One of our founding passions, here at Bulang and Sons, is military watches. Vintage Rolex MilSubs were always grails, even back in the early days of the Rolex Passion Meetings and the emergence of deep knowledge and understanding on the early 2000s on the Vintage Rolex Forum. Existing on an equally cool level, yet a little more under the radar, were the issued Tudor Submariners.
Bernhard's Love for the FXD
Bernhard Bulang shares his thoughts and insights to this watch.
Along with our dear friend and collaborator Ross Povey of Tudor Collector fame, we have written and produced a great number of cool articles and projects as well as offering a number of military Tudors from the French Navy as well as killer examples from the US Navy, British Navy, Canadian Navy and even the Jamaican Defense Force! The root of our love grows from the French National Navy watches or to use the correct Francaise, the Marine Nationale (MN).
During our famous Passion Meetings the love for vintage military Submariners always has been strong.
My former Rolex 5517 Milsub I bought from the original owner.
Recent press materials from Tudor has confirmed that the brand began delivering watches to the Marine Nationale in 1956, specifically to the Underwater Study and Research Group (G.E.R.S.) in Toulon. The G.E.R.S. tested two Submariners, the references 7922 and 7923. The 7923 was, interestingly the only manual-wind Submariner to be released from either Tudor or Rolex and is still one of the rarest Tudor Subs. Towards the end of the 1950s, Tudor delivered two more iconic references to the MN - the reference 7924, known as the “Big Crown” in 1958 and the very first batch of 7928s with so-called square crown guards in 1959. The Big Crown Submariner from 1958 was the inspiration for the Black Bay Fifty-Eight (58), a watch that needs little introduction here at Bulang and Sons.
We have a lot of love for both Big Crown Submariners and 7928s, as we have written about in the past. There is nothing cooler than a Big Crown on the wrist, with its incredible prominent winding crown that adorns the 38mm steel case. A domed glass, plated brass coin-edge bezel and those wide lugs make it a thing of true beauty on the wrist…
The Tudor 7924 Big Crown. A big inspiration for the Tudor Black Bay 58.
My former Rolex 5510 Big Crown, a lot of the warmth is also in the BB58.
Equally cool, but in a different way are the Tudor reference 7928s. A watch that was produced for almost ten years and was the first to feature crown guards to protect the vulnerable winding crown. The watches went through four different crown guard profiles – Square, Eagle Beak, Pointed and Rounded. Alongside each crown guard variant was a dial version. You can read more here in an article from our archive. Fun Fact: Our first collaboration with Ross was a curated package and article on a 7928!
Then came our favourite and the ultimate in cool Tudor tool vibes. Come on – does it get any cooler? By the late 1960s Tudor were truly working collaboratively with the Marine Nationale. In 1969 a new dial and hand layout was launched that has become the de facto symbol of Tudor dive watches – the snowflake hands and square marker dials. Working with the French Navy and in a bid to make the watch more legible, Tudor devised the new hands that did a similar job to the military spec sword hands on the Rolex MilSubs but were 100n percent Tudor in execution. The first No Date Sub to have these hands was the reference 7016, which was also the first Marine Nationale-issued Tudor watches to bear the typical famous “M.N.” engravings, comprising engraved M.N. and the year of the issue.
The rare black dial Tudor ref. 7016 MN74. Most of these dials had been replaced over the years. So rare to find a black dial 74MN these days.
From the mid-1970s, Tudor introduced the blue dial and bezels and it is these watches that many people associate with Marine Nationale Tudors. In fact, research tells us that it was only the ‘MN 74’ watches that had black dials and bezel inserts before the French navy began receiving blue watches from 1975 onwards. The casebacks continued to be engraved until the early 1980s. Actually, we were the first place to post an image of all the case backs togther in one image earlier this year:
We have been fortunate to sell a number of these watches that we have acquired from original owners over the years. Bulang and Sons has long been regarded as one of the premier sources of these watches and we have had some incredible watches from Commandos and navy divers over the years. Remember Beauty and The Beast? And how could we forget the Commando’s MN78? And Bernhard’s personal favourite? The one that came to him whilst on holiday in Ibiza!
A original owner Tudor MN from 1978 I bought some years ago at the pool in Ibiza. Read all about it here...
Another Tudor MN78 Submariner I picked up from the original owner. We created a video about the history and provenance of this watch. Discover the video here ...
In May 2021, Tudor announced that it was an official partner of the Marine Nationale. The brand has been celebrating the fact that it supplied watches to the navy for a number of years now, especially with the launch of the black By Fifty-Eight. With the launch of the BB58 Navy Blue, the dream of a modern No Date Tudor with all the cool of the vintage MNs came true and the watch looked great on the fabric strap or a grey nato-style strap to really get the classic look. Then last month all the planets aligned and a true collaborative watch, perfect for the 21st century and tailored to the specifications of working Commandos was launched. Welcome Pelagos FXD…
Over the years we have been very fortunate to have made contact with and remained in contact with a number of French Commandos. The French Navy Commando unit was established during World War 2. Since 1947, the five different divisions or “Commando Marine” units have been named after an officer killed in World War 2. For example, Louis de Montfort is the namesake of Commando Monfort and Commando Jaubert is named after a François Jaubert. Commando Hubert, an officer who was part of 4th Commando Unit for the D-Day landing and was killed within the first hour of battle on 6th June 1944. Hubert is now the unit for combat swimmers and the unit used for underwater operations. The new Pelagos FXD has been designed with Commando Hubert to the divers’ exact specifications for use in the field. This watch is not a logo’d homage to the Navy or a PR stunt; this is actually a watch that is being used professionally by finest combat swimmers in the French navy.
The FXD is a 42mm brushed titanium cased watch. The size is a little bigger than the vintage 7016s and 9401s that the MN used to use, but then we guess that’s what they wanted. This is a new watch and could have been any size that the MN wanted. Our feeling is that the slimness of the watch, combined with the lightness of the titanium makes this a very comfortable watch. The lack of bracelet also shaves a bit of weight off the watch and makes it very comfortable. Two of the most significant differences are that the watch has fixed strap bars cut from a solid block of titanium and the lack of helium escape valve. This makes the case slimmer, as we just said, and the watch is waterproof to 200m, not 500m like the regular Pelagos. The Commando Hubert divers swim at very shallow depths and so 200m is more than enough.
The bezel is where things get really fun and tips its hat to the vintage Rolex MilSubs with 60-minute bezel insert. It has been devised to be used by Commando Hubert divers for underwater navigation. For this purpose, the bezel has a retrograde reading on it, as it is a countdown bezel, not for measuring elapsed time. The underwater navigation takes place at a shallow depth with divers working in pairs, connected by a ‘lifeline’. One diver sets the course on a compass and the other diver times the swim exactly using his watch. The course is predetermined before the mission with a set number of swims in precise directions. The Important part is timing each leg of journey, which is why the bi-directional countdown is key to the watch’s function for this application.
Do we love it? Yes, of course we do. It’s a cool watch and a pretty much pitch-perfect No Date blue Snowflake for modern life. The special aspect is the history in which the watch is so richly steeped. The magic of the MN watches is there for collectors in the very last element we want to talk about…the MN engraving. The watches this year are all engraved MN21. Next year they will be engraved MN22 and in 2023 – you guess it, MN23. Its that special touch and attention to detail that makes these watches so special to us and why the FXD is such a great watch and exactly what we would have hoped for at Bulang and Sons!
The Pelagos FXD meets Bulang and Sons
Have a look at some of our straps on this beauty. See more options here...