There’s no denying that Tudor has had nothing short of a meteoric rise over the past decade. The top of the tree position would undoubtedly go to the no-crown-guard Submariners that appear very infrequently – remember the red writing manual wind 7923 that sold earlier this year for six figures? And the Big Crown Subs have been up there with Rolex BCs for a while now. One watch that seems to get hotter and hotter, however, is the MilSub. French, South African, Argentinian or Canadian – they are all highly sought after. Whilst the archetypal French Tudor Military Submariner is the blue snowflake, the story has a much darker beginning. There is one MN watch that is sought more eagerly than all the others and is something of a grail amongst MilSub collectors. Today we are sharing with you the original black MilSub – the Marine Nationale Tudor MN74…
The Dark Ages
The original snowflakes were first delivered to the French National Navy in 1974. The iconic hands were developed as a response to the divers requiring a more legible watch when diving in dark waters. Much like the Rolex ‘gladiator’ or ‘sword’ hands on the British MOD MilSubs, the Tudor snowflake hands had a much larger surface area than the traditional ‘mercedes’ pattern hands. The only difference being that the snowflake hands went into commercial production, unlike the Rolex sword hands. All the watches delivered in 1974 were from a small serial number batch was common practice for Tudor. And they were all black!
The Bubble’s Back
The watches were subjected to a tough life in combat situations and were treated as workhorses. There is inevitability a high risk that there will be a small amount of moisture ingress at some point during a watches active service. Setting the time with wet gloves, not quite securing the screw-down crown fully, a leak in a seal and a hundred other reasons; and not just in military service but in civilian life too. This isn’t always a huge issue, but the black dials reacted very badly and began to bubble. If we go back to Hans Wilsdorf’s original vision for Tudor, it was a more affordable alternative to Rolex but with the same stringent quality control and guarantee. This issue with the dials was unacceptable and so a new dial was put in the watches from 1975 watches onwards – the blue dial and bezel insert.
Black and Blue
The Marine Nationale watchmakers were provided with spare parts – dials, hands, bezels, crystals – all the stock that they needed to keep the Navy’s watches in working order. They were sent blue dials to fit into watches where the black dials had ‘failed’. Some were worse than others, but a lot got changed and took on their new lives as ‘blue snowys’. Some escaped unscathed and others must have been deemed good enough to continue. Little did anybody realise back then what a difference a dial could make!
The Black List
And so now finding an original all-black MN74 is not as easy as you might imagine. They are out there but not all of them are fully correct – it has to be black, not blue. The hardcore Tudorcollector has a ‘soft spot’ for a ’74 issued military Sub in its original black configuration. The MN74 is, in my mind, only fully correct when black…in its original state. Of course one converted to blue is still a great MilSub, especially if the swap was done by one of the navy watchmakers. But the purest – they’re always going to want black.
The Ultimate Tool Look
The black snowflake has a utilitarian look that is hard to match. It can been seen now on the Pelagos. The Black Bay is cool and the gilt dial gives it a 1950s-esque vibe, but he white text on the black Pelagos is pure military heritage tool watch. This look is inspired by the black snowflakes from 74, with the under-the-radar mission look when worn on a grey or black fabric strap. There is no doubt – it’s a look!
The Bulang MN74
“We are delighted to offer you this cool example of a Tudor Submariner reference 7016, issued to the Marine Nationale in 1974. Falling into the correct serial range for these watches this is an all-original example of a watch that is becoming harder to find. In the world of military watch collecting this is a very desirable watch and we are sure that you will love it!” Bernhard Bulang – Founder and Creative Director