Some brands have had long-standing collaborations with various branches of the military in different countries. The first example that comes to mind is the development of the first Blancpain Fifty Fathoms in the early 1950s in collaboration with a French Navy commando unit. This unit had very particular needs for a diver and Blancpain was the only watchmaker interested and capable of meeting their needs. Some would argue that the Fifty Fathoms was the first professional diver; others would argue it was the Rolex Submariner.
Regardless of who came first, Rolex has also worked with the French Navy by way of Tudor which developed numerous divers for them. In late 2021, Tudor announced a renewed partnership with the French Navy (Marine Nationale) in the form of the Pelagos FXD, feeling the shoes of its bigger and thicker brother, the Tudor Pelagos. This partnership is a big deal because Tudor had eventually stopped collaborating with the Marine Nationale after a quarter of a century-worth of partnerships.
A Deep Connection with the Marine Nationale
Tudor started working with the Marine Nationale in the 1950s by developing professional, military-grade dive watches for the French underwater commando units. Tudor had to meet certain criteria and each new iteration of the divers (each came with a different reference number) was better made and more specific than the previous one. To keep 70 years of horological developments short: Tudor’s first divers for the Marine Nationale were the references 7922 and 7924 “Big Crown.” As its names indicate, these references had particularly large crowns to make it easier for the commandos to operate underwater, while wearing a wet suit and gloves.
Then numerous references were released, featuring better movements, more solid constructions, and brighter luminous markers. Things took an interesting turn—and a relevant one looking at the new Tudor FXD—in 1975 when Tudor created a blue dial Submariner with the Snowflake handset. This handset was present on previous references, but it was the first time Tudor created a blue dial diver. So, this combination of a blue dial and white Snowflake hands is the earliest and most distant cousin to the 2021 Pelagos FXD. It should be noted that the previous version of the Pelagos—the one boasting 500 meters of water resistance and a three-dimensional rehaut—also had a blue dial and Snowflake hands.
However, the 2021 Pelagos FXD is the closest iteration of a modern Tudor Submariner to what the brand used to manufacture for the Marine Nationale. So now, let’s look deeper at the FXD and what makes it unique.
What Makes the FXD Unique
First and foremost, Tudor managed to slim down the case of the FXD to 12.75mm from the 14.3mm of the previous version. That’s a significant drop for a diver as 1.55mm of thickness makes a big difference on a watch. This reduction in height is due to the fact that the FXD “only” boasts 200 meters of water resistance and it no longer comes with a date function. All of this makes the Pelagos FXD closer in specifications and functions to the 1975 blue dial Tudor Submariner. It should be noted that the FXD is available to the public which was not the case for any other Submariner x Marine Nationale-issued watches.
A second trait that makes the FXD unique is its fixed-lug construction. There is no spring-bar which means one can only fit single-pass straps like NATOs. The FXD is sold with a blue fabric strap with a self-gripping fastening system (in other words, velcro) and a rubber strap. If neither of these options are your cup of tea, I’d suggest taking a look at Everest’s latest collections of 22mm NATO straps that come in one of many, many colors. This lug construction on the FXD is reminiscent of certain field watches issued to the British military, for example the popular CWC G10.
Last but not least—and by far my favorite element of the FXD—is its almost-fully graduated, bi-directional bezel. “Almost” because only the portion between 15 and 0 minutes (it's a count-down bezel) is fully-graduated. Everywhere else, only four of every five minutes are indicated. Although it’s not perfect, I find this type of bezel so much more useful than the ones where only the first 15 minutes are fully graduated. Ironically, most divers come with this kind of bezel which is not useful while…you guessed it…diving.
The bezel on the FXD was designed this way because the commandos that use this watch—and this is a watch that is actually being used by the Marine Nationale—need to precisely keep track of time while doing underwater navigation. (The whole explanation of this would take too long, albeit it’s fascinating.)
While Tudor is not the only brand that currently works with a military branch to develop watches—the French brand Yema issues watches to the Marine Nationale and the French Air Force—the FXD is important and interesting for two reasons: first, because Tudor has had a long-standing relationship with the Marine Nationale before and that issuing the FXD equals resuming a fruitful and important collaboration that took place decades ago; second, because the FXD is available to the general public for what is, relatively speaking, the modest sum of $3,900.
Featured image: www.monochrome-watches.com