The Thunderball Tudor Submariner 7928

by Ross Povey - Aug 28 2020
THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER

Every so often an incredible story accompanies an incredible watch. Today we want to share with you guys a Tudor that was owned by the gentleman who built Disco Volante, the boat that appeared in the film Thunderball in 1965. The watch in question is a stunning example of a Tudor Submariner, reference 7928 with gilt chapter ring and silver text that dates to 1964 and it was bought new by Mr Rodriguez, a boat builder who had a business in Messina, Italy. This watch was acquired by a Dutch gentleman 45 years ago from Mr Rodriguez and we can only imagine the stories this watch can tell. What we do know is that this a cool watch. The name’s Sub. Tudor Sub…

THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER on Oyster bracelet
The beauty of age – a Tudor 7928 with a real story to tell you can buy here
Mr Carlo Rodriguez

The Entrepreneur is Born

Leopoldo Rodriguez Cantieri Navale was founded in 1887 by its namesake, Leopoldo Rodriguez, in Messina as small naval repair yards. The company was small and worked very locally within the Italian region. It was the involvement of Leopoldo’s son, Carlo Rodriguez, that saw the company develop and become an important and prominent name within the industry. During World War 2 L Rodriguez was the main repair centre for the Italian Navy’s submarines.

Messina during Word War 2

The shipyard sat alongside railway lines and during the bombing raids many of the trains became damaged. Using the initiative and foresight of a true entrepreneur, he began repairing the trains and carriages; a move that led him to being awarded lucrative contracts with the Italian Railway, which meant he could expand the company. Over the years Carlo Rodiguez became a very wealthy man. He built a large home, Villa Rodriguez which was a very beautiful building and the scene of many glamourous parties and events. It would have been the perfect venue for a scene in a James Bond movie. The large part of the Rodriguez company’s success is due to the fact that Carlo Rodriguez became obsessed with the hydrofoil boat…and the rest is history!

Villa Rodriguez in Messina

Pioneering the Hydrofoil

A hydrofoil is essentially a way to make a boat move more quickly through the water. On a boat (or even surfboards now) there is a flat fin attached beneath that lifts the boat out of the water as the speed increases. This reduces the drag of the hull in the water. It is quite a sight visually, as the vessel lifts out of the water and seemingly skates across the surface. Whilst Carlo Rodriguez didn’t invent the hydrofoil, he was very much a pioneer of the technology and bringing it to a wider audience. It was war-time transportation needs in Germany that led to the Germans experimenting with early versions of the hydrofoil boat. Ever the man to seize an opportunity, Carlo Rodriguez convinced one of the German engineers involved in the building of the military crafts to move to Messina with his family to work with L Rodriguez. The resulting hydrofoil boat began operating in 1956 as a 70-person ferry between Sicily and the Italian mainland and truly placed L Rodriguez on the map as the go-to builder of such ships. And it was a name that was noticed by legendary author Mr Ian Fleming…

The Freccia Del Sole – the hydrofoil that started it all

The Bond Moment

Ian Fleming needs no introduction to readers at Bulang and Sons. The impact of his writing and the resulting movies have had a huge impact on modern culture generally but especially in men’s styling. Thunderball was the ninth of Fleming’s Bond novels and it was released in 1961.

The story essentially focuses on the theft of two atomic bombs by crime syndicate SPECTRE, which is led by Blofeld. In fact, the book was made into two Bond movies – Thunderball and Never Say Never Again, both starring Sean Connery. Fleming was inspired by the finer things in life and often name-checked the very best makers of fine products – think Rolex and Aston Martine to name two. However, there is one very interesting paragraph in Thunderball that is relevant to this story:

The motor yacht, Disco Volante, was a hydrofoil craft, built for Emilio Largo with £200,000 of SPECTRE funds by the Italian constructors, Leopoldo Rodrigues, of Messina. With a hull of aluminium and magnesium alloy, two Daimler-Benz four-stroke diesels supercharged by twin Brown-Boveri turbo superchargers, the Disco Volante could move her 100 tons at around fifty knots, with a cruising range at that speed of around four hundred miles. An expensive vessel, its design had been chosen for the organization’s scheme due to its unique combination of speed, cargo/passenger space, high stability, and the essential shallow draft for Bahamian waters.

The Disco Volante from Thunderball

And so it was that from the pages of the novel, the obvious choice to build such a boat was the actual Leopoldo Rodgriguez Cantieri Navale in Messina. The Disco Volante was actually a two-piece craft that, in the movie, was used to transport the nuclear bombs. The main hydrofoil boat actually sat within a cocoon and the two parts separate in the movie. The film was released in 1965 and following production the Disco Volante was used as a houseboat before sinking in the early 1980s.

Break away – the boat splits revealing Rodriguez’s hydrofoil creation
The Disco Volante hydrofoil section in action in the movie

A Sailor’s Tudor Submariner

Bulang and Sons get offered many watches each year. And so it was with great intrigue that pictures of a 7928 were received earlier this year. It had been the personal watch of Carlo Rodgriguez, who had bought it new and had the company name engraved on the case back. The watch remains in incredible original condition with real evidence of the factory lines and a cool look and patina that we are certain could tell a great many tales!
Check out the shop when interested to buy the watch.

THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER
TUDOR SUBMARINER REF 7928 GILT CHAPTER RING ORIGINAL OWNER
The case back engraving
TUDOR SUBMARINER REF 7928 GILT CHAPTER RING ORIGINAL OWNER
Signs of life – the original crystal on the watch

In fact, the watch was bought by Bulang and Sons from a Dutch gentleman who had owned the watch for 45 years. He was given the watch as a token of appreciation in the mid-1970s by Carlo Rodriguez – owner of Leopoldo Rodgriguez Cantieri Navale, Messina. We are not too sure what exactly our Dutch owner did to deserve such a reward, but we are glad he did it! The Dutch gentleman was a sailor and worked on boats and ships all his career. Once he received this cool Tudor Submariner he continued to wear it every day for 45 years on every voyage that he undertook. This watch has sailed on every ocean on Earth and has seen countless adventures and situations that only the wrist of a professional sailor could.

THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER
Still signs of the original factory lines
THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER

The watch came to us with the original crystal and a defective winding crown (which were replaced at service but will be included with the watch). All we did was give it a movement service, new crystal and crown, add a lume dot to the bezel and now its ready to go onto its next adventure.  The dial has the four lines of silver text on the lower half on a gilt chapter ring T SWISS T dial. We have always loved the look of these watches and this one has all the gentle signs of life that we love. This is such a rare opportunity to see such a watch that hasn’t been altered or messed around with.

THE TUNDERBALL TUDOR 7928 Gilt Dial SUBMARINER
The watch as it came off the wrist of the Dutch sailor
TUDOR SUBMARINER REF 7928 GILT CHAPTER RING ORIGINAL OWNER

The only remaining question is why Carlo Rodriguez decided to buy the watch. I would like to believe that it was to treat himself for winning the contract to build the boat for the Bond movie.  Filming commenced in February of 1965, for a release in December 1965 and so I presume the boat would have been delivered sometime in late 1964 or early 1965. This would fit perfectly with the serial range (433xxx) and case back stamp (III 64) of this Tudor. Whatever the reason, it was at the same time as Thunderball – maybe it was even a gift from Eon Productions for his incredible work on the Disco Volante. We’ll never know for sure, but what we do know is that this is a cool Tudor Submariner with a fascinating story.

TUDOR SUBMARINER REF 7928 GILT CHAPTER RING ORIGINAL OWNER
The gentle and honest signs of a life well lived for sale in the shop
Bulang and Sons Shop