24 Hours Later: The Tudor Pelagos FXD
Our intrepid reporter, Rhonda Riche, visited Tudor to get first impressions.
Just when you thought Tudor couldn’t create another intriguing new take on the dive watch, it drops the Tudor Pelagos FXD – a collaboration with a specialist unit of the French Navy, designed for underwater navigation and built to military speculations.
While at the Tudor Boutique, I was fortunate enough to get an up-close and personal look at this intriguing new timepiece. Here’s why we think the Pelagos FXD might be history-making.
Tudor introduced its first divers’ watch in 1954 with the launch of reference 7922, and the brand has been a regular supplier to the French Navy (Marine Nationale) since 1956. That is when the Groupe d’Étude et de Recherches Sous-Marines (G.E.R.S.), a scientific body attached to the French Navy and based in Toulon, took delivery of some Oyster Prince Submariner watches to assess them in real-life situations.
Those references, the 7922 and 7923, were rated water resistant to 100 meters (330 ft) and fitted with self-winding and manual movements, respectively. At the time, their waterproofness was deemed “perfect,” and their performance “entirely correct” by G.E.R.S.’s commanding officer. Thus, Tudor became an “official supplier to the French Navy” in 1961.
Nowadays, water-resistance of 100 meters may not seem that spectacular; however, it’s important to note that for most naval maneuvers, it’s all that’s needed. This less-is-more philosophy is very of-the-moment today and reflected in the form and function of the Pelagos FXD.
Clearly, the Pelagos FXD (reference 25707B/21) is steeped in history, but it feels very modern. That’s because it is using its tool watch roots to motivate present-day innovation.
Over the following decades, Tudor continued to refine its dive watches through collaboration with the Marine Nationale. For collectors, the most sought-after French Navy divers’ watch is the reference 9401, which is notable for its real-world robustness and iconic blue dial and bezel. It is this legendary reference that provides the present-day visual inspiration for the Pelagos FXD.
It must be noted that even though the matte blue finish of the FXD’s dial looks pretty cool in the press images, it is darker and much more engaging in person. Another detail that is best appreciated up close is the oversized bi-directional bezel, which is a little bit wider than the 42mm titanium case to allow the wearer to utilize it while wearing gloves.
Also, just like the reference 9401, which was supplied to the French Navy from the mid-1970s until the 1980s, the new Pelagos FXD has an engraved caseback bearing the inscription “M.N.” (for Marine National). In the days of the 9401, that “M.N.” inscription would be followed by the year of issue, and the Pelagos FXD’s caseback continues this tradition; however, due to the FXD being introduced so late in the year, the “M.N. 21” engraving makes it an unintended limited edition.
Additionally, the broad shape of the FXD’s hands and markers allows for more lume, making the watch easier to read even in the deepest, darkest waters. Above ground, it’s fun to observe the dimensions these raised markers add to the otherwise flat dial surface.
The introduction of the Pelagos FXD, also represents how the role of a professional dive watch has evolved. The specifications for this timepiece were guided by the needs of the prestigious Commando Hubert unit of the French Navy. These combat swimmers specialize in everything, from reconnaissance to anti-terrorist actions, so reliable timekeeping is of the essence.
Unsurprisingly, the most interesting aspect of the new Pelagos FXD arose from these mil specs. Specifically, the use of fixed (or FXD) lugs.
Members of the Commando Hubert unit advocated for this innovation because spring bars do fail. And after examining the case of the Pelagos FXD, we’re a little flabbergasted that this hasn’t been an option for diver’s watches all along (yes, fixed lugs were standard issue in early wristwatches, but we dare you to find an example of a post-1950s diver with them).
The frogmen also advised making the lugs rounder so that they would not cut through the one-piece strap.
Tudor introduced the one-piece fabric strap to high-end watchmaking in 2010 with bands woven in France on 19th century Jacquard looms by the Julien Faure company. But, historically, Tudor’s watches for the Marine Nationale were delivered without bracelets.
Therefore, the frogmen would sometimes fashion handmade straps out of parachute elastic, which were notable by their green color and yellow or red central thread. The single-piece fabric strap of the Pelagos FXD pays tribute to these DIY bracelets.
Today, Tudor has teamed up with Julien Faure, once again, to introduce a new, technical strap construction. Created using a 22mm-wide, navy blue polyethylene woven ribbon with a silver central thread, the French Navy needed the FXD’s strap to easily adapt to different wrist sizes, which is why the brand opted for a titanium “D” buckle, and a self-fastening hook-and-loop system. This fabric strap, combined with the lightweight titanium case, makes the Pelagos FXD very secure and comfortable to wear against the skin and over a diving suit.
Some will bristle at the words “self-fastening hook-and-loop system,” recognizing those words as a verbose way to say “velcro” and fearing that the strap will look cheap or babyish, but it doesn’t.
Again, the actual Commando Hubert unit lobbied for this material. It has a purpose that lends it an air of authenticity. But if you can’t get past the self-sticking nature of the strap, the Pelagos FXD also comes with an extra one-piece, blue rubber strap with an embossed motif and buckle (which is also the first time Tudor has offered this simple, supple strap option).
Fun Fact: Julien Faure also weaves the decorative ribbons that bear the names of French Navy ships and are an integral part of the bachi, the red pompom hat worn by French sailors and quartermasters. The bachi also sits atop the anchor of the Marine Nationale’s emblem engraved on the caseback of the Pelagos FXD.
The Manufacture Calibre MT5602
While I was super happy to experience the look and feel of the Pelagos FXD in person, one can appreciate the robustness and reliability of the Manufacture Calibre MT5602 by reputation alone.
It has all the hallmarks of a Tudor Manufacture mechanism, including an openwork rotor is made of tungsten and is satin-brushed with sand-blasted details. Plus, the bridges and plate have alternate sand-blasted, polished surfaces with laser decorations.
As refined as it looks, the MT5602 was designed for maximum longevity and precision. The variable inertia balance, for example, is maintained by a sturdy traversing bridge with a two-point fixing. Moreover, the movement’s Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) chronometer status is ensured by its non-magnetic silicon balance spring – a must for underwater navigation, which tends to employ instruments with heavy-duty magnets.
Here’s another example of how the Pelagos FXD has come a long way: The original Tudor dive watches were manual wind models. Seven decades later, the self-winding Manufacture Calibre MT5602 features an automatic movement with a 70-hour power reserve. And it has a stop-seconds function for precise time settings.