Hands-On: Tudor Pelagos FXD “Marine Nationale”

No frills but extremely good.

Leaked online prior to its launch – David Beckham inadvertently revealed the watch on his Instagram account – the Tudor Pelagos FXD “Marine Nationale” was widely expected yet surprisingly, at least in the metal.

Developed in collaboration with the combat divers of the Commando Hubert, an elite unit of the Commandos Marine, part of the special forces of the French Navy, or Marine Nationale. The divers covertly travel underwater in pairs, and the Pelagos FXD is one of the tools they use for aquatic navigation. The FXD revives the relationship Tudor maintained with the French Navy for several decades starting in the 1950s when the watchmaker first supplied the navy with dive watches.

A Submariner ref. 9401/0 issued to French navy divers in the 1970s

Initial thoughts

I liked the idea of the FXD when I first saw the photos, and seeing it in the metal reinforced my opinion, enough that I bought one.

Beyond its tangible qualities its best characteristic in my opinion is its status as the only watch developed as a military-issue timepiece – that is currently in active service with a unit – in the mid- to high-end segment of modern watchmaking.

This sets the FXD apart from watches made by other brands that supply military units with civilian watches bearing the unit insignia, as brands like IWC, Breitling, and Bell & Ross do.

Being a military-issue watch the FXD is straightforward, but it also boasts the attention to detail one expects from Tudor, even on the finishing of the fixed bars. It’s a simple, functional watch that combines Tudor’s typically excellent price-performance ratio with actual military provenance.

Admittedly, I did initially wish Tudor had done more to make the FXD different, for instance in terms of high-performance materials or even a special movement. Then I realised that this is also a military-issue instrument funded by tax payers, so it really has to be a reasonably priced, no-frills tool. That purity of concept is appealing in itself.

On the topic of military provenance, it should be pointed out that the military-issue version of the FXD is slightly different from the civilian version you see here, but the differences are minor enough that they don’t really matter.

The watch itself wears well. While the FXD is 42 mm like most Tudor dive watches, it is notably thinner, which gives it an appealingly flat profile. That means it looks tangibly different from the Pelagos – the blue is also a darker shade – and distinct within Tudor’s lineup of dive watches.

The only downside of I can think of is availability – the “21” batch seems to have sold out quickly – though it will be available next year with “22” on the back, continuing on with subsequent years.

Fuss-free diver

The civilian FXD – short for “fixed” – is essentially identical to the actual mil-spec watches issued to MN divers, save for a few details.

One difference is the case back, which is again simpler on the issued examples, which are merely engraved “M.N” and the year of issue. The other is the text on the dial above six o’clock – the issue watch does without the chronometer labelling.

In all other aspects the FXD is identical to the military-issue watch, which is what makes it cool. The distinction between the civilian and military versions is purely aesthetic, and minor at that.

Low key and subtle, the blue of the FXD is specific to the model. It’s darker than the blue on the Pelagos and more of a navy blue than that on the Black Bay Fifty-Eight.

The case is titanium and 42 mm in diameter, which is the same as most Tudor dive watches. But at 12.75 mm high the FXD is quite a bit thinner than the Pelagos, which comes in at 14.2 mm. That reduction in height is in part due to the removal of the date, as well as the helium escape valve (which is unnecessary since the navy’s combat divers aren’t saturation divers).

Compared with the Pelagos (below), the FXD has noticeably narrower lugs as well as a flatter back

The case is finished in the usual Tudor manner, so it has sharp, clean lines with strong definition and crisp edges. Every surface is brushed, while the bezel is a matte blue ceramic. Notably, the bezel has larger knurling than on Tudor’s other dive watches, allowing for better grip.

While the case is well done, the fixed strap bars stand out in illustrating Tudor’s attention to detail.

Such fixed bars are common in vintage military watches, which had separate steel tubes driven into the lug holes. They were necessary since military-issue watches require a secure strap attachment that can’t be easily broken.

On the FXD the fixed bars are integral with the case – the case is stamped and milled to create the bars. To prevent the bars from wearing away at the fabric strap, both bars have a tiny chamfer on their outer edges – a tiny yet remarkably impressive detail.

Another appealing element of the FXD is its strap, or straps since it is delivered with a pair of them. Both are unique to the watch, having been developed specially for it. Each has its own buckle that is not found on other Tudor models.

The fabric strap is probably the only element of the entire watch that could be improved. I would have preferred a small stopper at the end of the strap, so that it needs some effort to remove from the buckle, allowing the strap to remain a closed loop unless it needs to be removed from the watch.

The case back is solid and bears both the Marine Nationale emblem as well as the historically-inspired year of production. Vintage navy-issue dive watches bore the same “MN” and issue year on the back, explaining the engraving on the FXD. And Tudor is now the official supplier to the combat divers of the French Navy, hence the emblem on the back.

What lies beneath the back is more important. The MT5602 is one of Tudor’s in-house movements, which are amongst the highest-spec calibres in the price segment. It boasts a free sprung balance wheel with a silicon hairspring, as well as a 70-hour power reserve.

And though hidden, the movement is finished in a clean, industrial manner that is slightly more elaborate than the ETA or Sellita movements common in this price segment.

Key facts and price

Tudor Pelagos FXD

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 12.75 mm
Material: Titanium case with steel case back
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: MT5602
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Fabric strap with Velcro closure, and additional rubber strap

Availability: Now at Tudor boutiques and retailers
Price: US$3,900; or 5,370 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Tudorwatch.com.

Correction November 13, 2021: The FXD was developed as a military-issue watch and is in active service with a military unit, making it unique amongst such contemporary watches.

Correction November 14, 2021: The FXD is available with fabric straps of different lengths, and not just one length as stated in an earlier version of the story. 

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