The Tudor Submariners from 1954 to 1968
While the first TUDOR divers’ watch, reference 7922, dated from 1954, it was several years before reference 7928 marked the first mention of a TUDOR Submariner in the brand’s general catalogue. Meanwhile, TUDOR was experimenting with a number of technical solutions to perfect its ideal divers’ tool. This absence of marketing documents did not however keep the first-generation models from being sold and immediately finding an appreciative audience, notably the naval military organisations of major countries.
Thus, while references 7922, 7923, 7924 and 7925 had the shared characteristics of not having crown guards and featuring 37 mm cases, each one offers specificities derived from, and representative of the research conducted by the brand. Reference 7922 was waterproof to a depth of 100 metres, the 7923 had a manually-wound movement, the 7924 was waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, and the 7925 possessed all the characteristics of the 7924 but was waterproof to a depth of 100 metres.
The last reference of the 7900 series, the 7928 included crown guards to protect its winding crown, ensured waterproofness to a depth of 200 metres, and was equipped with a self-winding movement. This list of characteristics was common to the Submariners that TUDOR would market until the end of the 1990s, making reference 7928 the sum of experience acquired over many years of experimentation in the field of divers’ watches.
Tudor Oyster Submariner 7922
The first TUDOR divers’ watch was presented in 1954. It bore the name TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner, reference 7922. It was a self-winding watch unique in the brand’s collection. Its features corresponded to its function as a divers’ watch: a case with a screw-down back and a crown whose waterproofness was guaranteed to a depth of 100 metres, large hour markers and hands with luminous material for easy reading in deep water, as well as a bidirectional rotatable bezel graduated in 5-minute intervals to precisely measure dive time and allow for the adjustment of the decompression stages.
Its black lacquered dial, subtly domed, was designed to optimise contrast with the indications it bears – the gilt inscriptions “OYSTER PRINCE” at noon under the brand logo, and “100 m = 330 ft”, “SUBMARINER”, “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” on four lines at 6 o’clock. There is also a reminder of its guaranteed waterproofness at 6 o’clock, in metres and in feet. Its Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal was dome-shaped for better water pressure resistance.
Its movement was the self-winding calibre 390, developed on a Fleurier movement-blank with a frequency of 18,000 beats per hour. Finally, its 5 mm-diameter screw-down crown and its Oyster-type bracelet, reference 6636 with riveted links, were signed with the Rolex logo.
Tudor Oyster Submariner 7923
Reference 7923 was the only TUDOR Submariner to have been equipped with a manually-wound movement. This technical choice made it a particularly flat divers’ watch. Thanks to its screw-down case back and crown, characteristics proper to the Oyster case, as well as its domed crystal, the waterproofness of the TUDOR Oyster Submariner was ensured to a depth of 100 metres.
Its black lacquered dial was no longer inscribed “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” at 6 o’clock since the movement used was not self-winding. In place of these indications, the dial now bore the epithets “SUBMARINER”, “SHOCK-RESISTING”. A reminder of the waterproofness was not visible on the dial and the hands used were in baton style, different from those that equipped the first-generation Submariners.
Reference 7923 was equipped with the manually-wound ETA calibre 1182 with a frequency of 18,000 beats per hour. Its Oyster-type bracelet with riveted links, reference 6636, bore the Rolex logo. On the example shown here, two straight cylindrical bars replaced the more common curved end links holding the bracelet to the case.
Tudor Oyster Submariner “Big Crown” 7924
Renamed “Big Crown” by collectors, an allusion to its 8 mm winding crown, reference 7924 appeared in 1958. At first glance similar to its predecessors, it presented a fundamental innovation in that its waterproofness was from then on doubled to a maximum immersion depth of 200 metres.
To reach this new threshold, the Submariner case, 37 mm in diameter, had been made thicker and was equipped with a larger screw-down crown. A new Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal, thicker and dome-shaped, was installed for better resistance to great pressure.
With the same self-winding calibre 390 as reference 7922 at its heart, this new Submariner bore at 6 o’clock on its black lacquered dial the inscription “200 m = 660 ft”, a reminder of its waterproofness guarantee. Its hands reverted to the characteristic Submariner design. Its Oyster-type bracelet with riveted links, reference 7206, bore the Rolex signature.
Tudor Oyster Submariner “Square Crown Guards” 7928
In 1959, with the advent of reference 7928, TUDOR for the first time proposed the principle of guards to protect the winding crown from shocks. The variations in the execution of this protection were an illustration of the dynamic continuous evolution of the same reference, very characteristic of the first-generation TUDOR Submariners.
Reference 7928, shown here and produced in 1959, presented the square version of these protections, called “Square Crown Guards” in collectors’ circles. With these new protections, the size of the crown used would now be 6 mm. The case measured 39 mm in diameter, was waterproof to a depth of 200 metres and bore the signature “ORIGINAL OYSTER CASE BY ROLEX GENEVA”. The design of its dial, hands and bezel was similar to that of references 7922, 7924 and 7925. Its movement was the self-winding calibre 390, just as for all the TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariners in the 7900 series.
Tudor Oyster Submariner “Pointed Crown Guards” 7928
The evolution of reference 7928 was continuous, like the changes in the crown guards of its cases. The TUDOR Submariner case was seeking its ultimate line, passing from an initial version of square crown guards to new more pointed ones, with reference 7928, similar to the one produced in 1961, earning the nickname “Pointed Crown Guards” among collectors. It would find its ultimate line several years later, with a rounded shape that would not change until the last of the TUDOR Submariners. Waterproof to a depth of 200 metres, the 39 mm case of reference 7928 bore a Rolex signature, as did its crown and its Oyster-type bracelet. Its dial bore the gilt inscriptions “OYSTER PRINCE” at noon under the brand logo, and “200 m = 660 ft”, “SUBMARINER”, “ROTOR”, “SELF-WINDING” on four lines at 6 o’clock. Its bezel was bidirectional and graduated with a luminous insert placed at zero on the graduation. Finally, its movement was the self-winding calibre 390.
Tudor Oyster Submariner “Tropical” 7928
The TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner presented here and produced in 1964 featured two notable particularities. To begin with, its case had a new rounded version of crown guards. After the square or pointed shapes of the older versions of reference 7928, these new crown guards were progressively adopted by TUDOR Submariners. Ergonomic, they would not change in appearance until the end of the 1990s. The bezel and dial of this example subsequently underwent discolouration due to intense and prolonged exposure to UV rays. Collectors use the term “Tropical” to describe this type of change, which is greatly prized.
The inscriptions on the dial of this example were silver-coloured. In accordance with the components specific to reference 7928, the case and screw-down crown of this model were signed Rolex. Its waterproofness was guaranteed to a depth of 200 metres and it was equipped with the self-winding 390 movement.
Tudor Oyster Submariner 7928
Produced in 1967, the example of the TUDOR Oyster Prince Submariner illustrated the subtle evolution of the reference 7928 dial during the 1960s. On earlier versions the minute graduations were imprinted within a circle; now each individual graduation extended to the flange, and the circle disappeared. The gilt, then silver-coloured, inscriptions used formerly were also progressively abandoned in favour of white ones, as demonstrated here. With its dial printed in white, its characteristic hands, its case with rounded crown guards signed Rolex, its domed Plexiglas crystal, its waterproofness guaranteed to a depth of 200 metres, its self-winding 390 movement and its Rolex Oyster-type bracelet, the reference 7928 presented here was the ultimate version of the first generation of the TUDOR Submariner. The result of thirteen years of research and experimentation in the field of divers’ watches, this model defined the foundation on which the next 30 years of the TUDOR Submariner would be built.