, along with the gilt print text. Inscriptions on the dial read “Oyster Prince” at 12 o’clock under Tudor’s logo as well as four lines at six o’clock that read “100m = 300ft”, “Submariner”, “Rotor” and “Self-Winding” — a brief summary of the watch’s features at a glance.
The bezel on the watch was a bidirectional one with a domed Plexiglas crystal to improve its pressure resistance. The case shape and other design details are highly reminiscent of the watch’s more illustrious family line, right down to the winding crown which incidentally did bear the famed crown logo — as did the rivet-linked bracelet.
The movement used for the watch was the cal. 390, which was developed based on a self-winding Fleurier movement. Appropriately, the movement was signed Tudor. The cal. 390 was, as a matter of fact, such a reliable workhorse, that up to the late 1960s the only significant updates that were made to the Tudor Submariner were on its case design — the movement remained virtually unchanged.
For collectors of such rare early pieces, perhaps the greatest detail of pleasure is the particular logo borne on the watch’s face: the original gilt Tudor rose, an emblem of the once royal House of Tudor that ruled over England through the better part of the 16th century.
As with Rolex’s initial Submariner iterations, it didn’t take long for Tudor to also produce variations as early as in 1955 with the ref. 7923. The great fascination with this particular rendition of the Tudor Submariner is that it is the only one in the brand’s portfolio to have a hand-wound movement. The movement used was an ETA cal. 1182.