Tudor Pelagos FXD: Better Than The Black Bay?
Love thine enemy and bite thy tongue
Should winds turn foul against thy goal,
Enmity leaves thy soul unsprung
As fortune favors those so bold.
Discontent a heart grows sour
Days crawl slowly by the hour,
Thy spirit shrivels, thine options fade
A world forgets, thy bed is made.
Yet hope persists betwixt the days
When grace extends beyond thy self
From autumn chill to rains of May
Honor retrieved from on the shelf.
Revived, relieved, to grow anew
Opinions old now torn askew
Dawning bright and full of hope
No longer forced to sulk and cope,
If thou had learned when thou were young
To love thine enemy and bite thy tongue.
William Shakespeare definitely had a way with words, and he would most likely shake his head in pity at what I just penned, but sometimes I just have to let it flow. But the underlying meaning still remains so sometimes it is best to bite your tongue lest your opinions come back to haunt you. And even as I said that (so poetically) above, it’s possible to come back from earlier opinions or strong statements that were made in frustration with honesty and honor.
Over the last nine years of writing about watches I have shared a lot of opinions about various brands, design trends, and mechanical accomplishments but I have also been a bit critical of overly hyped products or brands that fail to excite me as much as others. Normally I say these things in the spirit of preference, never slamming a brand or specific watch as bad. Even more often, I simply refrain from speaking about something that I cannot emphatically support, opting to say nothing.
But opinions make their way out eventually as playful asides or in response to critiques, and that makes it clear that I have some fairly defined positions. When it comes to the watch industry’s Thor and Loki – aka Rolex and Tudor – it is probably known that the two brands aren’t high on my favorites list for pure horological excitement. But I have also made it clear that they are some of the best values when it comes to engineering excellence and as examples of how great manufacturing should be something to aspire to.
I’ll openly admit to being frustrated when a watch like the Tudor Black Bay constantly wins the same award year after year at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève or dumbfounded that a non-limited, mass-produced watch such as the Rolex Submariner or the GMT are in such high demand that people are paying well over MSRP for them when the market has plenty of great alternatives.
But none of that has to do with the watches themselves; it’s simply part of the current watch culture that I’m not particularly a fan of (and no doubt will be agreed with and possibly yelled at for having such an opinion).
While considering the categories of the GPHG once again, I was given the opportunity to rediscover the Tudor Pelagos, specifically the Pelagos FXD, a very practical and attractive watch that does exactly what it sets out to do. I am once again having to reevaluate my position on Tudor as it pertains to my own meager collection and I am convincing myself that it would look pretty darn good on my wrist.
Tudor Pelagos FXD
Tudor has a bit of a reputation as the “Black Bay brand,” and I must confess that I haven’t seen much that informed me otherwise. Yet the Black Bay collection only accounts for a little over 17 percent of the watches currently for sale from Tudor; there are two other collections that have more references than the Black Bay. But Tudor leans into the Black Bay pretty heavily so it’s easy to forget about other models, which is why I was delightfully reminded of the Pelagos thanks to the 2022 edition of the GPHG. The Pelagos FXD is essentially a Pelagos 39 that was made a bit larger and a decent bit more practical as a rugged marine watch.
“FXD” stands for the F(i)X(e)D strap bars that make this watch functionally more robust and resistant to getting lost. That may seem like a largely uncommon problem, but the watch is specifically designed with the French Navy (Marine Nationale) in mind, and it wants reliability. In fact, the model is the resurgence of a partnership that lasted for three decades in the latter half of the twentieth century. From the 1950s through the ’80s, Tudor was an official supplier to Marine Nationale, and in that spirit the collaboration has been reborn so to speak.
The collaboration saw input from a specialist unit within the Marine Nationale and was designed with underwater navigation as a primary function. That explains why the bezel is both bidirectional (as opposed to the more typical unidirectional for diving watches) and has lume-filled indications for every minute mark instead of the traditional 15-minute scale. The numbers also run counterclockwise because the bezel is used specifically as a countdown timer (more on that later) and needs to be quickly and easily changed.
Outside of the functional changes to the bezel as well as the addition of solid strap bars, which necessitated a change to the shape of the case, the Pelagos FXD has no date function (it’s not as necessary for its purpose) and includes a quick-adjust fabric strap with hook and loop attachment that can be tightened in and out of the water and with gloves on. Looking at the rear of the case, the Marine Nationale logo is laser-etched into the screw-down case back along with the simple designation for the model collaboration of M.N. and the last two digits of the year of production. It was first introduced in 2021 so it has seen both M.N.21 and M.N.22 on the case back, giving it a clearly functional military style that avoids overly fussy details.
Collaboration in idea
The watch isn’t an officially issued timepiece to the Marine Nationale as far as I am aware, but that really isn’t the point of the collaboration. It all comes down to an idea to both revive a relationship and create a watch that has a unique but functional design. The concept of underwater navigation has always been a nebulous one to me, not entirely understanding what it required, but thanks to the Pelagos FXD I now have that answer.
The FXD is designed to aid a pair of divers while it navigates underwater, specifically using the bezel as a clear timer that is easy and quick to operate. Here, divers are always in pairs for safety and redundancy and are tied together using a lifeline. Both divers wear watches to track the time and one has a large compass for maintaining the proper bearing. To navigate, a preplanned path is mapped out and divided into sections, with each section given an amount of time it takes to cover and a heading.
Without surfacing, the divers use the compass to align themselves in the proper direction and swim at a constant, practiced speed, tracking their time for each section. The bezel of the FXD is used to mark how many minutes the pair needs to swim before changing course (down to 30-second intervals thanks to the 120-notch bezel). To minimize errors, the counterclockwise graduations then count down the time until the minute hand points to the large arrow. This is much easier to follow than trying to specifically count the hashmarks of each segment’s time.
Once it reaches zero, the pair changes its heading and resets the bezel to the new section time, continuing once again at a constant speed. The practice hasn’t changed much over the years though with the advent of dive computers and GPS it has gotten easier to navigate and verify where you are. Still, the FXD is a very cool instrument that might confuse a typical dive watch wearer since it has a rather specific use.
It can still be used while diving with its 200-meter water resistance, but navigation is the main purpose of this watch.
My favorite Tudor
I think that is why I enjoy this piece so much and would excitedly want to strap one to my wrist. It is much closer to military-issued watches of the past with features that keep it on the wrist (solid strap bars), make it simple to use (easy-to-use fabric strap and bidirectional bezel), and keep it from being cluttered with superfluous features.
The look of the integrated solid strap bars is awesome and extremely practical for a tool watch, which is exactly what this watch is. It also comes with a rubber strap with a standard buckle, but one that still simply weaves through the solid bars, making it less likely to accidentally come off the wrist. That is very important for both military and general underwater use: it takes the safety concept of a NATO strap and doubles down for added security.
Lately, I have been looking at tool watches that I might actually purchase since the high-end avant-garde timepieces I love are out of my reach, but I still need something rugged for hiking, snorkeling, and general adventuring. I think that the Tudor Pelagos FXD could become my favorite tool watch on the market today, and it already has become my favorite watch from the brand. I will always claim the Black Bay as one of the most solid buys in the industry, but the Pelagos FXD hits the spot in a way that adds enough individuality to appeal to that certain part of my brain.
It has made the shortlist for capable tool watches that I would personally consider (as someone who pretty much never buys watches and enjoys them from a journalistic perspective) and is the first example of a Tudor that has made me seriously consider picking up something from the Rolex/Tudor universe. I’ve really loved other pieces from both Rolex and Tudor, but the Pelagos FXD might just be quirky enough to be on my radar – or should I say sonar.
Even though it is military inspired, let’s try to break this one down!
- Wowza Factor * 7.0 It’s a bit of a slow burn to realize why the Pelagos is different but once you see it you can’t help but say wow!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 70 » 686.466m/s2 The part about this watch that will keep you up is imagining trying to navigate in the dead of night 30 feet down in the ocean, searching for the rendezvous point for a hostage extraction!
- M.G.R. * 52.5 With a 70-hour power reserve and C.O.S.C. certification, this is a supremely solid caliber for a tool watch, something with enough competence to trust with your safety.
- Added-Functionitis * Mild I will call the bezel an added function just because it is very specifically designed as a tool watch for one main purpose, and that could be a risky marketing move. But I dig it, so I’d recommend children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream while you ponder navigating the seas!
- Ouch Outline * 8.1 Emerging carpal tunnel! After a few months working remotely at a new company, I am finally back in the office and thanks to focusing on engineering tasks I am spending way too much time on a computer, and my wrist is paying for it. I definitely need to make some adjustments, but I’d bear some of the pain to get the FXD on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Oh I like that quirky bezel! It took a while to finally notice why the bezel was actually grabbing my attention, and then the reverse scale jumped out and made me fall hard for it!
- Awesome Total * 594.15 Begin with the caliber number (5602) and divide by the water resistance in feet (660), then multiply by the hours of power reserve (70) for a surprisingly robust awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.tudorwatch.com/en/pelagos-fxd.
Quick Facts Tudor Pelagos FXD
Case: 42 x 12.75 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5602 with official C.O.S.C. chronometer certification, 70-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; counterclockwise countdown bezel
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