01/23/2024
 5 minutes

Through the Years: The Evolution of the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner

By Aaron Voyles
History of the Tudor Submariner

History of the Tudor Submariner

There are a handful of timepieces that have eclipsed the world of watchmaking and managed to permeate the wider public’s conscience. These timepieces are typified by their rich designs, colorful histories, and unique ability to slot into a certain part of their wearer’s lifestyle. While some are dress watches, like the Patek Philippe Calatrava, Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, or Cartier Tank, the majority are sports watches. At the top of the pile sits the Submariner, which largely has Tudor to thank for its popularity. So, let’s dive in to the Tudor Submariner’s heritage as one of watchmaking’s best-known watches and explore its evolution through the decades.

Tudor’s Origins

Founded in 1926, Tudor began its life as one of Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf’s passion projects. While Rolexes had begun to grow in desirability, prestige, and price at an astonishing pace, Wilsdorf was bothered by the fact that his watches were becoming inaccessible to the everyday man to whom he had always sought to cater. To address this problem, he devised a plan to create a sister brand that would pair Rolex’s famously robust externals with off-the-shelf internals, thus creating more affordable versions of Rolex’s beloved watches. With the mission to produce watches for the everyday man, Tudor continued to grow alongside Rolex and offer watches closely linked to Rolex’s lineup.

Read more: Tudor: The Poor Man’s Rolex or a Respected Watch Brand?

Following the adoption of Rolex’s Oyster case and automatic movements in the 1940s, Tudor began to expand into the tool watch business. In the aftermath of the Tudor Oyster Prince’s success – Tudor’s version of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual – in 1952, Tudor sought to create their version of another Rolex icon: the Submariner.

The Tudor Submariner’s Early History

Debuting in 1954, just a year after the iconic Rolex Submariner, the Tudor Prince Submariner shares an incredible array of visual similarities to its sister model. While Rolex ran three references of the Submariner from the get-go, Tudor only released one, the ref. 7922. The watch was as physically robust as its inspiration thanks to its sharing the exact same case, bracelet, crown, and bezel parts, however, the ref. 7922 was the more affordable option due to its use of a third-party movement, the Fleurier 390. Given the watch’s cost-effectiveness, numerous international military groups famously ordered batches of ref. 7922s from Tudor. The French Navy, in particular, would go on to forge a legendary partnership with Tudor that would last long into the 1980s.

Tudor Submariner 7922
Tudor Submariner ref. 7922

Following on from the ref. 7922, Tudor brought the ref. 7923 and ref. 7924 to market in 1955 and 1958, respectively. These two newer models featured slightly updated aesthetics and some functional changes. For example, the ref. 7923 swapped the ref. 7922’s automatic caliber 390 for a manual-winding movement, the ETA 1182. As such, it is the only manual Submariner model to ever be released. However, the more significant update came in 1958 with the ref. 7924, as it featured an upgraded water resistance. Instead of only having 100 m (328 ft) of water resistance like its predecessors, it was water-resistant to 200 m (656 ft), thus doubling its utility and bringing it in line with modern dive watch standards.

While the three references mentioned above were undoubtedly important, the first generation of Tudor Submariners was rounded out by what is often described as the most iconic vintage Submariner reference of them all, the ref. 7928. Launched in 1959, it featured a new 39-mm case, a full 2 mm larger than its forebears. It also came with crown guards to protect its winding crown from direct impacts or shocks. As a result, the ref. 7928 became an incredibly popular watch, even though it lacked a chronometer rating like its Rolex sibling at the time (the ref. 5512), and it remained in production until it was discontinued in 1969.

Tudor Submariner 7928
Tudor Submariner ref. 7928

The Submariner Continues Its Dive

From there, the Tudor Submariner continued to evolve until it was finally discontinued in 1999. However, Tudor did decide to take a bit of a risk with their version of the Submariner and break from Rolex’s design language. The refs. 7016 and 7021 (no-date and date versions, respectively) that were launched in 1969 featured Tudor’s now-iconic “snowflake” hands and distinctive square hour markers – both of which injected some fun and intrigue into what was becoming a somewhat formulaic release from Rolex’s sister watchmaker. Several different snowflake references were produced up until the late 1980s, which is when the last Submariner line, the 79000 series, ushered in a new era for the Tudor Submariner.

Tudor Prince Oysterdate Submariner Ref. 79090
Tudor Prince Oysterdate Submariner ref. 79090

Launched in 1989, the Submariner ref. 79090 saw Tudor revert to Rolex’s design language with the use of their so-called Mercedes hands, but with the option of either a black or blue bezel and dial combination. Powered by the ever-popular automatic ETA 2824-2 movement, the ref. 79090 was as modern as they come. In 1995, it was replaced by the ref. 79190, which featured a sapphire crystal and a new unidirectional bezel instead of the ref. 79090’s bidirectional bezel. After ten years of the 79000 series, the Tudor Submariner was discontinued in 1999, where it has laid dormant ever since.

What’s to Come

While we would all love to see Tudor reintroduce the Submariner as its very own line, I think it is increasingly unlikely given how Tudor has organized their offerings following the 2012 launch of the Black Bay collection. The Submariner collection clearly inspires the latter with its unguarded crowns, snowflake hands, gilt dials, and aluminum bezel inserts. In a sense, the Black Bay is an unofficial modern reinterpretation of the Submariner. Additionally, with the very obviously heritage-inspired Black Bay 58 and Black Bay 54 collections, it is clear that the Black Bay family is the vehicle through which Tudor will re-explore the Submariner.

On the other hand, Tudor has created the Pelagos, the ultimate modern dive watch untouched by heritage-linked design language. With its 500 m (1,640 ft) of water resistance, titanium construction, helium escape valve, complex clasp mechanism, and ceramic bezel insert, it has everything you could wish for from a dive watch in the 21st century – a bit like Tudor’s answer to the Rolex Sea-Dweller. So, will we see a reintroduction of the Tudor Submariner? No, I don’t think so, but after all, we already have it in the Tudor Black Bay, and if that doesn’t scratch your itch, there are still plenty of original vintage and neo-vintage Tudor Submariners out there for you to explore.


What do you think about this article?


About the Author

Aaron Voyles

I love everything about watchmaking, from the artistry of their design to the engineering hidden within their movements and the history that breathes life into their stories.

Read more

Latest Articles

ONP-774-2-1
01/10/2024
Brands
 4 minutes

Five Jaeger-LeCoultre Watches That Probably Fly Under Your Radar

By Barbara Korp
ONP-763-2-1-vs
01/02/2024
Brands
 5 minutes

Audemars Piguet vs Rolex – A Battle of Two Behemoths

By Aaron Voyles

Featured

ONP-929-Donatos-Uhrensammlung-2024-2-1
Watch Guides
 5 minutes

The Best for $24,000: Donato’s Perfect 2024 Watch Collection

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
10-best-watches-under-2000-1-1-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 5 minutes

10 Best Watches Under $2,000

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
Jorg’s $24,000 Watch Collection
 4 minutes

The Best for $24,000 in 2024: Jorg’s Perfect Watch Collection

By Jorg Weppelink
ONP-929-Donatos-Uhrensammlung-2024-2-1
Watch Guides
 5 minutes

The Best for $24,000: Donato’s Perfect 2024 Watch Collection

By Donato Emilio Andrioli
10-best-watches-under-2000-1-1-2-1
Top 10 Watches
 5 minutes

10 Best Watches Under $2,000

By Donato Emilio Andrioli