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The ubiquitous Submariner. Quite possibly one of the most recognizable models from Rolex, known from the most hardcore of collectors to anyone even mildly interested in watches. However it is also widely known in collector circles that the Submariner is not exclusive to Rolex; Tudor has in its stable multiple variations of its own Submariners as well. Tudor is widely known for its relationship with Rolex and is often referred to as the latter’s sister company due to their shared ownership by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation.
Apart from sharing a common history with their founder Hans Wilsdorf, the two manufactures have a long-standing history of producing similar watches albeit with different objectives in mind.
For some years now, I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standard of dependability for which Rolex is famous. I decided to form a separate company, with the object of making and marketing this new watch. It is called the Tudor watch company.
Tudor was founded on the basis of offering more affordable watches to preserve Rolex’s prestige and reputation for quality. It was on this foundation that Tudor began producing more affordable versions of Rolex models, often replacing the in-house movements with supplied movements while still utilizing quality Rolex components such as cases and bracelets.
With Tudor’s introduction of the Oyster Prince Submariner reference 7922 in 1954, the manufacture began establishing its reputation in producing robust dive watches, featuring Rolex signed crowns, cases and bracelets with an uncompromising reliability.
It was only from 1969 that Tudor began to evolve its line of Submariners, with design tweaks giving a whole new face to its popular line of dive watches.
In this deep dive, we take a look at examples from the last two iterations of the Tudor Submariner, the 79090 and 75190, introduced in 1989 and 1995 respectively.
In total, from 1969 to 1999, more than 20 different references with numerous variations, all retaining the principal Tudor Submariner characteristics, would be produced.
While the general foundations of the product were laid by the 7900 series, its evolution continued.
The Tudor Submariner 79000 series of reference (and its series of smaller counterparts including the 75000) was considered by Tudor as part of the 2nd era of classic Submariner collection, while several others in the industry categorized this series as the 3rd generation of the Submariner line.
Regardless, the last 79000 series was made in 1999, and became the last series of Submariners to be ever released by Tudor. The Submariner was a popular watch not only with divers, but also garnered a strong cult following which revered it as a functional tool-watch adept on land and in the waters with a beautiful rugged aesthetic to boot.
The first release of references 79090 and 75190 was in 1989 and 1995 respectively, with our examples made in 1992 and 1997. They share several similar characteristics and specifications but a short span of less than a decade between these two references saw Tudor introducing numerous subtle developments to the newer Submariner.
Let’s first talk about their names – Prince Oysterdate Submariner and Prince Date Submariner. Sometime between 1992 and 1995, Tudor dropped “Oyster-” from the “Prince Oysterdate Submariner” and the newer reference was simply known as the “Prince Date Submariner” as evident in these two examples.
Dropping the Oyster
The very year this change took place saw the first time a Tudor Prince Date chronograph was made available with a leather strap instead of the original Oyster bracelet. The following year, this reference made its appearance in Tudor’s catalogue with a five-linked steel bracelet instead of the three-linked Oyster bracelet, further severing the timepiece’s connection with the “Oyster”.
As reference 79190 was the last Submariner, it is difficult to ascertain if this was a permanent revision in the naming of Tudor Submariners. Little light is shed on this, though it is worth taking a detour to look at reference 79260, the Tudor “Prince Oysterdate” chronograph released in 1996. Reference 79260 had its name revised to “Prince Date” in 1997. Its dial reflected this change as well, with examples produced during and after 1997 bearing the signature “PRINCE DATE” instead of the initial “OYSTERDATE”.
Officially, Tudor has implied that the name change was due to the dropping of the Oyster bracelet without elaborating further. However Tudor’s close relation with Rolex invites speculation that the underlying factor was Tudor’s desire to create a distinct and separate identity from Rolex, and hence the dropping of the “Oyster” – a term which has long been associated with Rolex – from their chronographs and submariners, among others.
A well-known development often mentioned regarding Tudor’s Submariners is the replacement of the plexiglass crystal with sapphire crystal. When Tudor released the reference 79090 in 1989, it was still utilizing the plexiglass crystal although Rolex had already embarked on phasing it out in late 1970s.
Reference 79190 and its smaller variations arrived in 1995 and were the first and last Tudor Submariners to adopt sapphire crystal. Plexiglass was a popular choice of material for watch crystals in the past as it has a high resistance to impact – a quality which was important to an object commonly worn as a tool.
However it is prone to scratches and though the scratches could be buffed away, this weakness pushed for the exploration of new materials which are more scratch-resistant.
The last years of the TUDOR Submariner line would also witness significant innovations with the introduction of highly resistant sapphire crystals, directional bezels with notching, as well as dial and bezel design variations.
Sapphire, aided by its increased availability and the improved understanding and handling of it, became the favoured scratch-resistant material for watch crystals. Sapphire crystals may be less impact-resistant than plexiglass crystals, but it is much more scratch-resistant than the latter.
For a society which has started to view timepieces as jewellery instead of a tool, the sapphire crystal was an obvious choice over the plexiglass crystal. The sapphire crystal lends a crisp and modern look to the timepiece, has less distortion when viewed at an angle, and considered more luxurious than the plexiglass. Conversely, the domed plexiglass exudes a certain warmth and aged aesthetic – alluring qualities which some vintage watch collectors find hard to resist.
A physical inspection of the bezels reveals that reference 75190 has a uni-directional bezel as opposed to the earlier reference 79090 which has a bi-directional bezel. The uni-directional bezel emphasizes on timing accuracy and diving safety as it prevents accidental turning of the bezel. However the bi-directional bezel allows greater convenience for the everyday user as it allows 360 flexibility in starting the timing. Neither bezel is superior to the other; it was simply a matter of the wearer’s lifestyle and preference.
The initial release of reference 75190 in 1995 featured a black painted bezel similar to previous references. However two years later, Tudor introduced a stainless steel bezel with engraved numerals and markings for the reference, creating a timepiece with a bold appearance never seen before for the earlier Submariners.
Both examples feature the original Rolex crown which was commonly used in vintage Tudor watches. Though the common narrative for Tudor and Rolex focuses largely on the former striving to escape from the shadow of the latter, it is without a doubt that Tudor has benefitted from the inventions by Rolex, one of which is the crown. Let’s now dip briefly into the history of the Rolex crown.
Rolex revealed their watertight winding crown to the world when they launched the first ever waterproof watch in 1926. The value of the watertight crown is evident in its continued production today, and has evolved into two broad categories – the Twinlock and the Triplock which both provide water resistance by screwing down onto the case, and onto a rubber gasket that provides a hermetic seal.
The Twinlock and Triplock differ in the water resistance they provide, the former using two gaskets and the latter four gaskets, resulting in differing water resistant depths of 200m/660ft and 300m/990ft respectively.
While many in the watch community believe that the Twinlock crown depth rating is 100m, it is nonetheless used for reference 75190 – a 200m dive watch – which alludes to the possibility that the Twinlock crown, in fact, can go down to a depth of at least 200m.
Circling back to our examples, it is observed that the 79090 utilizes the Triplock crown while the 75190 uses the Twinlock crown despite both watches sharing the same official depth rating of 200m.
Visually, the Twinlock is distinguished by a dash or two dots below the Rolex logo crown while the Triplock is typically larger, and is identified by three dots below the Rolex crown.
Reference 79090 was the first Tudor Submariner to bear triangular hour markers at 6 and 9 o’clock, as opposed to those in the first generation Tudor Submariners which had rectangular markers. Reference 75190 which followed 79090 bore the same triangular markers as well.
It is interesting to note that on the other hand, Rolex submariners mostly retained the rectangular markers at 6 and 9 o’clock. Perhaps Tudor’s transition was another discrete attempt at differentiating and creating its own distinct personality. Nonetheless, this update produced a sharp, refreshed and modern look for the last Tudor Submariner.
Both 79090 and 75190 have tritium-lumed markers and hands – a feature commonly seen in dive watches – as well as markings on the dial to indicate the presence of the radioactive substance. The 79090 dial features a T-SWISS-T marking below the 6 o’clock marker, while the 75190 dial has a T SWISS MADE T marking astriding the 6 o’clock marker.
Different voices on online forums and magazines speculate the variation in tritium marking as a result of either the manufacture year or the watch size. Comparing our 75190 and 79090 examples does appear to justify the latter – after all, the 75190 has a smaller watch face.
Yet as we delve deeper into the online troves of Tudor submariners, there are 79090 examples bearing either of the two tritium markings despite them sharing the same watch diameter and same manufacture year.
Pictured above is a Tudor 79090 retailed by Hodinkee that features the T SWISS MADE T marking astriding the 6 o’clock marker.
References from later years largely adopt T SWISS MADE T and hardly, if ever, any references were seen using T-SWISS-T. There are numerous accounts of older Tudor Submariners (made before 1990) originally bearing the T-SWISS-T marking, but a trip to the service centre saw the watch returning with a replacement dial with the T SWISS MADE T marking.
Though inconclusive, perhaps 1992 -1993 was the transition period during which Tudor had phased out the T-SWISS-T marking and introduced T SWISS MADE T for all Submariners produced or received at its service centres.
Both references 79090 and 75190 were released with the stainless steel folded three-linked Oyster bracelet with diver extension which are both Tudor signed. Our examples feature exactly that – 9315 bracelet with different end-links of 380B and 383B for the 79090 and 75190, the difference in end-links stemming from their different lug size of 20mm and 18mm respectively.
The Tudor Submariner benefits from the same advantages as its Rolex cousins, getting a genuine Oyster bracelet.
From riveted to folded and finally solid links, the humble watch bracelet has undergone several changes throughout the years. Together with the links, the end-links also underwent a similar transition and eventually emerged as full, solid end-links. The clasp for the 9315 bracelet was improved to include an additional buckle over the initial folding mechanism should it open up accidentally.
These changes were geared towards eliminating what was seen as a weakness in the watch’s durability – the flimsy, light bracelet that did not seem to live up to the rest of the watch. No doubt the solid bracelet is functionally and structurally more sound than its earlier versions and bears less risk of breaking apart; yet the comforting weight of the folded bracelet does not seem to drag the wrist down as opposed to its newer counterpart, and the slight rattling of the bracelet as you put on the watch further emphasizes the vintage nature of these examples.
While Rolex utilized high-grade in-house movements in their watches, Tudor maintains relative affordability by sourcing its movements from ETA, a Swiss designer and manufacturer of reliable ébauches and movements.
Both references 79090 and 75190 are powered by modified versions of the self-winding ETA calibre 2824-2, widely known to be the workhorse of the ETA mechanical line.
With a power reserve of 42 hours, the 25 jewel ETA 2824-2 features a bi-directional central winding rotor that powers the watch with the movement of the wearer’s wrist. The hacking function freezes the second hand while time-setting, allowing for greater accuracy during time-synchronization.
The quick date correction and semi-instantaneous date change complete the tool-watch package with the convenience and utility of a date aperture at 3 o’clock.
Watchmakers argue that the relatively humble 2824—when properly regulated, oiled and adjusted—can easily match movements from far smarter makers for accuracy.
As one of the favourites at Time Curated, the Tudor ref. 79090 comes at a wrist-friendly diameter of 39mm, suitable for most wrists. Fitted with the more technically sophisticated Triplock crown, the 79090 also comes with a bidirectional timing bezel which affords more day-to-day convenience. The domed plexiglass crystal offers perhaps the most distinctive characteristic that sets it apart from the 75190, giving the watch a vintage aesthetic and can be easily polished as well.
For collectors with an appreciation for more classical watch dimensions or those with slender wrists, the Tudor ref. 75190 with its diameter of 36mm would be a worthy consideration as well. The unidirectional racheting bezel feels satisfying to operate while offering enhanced safety during dive timing, while the sapphire crystal gives the 75190 a more modern look while affording greater durability against scratches and reduces optical distortion while time-reading. The 75190 is also offered in variants with Jubilee and Oyster bracelets, which are both interchangeable.
Despite being termed as the poor man’s Rolex by many in collecting circles, Tudor has left a significant mark with its iconic designs, uncompromising reliability and increased accessibility. Easy on both the eyes and the wallet, Tudor’s ref. 79090 and 75190 are both great alternatives to the considerably pricier vintage Submariners from Rolex. The unique dial designs of the Tudor Submariners help to stand out among a sea of Rolex Submariners, while their tritium dial markers will continue to age over time to build personality and charm.