If you listen to the Worn & Wound podcast, you’ve likely heard us make poor attempts at predicting what Tudor will do next. Our inaccuracy is a bit of a running gag, but it’s fun to speculate on a brand we all have a deep admiration for, and ultimately want to see creating watches that live up to the name on the dial. Last year was nothing if not unpredictable, who among us saw a silver cased Black Bay 58 coming? Gold? Maybe. Bronze? Okay, that one made a bit more sense, but with a 3,6,9 dial? As odd as they may have felt at the time, it’s safe to say each has found a loyal following. Tudor has found a way to be like a chef at a great restaurant, a glance at the menu might leave you scratching your head or even come off as straight up unappetizing, but you still trust that it’s going to be good more often than not.
One watch suspiciously absent from the release schedule for much of the year was the beloved Pelagos. When it was revealed that Tudor had picked up their historic partnership with the French Navy, the Marine Nationale, in May of ‘21, speculation on what might come of it ramped up hard, and of course, the Pelagos was front and center in much of that discussion. It took until November ‘21 to finally reveal that it would indeed be a Pelagos that would, for the first time since the ‘80s, bear an ‘M.N.’ caseback for Tudor with a watch called the FXD.
Reviewed: The Unexpected Tudor Pelagos FXD [With Video]
Satin Brushed Titanium
The Tudor FXD almost certainly has a few ingredients you think you won’t like, but this watch is a great example of why you ‘trust the chef’. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, or Michelin star worthy, it means that some questionable or otherwise unusual traits have been turned into something genuinely, and surprisingly good. Well, if you’re the type that gets into tool watches, that is.
A Noteworthy History
The relationship between Tudor and the Marine Nationale, as you may have heard when the FXD was released, goes way back, and includes some of the most sought after references from the brand’s earliest efforts at making dive watches. Tudor started making true dive watches in 1954, around a year after Rolex introduced their Submariner to the market. Tudor’s use of Rolex cases and off the shelf ebauches meant a more accessible dive watch, and one that caught the interest of the French Navy right off the bat.
By 1956 the Marine Nationale began using Tudor Submariner references 7922 and 7923 after receiving glowing evaluations from Groupement d’Étude et de Recherches Sous-Marines (G.E.R.S.), the underwater study and research group. These early Tudor Subs were water resistant to 100 meters, as it wasn’t until 1958 and the reference 7924 that the watch gained an additional 100 meters to its depth rating.
I’ll pause here to appreciate the rather unique and rare Tudor Submariner reference 7923. This watch used a manual winding modified ETA 1156 (Tudor 1182), and as a result the dial and case are a bit different than other Sub references of the era. Gone was the ‘self-winding’ label at 6 o’clock, replaced simply with ‘Submariner’ and ‘Shock-Resisting’, and some examples even ditched the depth rating. This reference also used pencil hands like the earliest Rolex Submariner 6204 and 6205 examples. Needless to say, the Tudor 7923 is quite rare and as you may have guessed, very collectible. Tudor honored this exact watch with their Only Watch 2015 creation with the Black Bay One, which nailed the dial and bezel of the 7923, though still used an automatic ETA movement. That watch sold for CHF375,000, by the way.
Tudor Submariner watches issued to the Marine Nationale all feature a unique signed caseback with the letters “M.N.” along with the year they were issued (e.g. M.N.78). This practice returns with the FXD, although they are being offered to civilians, which will be tricky to differentiate between models that were actually issued to members of the Marine Nationale, I presume. Unless issued examples differ in some other way, for instance, in their dial layout.
Setting the considerable history aside, just how well does the FXD hold up as a Pelagos, or better yet, a diver/tool watch? All things considered, surprisingly well. I say surprisingly because this watch was designed with an exceedingly niche activity in mind, performed by a select few individuals, which usually means some serious compromises have been made when it comes to general everyday use. But that’s not the case here. In fact, an argument could be made that this is the most usable and wearable Pelagos yet.
The niche activity the FXD was designed for involves underwater navigation maneuvers performed by French Navy
divers swimmers (thanks to YT commenter zenchantment for clarifying). A pair of swimmers can navigate not far under the water’s surface with the aid of a compass, and this FXD to mark the passage of time in intervals. The pair will travel in a specific direction for a set period of time, adjust, and embark on the next leg of the journey, all on a set path to their destination (presumably undetected). This procedure led to a very peculiar execution of the bezel for the FXD, which is (sorta) fully indexed, countdown, and bidirectional, all rather uncommon features among dive watch bezels.
The Dial & Bezel
I am not a swimmer (or diver) for the French Navy (or any Navy, for that matter, or even a diver, if I’m being honest), so I can’t speak to the efficiency of this design in the act of performing those underwater maneuvers. I imagine that a swimmer will turn the bezel to align a predetermined set of minutes to the minute hand, allowing the minute hand to arrive at the triangle to signify the elapse of that time. For instance, turning the bezel to align the 20 with the minute hand will then count down, well, 20 minutes to the triangle. The bidirectional nature of the bezel then allows for the next stage to be set consecutively without needing to be brought all the way back around.
This nifty feature set is about as practical as any bezel you might find yourself using in day to day, non-diving scenarios, maybe even more so with the bidirectional nature of it. Every marking on the ceramic bezel insert, which is matte blue, receives a filling of lume so the whole thing lights up when transitioning to low light situations. This is among the most legible watches I’ve ever encountered, partially thanks to the dark blue base and crisp white markers and lume, and partially because of how the dial is placed under the crystal.
The dial of the FXD is one of things that sneaks up on you, and only after a few days in use do you really begin to fully appreciate it. The crystal is flat and sits nearly flush with the bezel, and the dial appears to be set directly underneath it. Ok, so that part is obvious, but this dial is really tucked right up against the underside of this crystal, or at least appears that way. The original Pelagos had a rather distinctive, three-dimensional rehaut with chapter ring which the hour plots sat neatly within, there was a lot of depth there. The FXD tightens that up, and that rehaut is pushed all the way to the edge of the dial. It’s much smaller as well, and serves as the only indication that there is any space at all between the crystal and dial.
The net result, however, is a dial that appears wide, sharp, and ultra legible. It’s also easily read at extreme angles. Seriously, if this dial plane breaks even the shallowest of angles to your eye, you’ll be able to read the time. I know it’s a real, physical object, but I’d use the term HD to describe its appearance. At certain angles, and in the right light, you can see some shape (subtle curvature?) to the underside of the crystal near the very edge, so it feels like this appearance was intentionally engineered to be, well, excellent.
The base blue being used on the dial and bezel is much darker and desaturated compared to the blue seen in the existing Pelagos reference. It’s easy enough to get along with if you enjoy blue watches, but more importantly provides a wallop of contrast for the lume which is white in daylight, and light blue when charged.
This is the first Pelagos to 86 the date window at 3 o’clock, to the delight or chagrin of many enthusiasts. I’m glad this option exists as I personally prefer the look, even if I do find a date useful. It feels tidier overall and this is a great modern dive design that really sings on its own. Yes, all that text on the bottom of the dial is still there, but there’s less to compete for your attention here so it fades away in my experience.
One small detail I love about the Pelagos, FXD included, is the counterweight of the seconds hand, which is color matched to the dial. It’s a small thing, but it removes even the tiniest of distraction that could compromise legibility.
Of all the online chatter about the FXD after its release, none quite reached the level of consternation about this case. The dimensions didn’t seem to square with the wrist shots that were popping up, and the fixed lug bar design appeared potentially unwieldy while at the same time permanently preventing use of the excellent Pelagos bracelet. Pictures and numbers clearly weren’t going to be enough to get a proper read on this watch. After spending a bit of time with the FXD, I can assure you, those numbers do not tell the full story.
Ok, so the numbers aren’t that scary, but they did raise an eyebrow as they fall into strange territory that could wear really well or, not so much. The Speedmaster is another good example here, as it wears much easier than its 42mm label might suggest. The FXD measures 42mm in diameter from the edges of the bezel assembly, however if you take the measurement from the case itself, you’re looking at 41mm. The lug to lug is where the real concern was laid, which is advertised as being 52mm. In reality, the measurement taken from the center of the lug bars is 51.4mm. It’s important to note that those lug bars bow out and away from the case, and if you take the measurement from the tips of the lugs, you’ll get 49.7mm. Finally, total thickness is 12.7mm, about 1.5mm thinner than the existing Pelagos. With that context, the numbers don’t look so bad at all. Sure, no matter how you slice it, this isn’t a tiny watch, but if you’re on the fence around those 40mm diameter and sub 50mm lug to lug numbers, you’ll find a very wearable watch in the FXD.
The case is still titanium so it’s light as ever, especially when paired with the fabric strap, which goes a long way in day to day wearability. The profile of the lug slopes dramatically toward the wrist as well, with a heavy chamfer dividing the case wall and shoulder. Texture and color are uniform throughout, appearing a bit darker than regular steel. This can be observed by flipping the watch over to see the steel caseback, which gets the Marine Nationale anchor mark, and the M.N.21 label. That will switch to M.N.22 on models produced this year, and given this watch was just introduced in November of ‘21, these particular casebacks may end up being quite the collectors item. Not to speculate.
That fixed lug bar is rather robust, and shapely at that. It narrows at the center and has small slices taken out around the edges, all leading to a smoother relationship with the fabric strap, no doubt. Ultimately, the bars are hidden when in use, making the perceived total length of the watch a moot point to begin with. In total, the FXD is indeed peculiar in shape and construction, but way more wearable than you might expect from the advertised measurements. I find it rather interesting on the wrist in a way that’s difficult to describe, even for a guy like me, who makes a living describing just such things.
Strap & Wearability
So the FXD isn’t small, but it’s not all that large, either, as we’ve established. But when it comes to wearability, the case is only half of the equation. I will say, this is a case that could easily veer into uncomfortable territory with the wrong strap choice, but the one Tudor has gone with here helps mitigate any awkwardness the case may present on wrist. The lug span is 22mm here, and Tudor, along with partner Julien Faure, have developed a single piece navy blue polyethylene woven ribbon with a grey central thread that uses a self-adhesion/hook and loop pad for fastening.
I’ve been on the VELCRO/hook and loop/self-adhesion/whatever you want to call it train for some time now. I loved this special strap Omega offered for the Speedmaster, I love it on the Zodiac X Worn & Wound Super Sea Wolf, and I love it here. Of those examples, this is the most straightforward I’ve yet encountered. Everything is in exactly the right spot, and quick adjustments on the fly are a breeze. It means you can dial in the fit to a much more precise degree than you could with a bracelet or nato style strap. I truly hope to see more straps like this offered on all manner of watches this year. Just how well it would look on something more formal I can’t say, but it sure would be comfortable.
As well made as the strap feels, my only concern would be the longevity of the self-adhesion stuff. Will it fade over time or get full of muck with use? There’s been no sign of any such wear and tear in my short time with it, but over the course of years it could be another story. If it were mine, I’d be asking my AD for a spare or two for the long haul.
Also included is a blue rubber single pass strap, whose biggest purpose for me was to show just how good the other fabric strap is in comparison. The FXD works equally well with any manner of NATO or fabric strap I threw at it, but it never took long to go back to the OEM option to get that fine tuned fit. Depending on your wrist size and shape, YMMV of course.
Tudor is using their MT5602 automatic movement within the FXD, which we’ve seen put to use in dateless Black Bays since its introduction back in 2015. As the dial attests, this is a chronometer, officially certified, and in my time with the watch it remained within a second each day. The movement offers 70 hours of reserve and gets a silicon balance spring which is non-magnetic. It’s a movement that feels and performs as bullet proof as the rest of the watch, and now that this caliber has some years under its belt, should be well beyond any teething issues or concerns.
Winding this watch hits a little different than any other tool watch in my watchbox. There’s a tactile feel that provides solid clicks that you can feel as you go, all while feeling smooth in operation. There is zero ambiguity about what you’re doing when winding and setting or manipulating the crown at all.
The Tudor FXD is an odd mix of components that somehow come together to work way better than they have any business doing. From the case, to the dial, to the bezel, there’s nothing straightforward about this watch, but it manages to be much more than the sum of those parts. In a time where the lines between genres are continually being re-defined if not outright blurry altogether, this FXD exists with absolute clarity. It was built to do something very specific, for a specific group of people, and every little detail is nailed in the process.
Obviously, how that translates to everyday civilian life is a different matter. If you gravitate toward tool watches that can do and be a little bit of everything, this will not live up to your expectations. The FXD is a throwback to a different era with heaps of personality and quirks, while looking and feeling entirely modern along the way. It is the definition of a few strange ingredients being brought together in exactly the right way. It’s a welcome change to my palette. Tudor.