Snowy Celebration – 50 Years of Tudor’s Iconic Hands

by Ross Povey - Jul 23 2019

In terms of watch anniversaries, the 50 year celebration of the moon landing has had a central role this year. The Omega Speedmaster can, quite rightly, lay claim to a hugely significant historical position as being the first watch to be worn on the moon. Another 50th anniversary focuses on another watch we are loopy-in-love with; the Tudor Submariner and more specifically, its legendary snowflake hands. Once the poor relation of its Rolex stable-mate, the Tudor Sub is now a serious contender in the vintage watch market.

Tudor Trio – Three incredible Tudor snowflake Submariners

And of course the modern-era Tudor Black Bay and Pelagos watches borrow heavily from the vintage pieces, especially the iconic and instantly recognisable snowflake hands. We’ve always really loved the vintage watches and continue to enjoy the modern lines. Today we celebrate the Tudor hands’ anniversary with a look back at some of favourite images from over the years and a reminder of where they came from. Happy 50th Birthday Tudor Snowflake Hands…

Destro Diver - The Tudor Pelagos LHD
Modern Siblings – The Tudor Pelagos LHD with a Mk1 Black Bay Black

Military Minutes

The Tudor Submariner was launched in 1954 with reference 7922. The watch has a storied history of being used by Navies across the world, including the United States Navy, South African Navy, The Canadian Royal Navy and the Israeli Defence Force.

The Unique Tudor Milsub - A Jamaican Story
Jamaican Defence Force issued Tudor Submariner

The most famous example is, however, the French National Navy or the Marine Nationale (MN). The MN first issued Tudor watches to their divers in 1956 and began a long-term relationship with the brand. In fact, it wasn’t a simple case of just issuing the watches to their troops – the MN became research and development partners with Tudor. It was this relationship that eventually led to the development of the snowflake hands. The MN had issued Big Crown Submariners (references 7922 and 7924) to their divers and then the first crown-guard equipped Subs – the reference 7928 and early 7016s.

Tudor MN74 – Reference 7016 issued by the Marine Nationale in 1974
MN77 – The classic blue Snowy on a nato strap

Snowflake Solution

One element that the divers’ requested be improved was the legibility of the hands in dark conditions – especially underwater. Mercedes-pattern hands did have luminous in-fill, but this wasn’t always enough. A good illustration of this issue is the British MOD-spec Rolex Military Submariner, which had to have the mercedes-pattern hands replaced with the so-called sword hands inline with the MOD specification for divers’ watches. The Tudor snowflake hands served a similar purpose to the sword hands, but Tudor opted to also use them in civilian watches. And so an icon was born!

Tudor MN Snowflake 1977 Marine Nationale
Marine Nationale – Research and Development Partners with Tudor
Tudor MN Snowflake 1979 and 1980 Marine Nationale
Patina Partners – Two issued blue Snowflakes

Vintage Vibes

First introduced in 1969 in reference 7016 and 7021, the snowflake hands were normally paired with square hour markers. As I discussed recently on Tudorcollector here, they were for a short period of time used with round hour markers in the ‘Hybrid’ watches, but the vast majority were with square markers. In recent years, as the wider collector community sat up and took notice of Tudor, the snowflake Subs have become some of the most sought after watches. ‘Top of the tree’ is arguably the blue non-date, which when worn on a grey nato style strap is probably one of my personal favourite watch looks of all time. Black or blue, date or non-date – there’s no escaping the cool factor of a snowy!

A black Submariner Date reference 7021 with roulette date wheel
Tudor Black Snowflake 9411/0
Custard Cream – a black 94110 Submariner Date

Modern Moments

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Review
The Black Bay 58

2012 was the third year of Tudor’s Heritage launches since the big 2010 unveiling of the Heritage ‘Home Plate’ Chronograph (2011 was the Heritage Advisor). It was the burgundy Black Bay and it caused such a stir as collectors were finally able to buy a heavily vintage-inspired Big Crown-esque dive watch from the Wilsdorf stable, at a price that made it a no-brainer. The most iconic element of the Black Bay were the snowflake hands – a theme that has continued right through the many additions to the ever-expanding Black Bay family.

The Tudor Black Bay Bronze - A Golden Era...
Black Bay Bronze with its Snowflake hands and 3-6-9 dial
Bulang and Sons Strap Guide Tudor Black Bay GMT
Black Bay GMT – keeping the theme alive
Snowflake Siblings – Black Bay 36
The Black Bay Dark - Tudor's Dark Lord
Black Bay Dark – Light up the snow…

The snowflake hands also became central to the undeniably cool aesthetic of Tudor’s tool-watch, the Pelagos. We’ve reviewed both the Black Bay and the Pelagos and have genuinely loved both. They’re possibly the coolest modern dive watches you can own and enjoy without worrying about flooding them or damaging them on the beach or in the pool.

Tudor Heritage Pelagos review by Bulang & SOns
The Pelagos Mk1 with ETA calibre
True Blue – The in-house movement Blue Pelagos
Destro Diver - The Tudor Pelagos LHD
Destro Diver – The Pelagos LHD

No Snow Slow

For sure, the snowflake hands continue to be a vital and important part of the Tudor history and current aesthetic – they are the brands trademark in many ways. It’s a design that is both iconic and enduring and it is safe to say that we can’t see Tudor slowing down its use of the hands. And the collectors’ market for vintage snowys? It just keeps getting stronger!

Tudor Marine National MN snowflakes trio at Bulang & Sons
Stripes on Straps – Blue Snowflake with Patina

Three Flakes
Tudor Marine National MN snowflakes trio at Bulang & Sons
Vintage Hatrick
Vintage Inspired – Black Bay Blue
Bulang and Sons Strap Guide Tudor Black Bay 58
B&S Style – The BB58
Where the Black Bay story began – the Mk1 Burgundy from 2012