Love them or hate them, the so-called “snowflake” hands are a signature design trait of Tudor sports watches. Far from new, the angular-styled hands have a history that stretches back five decades, and their unique appearance has become inextricably connected to some of Tudor’s most highly sought-after models. Let’s find out more about the origin of Tudor’s snowflake hands!
Despite being a thoroughly modern timepiece, the Tudor Pelagos has hour markers and hands that are heavily inspired by those from the vintage “snowflake” Submariner.
The History Behind the Tudor Submariner and its Snowflake Hands
In 1954, Tudor unveiled the Oyster Prince Submariner dive watch – just one year after its parent company (Rolex) released its Submariner. The first generation of the Tudor Submariner began with the ref. 7922, which sported a 37mm case (waterproof to 100 meters), a black diver’s bezel marked to 60 minutes, and a screw-down Rolex winding crown. Tudor released a host of other references within the 7900 family, culminating with the Submariner ref. 7928, which introduced crown guards to the model, and boasted an increased water resistance rating of 200 meters.
The second generation of the Tudor Submariner appeared in 1968, with the introduction of Submariner ref. 7016 and Submariner Date ref. 7021. In addition to new movements, these two Tudor Submariner dive watches also included a new dial design. The dial featured square-shaped luminescent hour markers, a seconds hand with a luminescent square detail, and a luminescent hour hand with a large angular tip.
The unique angular appearance of the “snowflake” hands on the vintage Tudor Submariner have since become one of the defining characteristics of the brand’s sports watches.
The reasoning behind these bold accents was to offer more surface area on the dial for luminescence, thus providing better legibility whilst scuba diving in low light conditions. Additionally, due to their distinct shapes, the hands could immediately be identified from one another, minimizing the possibility of divers mixing up the hour and minute hands while diving in murky waters. As a result of their atypical appearance, this particular set of hands picked up the nickname “snowflake hands” by collectors – a name that is now officially used by Tudor.
While the dial of the Tudor Black Bay lacks the square-shaped hour markers of the vintage “snowflake” Submariner, its hands are a faithful recreation to those found on the original references.
Why the Change in Shape?
Some Tudor scholars and collectors speculate that this (then-new) design detail was influenced by the Marine Nationale, otherwise known as the French Navy. Tudor supplied the French Navy (as well as the U.S. Navy) with Submariner watches for decades, and while Tudor officially states that, “Tudor divers’ watches delivered to these military organizations were neither custom designed nor specially developed. They were just references listed in the catalog, which these organizations chose,” it is nevertheless rumored that the larger hands came about after a specific request by the French Navy for more luminescence on the dial of the watches. Shortly thereafter, the change in design was adopted by Tudor and implemented on the regular production run models. Regardless, Tudor ultimately discontinued making Submariner watches altogether in 1999.
Regardless of the size, model, or color, all contemporary Tudor Black Bay watches are fitted with “snowflake” hands.
Modern Tudor Snowflake Hands
Today, the famed snowflake hands are used on both the Tudor Pelagos and the Black Bay. The Pelagos is the brand’s modern-day diver’s watch, with a 42mm titanium case, a 500-meter water resistance rating, an in-house automatic movement, and a ceramic unidirectional bezel.
On the other hand, the Black Bay collection from Tudor is a vintage-inspired line that includes plenty of different models including dive watches, GMT watches, chronographs, and even simple but sporty, time-only pieces. Regardless of the model, size, material, or color, the presence of the iconic snowflake hands is a design feature common to all Black Bay watches.
Just like how the Mercedes-style hands are indispensable to the overall look of a Rolex sports watch, the snowflake hands are an essential component of Tudor’s most popular sports watch collections. They serve as a prominent nod to Tudor’s long and illustrious history, and are now proudly featured throughout many of the brand’s contemporary offerings.
“Snowflake” hands can be found on every watch in both Tudor’s Black Bay and Pelagos collections.