Developing a Signature Design as a Watch Brand
Every watch brand has signature traits. For some, it’s technical, and for others, it’s design. Since its inception in 1946, Tudor has worked to distinguish themselves from their powerhouse parent company, Rolex. In doing so, they’ve developed some of their own trademark elements that make their watches distinctly Tudor. One of the most beloved is their snowflake hands. 2019 marked 50 years of this iconic attribute. Here, we’ll look at the impressive history of this emblematic design and how it helped shape the Tudor brand.
Origins of Tudor’s Snowflake Hands
To contextualize the origins of Tudor’s snowflake hands, we must first look at the origins of the Submariner. This watch is arguably one of the most influential produced by Tudor and its parent brand. Rolex was the first to introduce the Submariner collection in 1953. A year later, Tudor released their own version of the Submariner. The initial Tudor Submariner Reference 7922 and other early variations in the 7900 series closely resembled the Rolex Submariner. It wasn’t until the second generation that Tudor began to shape the Submariner into their own unique model.
Tudor launched the 7000 series in 1969 with the Reference 7016 and 7021. These models incorporated a number of characteristics that differentiated them from their Rolex counterparts. Both notably featured new movements. The time-only Ref. 7016 came equipped with the ETA 2483. In addition, the Ref. 7021 housed the ETA 2484, which added the date function. Tudor also debuted a new logo in the 7000 series, this time just a shield without a rose. However, the most important updates were the aesthetic changes to the dial. Tudor worked to enhance the legibility of the dive watch by increasing the size of the square, luminescent hour markers. They also made the hands more robust and added design elements to distinguish the seconds, minutes, and hours. The seconds hand featured a square detail at the tip. The minute hand remained a relatively simplistic pencil shape. However, it was the hour hand that became famous. It featured a totally new design showcasing a thick, angular shape that garnered the name snowflake hand.
Military Application of the Snowflake Submariner
Tudor’s Submariner caught the attention of the French Navy, the Marine Nationale, when the model first debuted in the 1950s. The brand didn’t officially develop the design of the legendary snowflake hands on commission. However, there’s speculation that the Marine Nationale worked closely with Tudor to create the one-of-a-kind shape. Though the design ultimately helped individualize Tudor’s Submariner from Rolex’s Submariner, this wasn’t the driving force behind the change. Tudor’s first priority was building a more robust diving tool. Both the larger size and the distinctive shapes created more surface area on the hour markers and hands. This allowed for increased lume, further enhancing the legibility. Regardless of the French Navy’s input into the design of the snowflake Submariner, it was the ideal watch for professional divers and military forces. For the next 30 years, naval forces in America, Canada, South Africa, and Italy would go on to adopt Submariner.
Evolution of Tudor’s Snowflake Hands
After three decades of production, Tudor made another change to the Submariner collection at the end of the1980s. They released the third generation of the model, the 79000 series. This marked the end of the snowflake hands within the line. Shortly after, the brand retired the Submariner in 1999. Though the reign of the snowflake Submariner and the Tudor Submariner collection as a whole came to an end, it wasn’t the last of the snowflake hands. The memorable design continues to live on in other Tudor models. It would take roughly another decade for them to reappear. At Baselworld in 2012, Tudor reintroduced the snowflake hands in two brand new collections: the Pelagos and the Black Bay. Of the two, the Black Bay most closely captures the spirit of the Submariner. It features more vintage inspiration from Tudor’s dive watches past whereas the Pelagos is more modern. Since its release, the Black Bay has quickly risen to be Tudor’s most popular line. In turn, this has made the snowflake hands one of the most instantly recognizable traits of a Tudor.