Spot On – The Unique Tudor Milsub – A Jamaican Story
For me, one of the most exciting things about vintage watches is the research around and tracking down of new and exciting pieces – especially when it comes to military watches from my favourite brand Tudor. Since my interest in Tudor watches began many years ago, the real intrigue for me centred around the pieces that were issued to the various military (predominantly Navy) forces around the globe.
Without a doubt, the most famous examples of the Tudor MilSubs are the Submariners that were delivered to the French National Navy – the Marine Nationale (MN). Issued to divers between the late 50s up until 1983, I have written extensively about these very desirable watches here before. But there are other Tudor MilSubs that have surfaced over the years including US Navy, Argentinian Navy and the South African Navy the latter of which I would say is my main focus of research (which I will publish in the not to distant future). There is one issued Tudor that really is intriguing and has been one of my most exciting finds ever – a watch that was issued to the Jamaican Defence Force…
As is often the case with the best watches, this one came out if the blue (if you’ll excuse the pun) when I was least expecting it. I was contacted by a serving member of the Jamaican Defence Force, a Commanding Officer no less, who had been given the watch by the wife of a retired JDF diver who had been issued the watch whilst in active service. We discussed the watch that turned out to be a blue Tudor Submariner reference 94110.
Jamaican Defence Force
Part of the JDF Fleet
The Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard division was formed in August 1963 and was, at the time, Jamaica’s only maritime law enforcement body and was one of four units that formed the JDF. Today, the JDF is comprised of a total of eight units. At the time of its formation, the Coast Guard division’s roles and responsibilities were confined to search and rescue, narcotics interdiction and fisheries protection.
U.S. Navy and members of the Jamaica Defense Force conduct a small boat exercise
In the early ‘80s there was a need to expand the unit’s capability to be able to deal with dive related missions and a diving department was formed. The members of the dive unit were trained by the US Navy and were therefore trained to the highest military diving standards. The roles and missions of the diving department (then and now) are numerous. Some of these are: search and rescue missions for drowned divers, fishermen or recreational swimmers who went missing off the coast or in an inland river; underwater hull searches for narcotics; searches for vital equipment that would have fallen overboard from a ship; underwater inspection of drains, gutters and oil pipelines. Additionally the Explosive Ordnance Divers would do pier side dives searching for explosives (as requested by visiting foreign warships).
The watch has clearly spent a lot of its time in the sea and sun, as the bezel has developed a lovely faded blue that only time can bestow upon a bezel. The dial has remained in very good condition and the watch retains the original case profile. The serial dates the watch to approximately 1980/81 and I assume it was order and delivered to the US Navy – a relationship that was long established.
We know from previous research that the US Navy had issued Tudor Subs, including blue Snowflake watches, to their divers. A well known example I wrote about years ago was issued to a member of the US Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT-13) in the Vietnam conflict. The current owner of the watch bought it from the diver to whom it was issued directly and there is a lot of provenance with it.
Tudor Snowflake issued to the UDT in the Vietnam Conflict
I have also seen the engraving style that appears on my JDF Sub appear on other US Navy issued Tudors. It makes sense to me that the US stores master had the caseback engraved to issue to the JDF.
One of a Kind?
I am still unsure if any other examples were issued, but my research is leaning towards the fact that it was probably used to ‘top up’ numbers as part of a bigger batch of Doxas and Seikos; a number of which are still part of the JDFs issued pieces. Will any more be uncovered? Who knows! What I do know is that it’s a very nice watch that has an exciting, if slightly mysterious past.