Tudor Submariner: Desirable Vintage Diving Watches
The Submariner diving watch is one of Tudor's most popular vintage watches. Rare, early models and models used by the military are especially sought after. However, newer versions are also experiencing a notable increase in value.
A Tool Watch With an Elegant Touch
The Oyster Prince Submariner was the first professional diving watch from Swiss manufacturer Tudor. Founded by Rolex's father Hans Wilsdorf, Tudor released the model with the reference number 7922 all the way back in 1954. This was shortly after the launch of the Rolex Submariner – one of the world's first diving watches. The Tudor Submariner shares many of its components with its Rolex counterpart, including the Oyster case and bracelet. However, the more affordable Tudor does without an in-house caliber. Instead, the manufacturer outfits these timepieces with movements from the Swiss ébauche movement manufacturers ETA or Fleurier.
Tudor ceased production of the Submariner in 1999, which is why it is only available as a vintage watch today. Mint-condition models are highly coveted but extremely rare, as are first-generation timepieces from the 1950s and 60s. The manufacturer released three generations of the Submariner in its 45 years of production. Models with reference numbers from the first generation are in the highest demand due to their age (1954–1968). The military watches used by the American and French naval forces are also extraordinarily popular.
The second generation of timepieces was produced between 1969 and 1989. Some of the most interesting watches have the following reference numbers: 7016, 7021, 9401, 9411, and 76100. The third and final generation debuted in 1989 and is composed of the reference numbers 79090 and 79190. Since there are quite a few of these comparably young diving watches still floating around, they remain affordable. However, the Tudor brand has a growing fan base, which has caused prices to skyrocket in the last few years.
Reasons to Buy a Tudor Submariner
- Coveted vintage diving watches with the potential to appreciate in value
- The best alternatives to vintage Rolex Submariner models
- Especially rare: "Big Crown," military versions, models with manual winding
- Former professional tool watches with an elegant touch
- Robust and easy-to-maintain ETA movements
Prices at a Glance: Tudor Submariner
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Generation|
How much does a Tudor Submariner cost?
As of writing (Dec. 2021), the most affordable pre-owned Tudor Submariner is the ref. 76100. Depending on its condition and delivery contents, you may be able to get your hands on this timepiece for less than 8,000 USD. The ref. 79090 costs slightly more at roughly 8,200 USD. The refs. 79190, 7016, 9401, 9411, and 7021 occupy the middle of the Submariner price range and sell for between 9,000 and 12,000 USD. Finally, the ref. 7928 demands the highest prices at about 15,000 USD. However, it's worth noting that all of these prices are only guideposts and that prices can vary significantly from listing to listing.
Detailed Price and Model Information
The ref. 76100 from the second generation demands a relatively modest 8,000 USD. Plan to spend over 11,500 USD euros for a ref. 9411 from the 1970s or 80s. The Tudor Submariner ref. 9401 also originated in this time period and has a similar price tag.
The first two models from the second generation have the reference numbers 7016 and 7021. The latter has a date display with the characteristic Cyclops lens also found on many Rolex watches. The version with a date display costs around 12,000 USD, while the no-date edition comes in at about 11,000 USD. Both of these reference numbers have seen their values increase by around 30% in the last five years.
A pre-owned Tudor Submariner ref. 79190 from the 1990s costs around 9,100 USD, making it one of the most affordable watches in this series. However, this model's value has more than doubled in the last five years and will likely continue to increase. The somewhat older ref. 79090 is a bit more affordable at around 8,000 USD. Its price has also risen consistently in recent years.
The rarest and, therefore, most expensive watches are the early models of the first generation from the 1950s and 1960s. The reference numbers 7922, 7923, and 7924 are so rare that only the luckiest buyers ever come across one. Watches with the reference number 7928 from 1959 are somewhat easier to find and currently cost about 15,000 USD. This model was used by the US Navy. Unlike the civilian versions, the military design has an engraving on the case back indicating that it was made for a member of the armed forces. The French navy – "Marine nationale Française" – also used the Tudor Submariner. Prices for a well-maintained timepiece with the reference number 9401 and the engraving "M.N." on the case back are purely speculative and range from 22,500 USD to 140,000 USD.
The First Submariner Generation
Tudor entered unfamiliar waters with the introduction of the Submariner ref. 7922 in 1954. Like the Rolex Submariner, the Tudor watch has a screw-down crown with no guard, a screw-down case back, large luminous hands and indices, and a rotatable bezel for monitoring dive times. The case is water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft). The black dial is slightly domed, and the gold-colored script stands out beautifully against the dark background. The Fleurier-based automatic caliber 390 has a balance frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour (vph). Additional characteristics of this early Tudor Submariner include its crown and Oyster band, both of which feature the Rolex logo.
One year later, Tudor presented the ref. 7923. This watch had a strictly limited production run and was the only Tudor Submariner model to ever feature with a manual movement. The caliber 1182 was responsible for the notably flatter case and the new inscription on the dial: The words "ROTOR" and "SELF-WINDING" were missing, leaving only "SUBMARINER" and "SHOCK-RESISTING." The text indicating the water resistance was also removed, and baton hands replaced the signature Rolex Mercedes hands.
Enthusiasts refer to the Tudor Submariner ref. 7924 from 1958 by the nickname "Big Crown" because of its 8-mm crown. That, together with an optimized case and durable plexiglass, gave the watch a water resistance of 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft). Similar to ref. 7922, the automatic caliber 390 also powers the 7924. One year later, Tudor launched the ref. 7928, which saw the arrival of the first crown protector in the series. Aficionados can distinguish between the rectangular, so-called "square crown guards," the tapered "pointed crown guards," and the rounded crown guards, which remained unchanged through 1999.
The Second and Third Generations
The year 1969 marked the beginning of the second generation of Tudor Submariners. The most significant changes were the rectangular hour markers and the hands, which are known as "snowflakes" and also appear on modern watches in the Black Bay collection. Smaller case sizes started becoming available in the mid-1970s and came to be known as "Midsize Subs" or "Mini Subs." Tudor released more than 20 different versions of the Submariner between 1969 and 1999, including ones with blue dials. The first two reference numbers of the second generation were the 7016 and the 7021. The latter has a date display and Cyclops lens. In terms of movements, Tudor chose the ETA 2484 for models with date displays and the ETA caliber 2483 for those without.
The final Tudor Submariner reference numbers are the 79090 and the 79190 and belong to the third generation. The ref. 79090 came to market in 1989 and supplanted the models without a date display. This new Submariner features a black or blue dial and a matching bezel. It also marked the return of the Mercedes hands. The indices at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock are triangular, while the others are circular. The 39-mm case remains water-resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) and contains the ETA caliber 2824-2. The year 1995 saw the release of the final Tudor Submariner with reference number 79190. A notable new component of this model was its sapphire crystal with a Cyclops lens. Sapphire is much more scratch-resistant than the plexiglass found in previous models.