Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner

by Ross Povey - Oct 08 2019
Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner

The end of the 1990s was a transitional time for Tudor. For a number of years they had been slowly moving away from using the Rolex name on their watches, using ‘Prince Date’ on dials, omitting the Rolex associated ‘Oyster’ and also moving to Tudor branded winding crowns and case backs. This was a time where the brand was striving to forge its own identity that was distinct from the mirror image watches of its more expensive cousins at Rolex.

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Non-Oyster Prince Date dial

Interestingly, the chronographs had always been very much Tudor and not Rolex, even the later 79200 series chronographs that were similar to Perpetual Daytonas but were available with in kaleidoscope range of dial colours. The Submariners had always been very similar to the Rolex watches, barring the 1970s Snowflake watches. The 79190, however, very much marked the end of an era and set the future path.

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
The last series Submariner Date – 79190

Sub’s Away – The Last of the Submariners

Tudor ceased production of the non-date Submariner in the mid to late 1980s and focused on the Submariner date with the references 76100, 79090 and finally the 79190. The last model saw some significant changes to the Submariner Date line. The first and most obvious was the bezel, which was uni-directional on a ratchet system, like all modern Subs. The watches were also fitted with sapphire crystals, which necessitated a slightly larger inner diameter of the bezel ring.

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Sapphire glass and new ratchet bezel

Available in both blue and black, early models featured a glossy dial with ‘painted’ hour plots. These plots were quickly replaced by luminous-filled white gold applied markers with the text printed in a silver font. The most notable feature was the dropping of the word ‘OYSTER’ from the dial. In 1997 Tudor made the bold move to fit the watches with polished steel bezel inserts. These bezels featured black paint filled numerals and markings – in a similar vein to the Rolex Explorer 2.

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Black filled numerals on the bezel
The Mini-Sub in a range of new looks and styles (Pic: Editore Isnardi)

This new look Sub was dramatically expanded in the smaller size watches to include red, green, salmon and copper colours. At the time there were still the Lady-Sub (28mm), Min-Sub (32mm), mid-size Submariners (36mm) and full size 40mm models. Tudor opted only for the silver bezel on the full size watches and kept the dials blue or black. We do know, however, that one prototype was made in red, which is part of the Tudor Museum collection. In 1998 the Hydronaut was released and the Tudor Submariner was no more…

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
The end of an era

Steel Yourself

The watch with the steel bezel has a very different look to any other full-size Sub that Tudor made. The sapphire glass always gives a watch a very modern and flat look and the white-gold surround hour makers bring the watch quite firmly out of the classic vintage-watch aesthetic that we associate with Tudor Submariners so strongly.

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Classic Submariner lines, but with a twist

Unlike Rolex, Tudor didn’t make the Submariner into the 21st century and so unlike Rolex’s 168000 and 16610 Sub dates, we don’t have a Tudor equivalent…except this rare 79190. The watch almost looks like an inversion or x-ray of a Sub, specifically the bezel. And having been made for one year only, it’s a rare thing to behold!

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
The traditional Oyster bracelet. All future Tudor sports models featured Tudor’s interpretation of the Jubilee.

A Modern Moment

The Black Bay has been a huge watch for Tudor since it was first launched in 2012. There are now a large number of watches in the family, including dress watches and chronographs, alongside its signature diver’s watches. In 2017 they unveiled the Black Bay Steel and it took very obvious styling cues from the rare last version of the 79190 Submariner.  The most obvious was the bezel insert, which was a dead-ringer for the 79190’s.

The Black Bay Steel – Direct descendent of the all-steel 79190 Submariner (Pic Time & Tide)

It was also the first time that a date window was added to the Black Bay dive watches. Putting the two watches side-by-side makes it clear that the DNA of these two watches makes them unmistakably father and son. Rich in heritage and rooted in style – that why we love Tudors as much as we do and the 79190 is an interesting and special watch in the brand’s back catalogue. So go and find yourself one!

Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner
Tudor’s End Game – The 79190 Submariner