The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

The W.O.E. Tudor PVD Pelagos FXD

Customizing my dream watch, the W.O.E. PVD Pelagos FXD

When Tudor released the Black Pelagos FXD last year, I instantly knew I wanted one to land in my collection.  Watches of Espionage is vehemently brand agnostic, but we have a special respect for Tudor, given the brand's seven-plus decade relationship with our community.  The FXD platform is the latest manifestation of this particular relationship. It’s the only modern “luxury” watch that was developed for not one, but two, modern SpecOps units. And I don’t mean a special edition made for a specific unit–the entire design, and every design decision, of the FXD stems from a particular use case in the SpecOps world. 

That said, I already had the blue French “Commando Hubert” version. Was it prudent to want the same watch, just in black?  

Of course. This whole passion is irrational anyway. 

Watches of Espionage Tudor FXD Black

But if I was going to go for this watch, I wanted to do something different with it.  Over the past six months, I worked with several craftsmen to customize the FXD to make it mine, a poor man's “pièce unique”. The first thing we did was PVD’d the titanium fixed spring bar case resulting in a striking black-on-black look. This of course involves taking the whole case apart and PVDing each element, including the bezel. The PVD also has a mostly matte finish, so it matches the ceramic bezel insert well. Even though this was going to be mine, I wanted to maintain a standard that could have come from the factory. And since the caseback is sterile from the factory, we topped it off by engraving a W.O.E. insignia. Every watch has meaning, and this one commemorates the establishment of W.O.E. as a community, an accomplishment I never set out to achieve. The last step was designing a new handmade strap with our friends at Zulu Alpha, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0 (available HERE)

That’s an overview of the watch; now I’ll get into the thought process behind each detail and my philosophy behind modifying this particular piece. 

The W.O.E. FXD

The W.O.E. FXD (if I can be vain enough to call it that) is a homage, a term that may conjure images of Seikos modified to look like Rolex – something that I am personally not a fan of.  But it’s an homage in the true sense of the word, specifically to the SpecOps who modified their Tudor MilSubs for operational use.

Watches of Espionage Tudor FXD

One popular narrative is that the Orfina Porsche Design Chronograph I was the first PVD watch. However, SpecOps personnel modified their Swiss tool watches long before that.  Most notably, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Shayetet 13 (S-13) frogmen darkened their issued Tudor Submariner 7928 in the late 1960s, crudely painting them black to prevent glare and reflection of the steel cases.  For Special Operations personnel, and particularly those in a maritime environment, the glint of a watch during an operation could have lethal consequences.  The watches were tools, and they were modified to carry out their job effectively. 

While it’s nearly impossible to trace the lineage of PVD watches for every brand, military applications likely had a direct impact on this development of all PVD watches. In fact, Rolex's only known “black” dive watch was a one-off blacked out version of the MilSub Ref. 5513 for the South African Special Forces.  While Rolex didn’t roll out PVD in a commercial capacity, its sister brand, Tudor, would go on to produce PVD watches in later years, whether directly influenced by the S-13 and other military units we can only speculate.  But heritage matters; it informs every decision a brand makes.

PVD: StealthMaxx DLC Finish

Watches of Espionage Tudor FXD

Recalling that our friend Cole Pennington PVD’d an Arabic Seiko for a Hodinkee Magazine article, I contacted Jack at International Watch Works, a family-owned business.  When asked about the feasibility of PVD’ing the titanium case, he said it was not a problem; he had in fact just completed PVD’ing a blue Marine Nationale FXD (which turned out to be for Tom Place, a stuntman searching for his long-lost Rolex at the bottom of a lake).  The process was relatively simple.  Jack disassembled the watch and coated every bit of titanium, leaving the dial assembly and ceramic bezel insert to the side. 

“PVD” is an abbreviation for Physical Vapor Deposition. It’s a process, not necessarily a coating. A solid material is selected, in this case diamond like carbon (DLC), to coat a base metal or substrate surface. That material is vaporized and deposited on the base or substrate material, bonding molecularly with the base material.

Watches of Espionage - PVD FXD

The PVD/DLC coating is so fine that the serial numbers and factory engravings on the caseback are still visible even after the coating. It’s only microns thick; it’s not thick enough to obscure the characteristics of the case. Having worn the watch daily and with a lot of time in the pool and ocean, I have noticed no wear or abrasion on the coating, although I wouldn’t necessarily view scars as a bad thing.  During our conversation, Jack informed me that he has PVD’d watches for SpecOps personnel for years, which comes as no surprise given his location in North Carolina.

Engraving: Always Read the Caseback

Watches of Espionage - PVD FXD

The W.O.E. insignia signifies a very deep meaning for many in our community, with influence from the spearhead worn by our predecessors in the WWII-era Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as well as modern day intel and SpecOps units.  Today, this insignia has become an important part of my life. It’s a source of pride that I don’t share with many.  The caseback engraving is covered by the strap and that’s just how I like it. It's not for you, it’s for me.  The deep diamond tip engraving through the PVD into the titanium creates a more substantial profile and a stark contrast to the black case. It’s bold. Looking at it, it’s easy to see how much meaning comes with it. 

W.O.E. - Zulu Alpha 4.0 Strap

Watches of Espionage - PVD FXD

As a “fixed” springbar case, the Pelagos FXD is often called a “strap monster”-- a term so overused it’s become meaningless. Yes, any 22mm strap will work on the watch, but it’s really about finding the right strap. With a customization like this, I wanted to ensure the strap was the perfect match–subtle enough not to overshadow the watch. So I reached out to our friends at UK-based and veteran owned Zulu Alpha Straps to create a unique design that honored our ethos as a community and tapped into the traditions of those who came before us.  The result is an understated olive allied green strap with a discreet W.O.E. spearhead-only insignia applied between the strap keepers, which is covered up when worn. Again, it’s not about showing the insignia. Like the caseback, it’s obscured when the watch is worn. 

The development of this strap coincided with Zulu Alpha’s latest iteration of the “OTAN” strap and significant performance enhancements.  To promote longevity, the strap has a narrower tang, round holes, and a slightly shorter length at 30 cm.  The “patch” was adhered directly to the strap with a new technology developed by ZA, resulting in a OEM feel.  While we never planned to commercialize this version, we knew we would receive many requests, so this is dubbed, the W.O.E.-ZA 4.0.

Zulu Alpha Strap - Single Pass 4.0
Photo Credit: Rob / @rw_m100

Dial Modification

I have considered customizing the dial with a red W.O.E. at 6 o’clock.  That said, this would require a complete dial refinish.  While the watch is striking to those who know the FXD, when worn it's a more subtle customization as there are no visible insignias.  Discretion is a prized attribute in our field, if you know, you know is the way.

Controversy of Watch Customization

Customizing watches is a major point of contention in the collecting community, with many “purists” believing the watches should remain as they were originally designed.  Turning this upside-down, London-based George Bamford originally made a name for himself in the 2000s for customizing Rolex watches into unconventional designs, much to the chagrin of the Swiss luxury brands.  

Bamford Watch Department Rolex
Bamford Watch modification (A Blog to Watch)

However, times have changed, and Bamford has since been embraced by many watch houses and even has joint customizations programs with major brands including Zenith and Tag Heuer.  Further, “mod culture” as it’s known appears to have trickled into mainstream design and while the suits in Geneva would never admit it, the new Day-Date “emoji dial” is certainly reminiscent of a customized dial treatment than a traditional Rolex design.  

Watches of Espionage Tudor

Will we see a PVD FXD released from Tudor?

Tudor’s playbook is simple.  It designs a watch, releases it to the masses and then iterates on that design with size, material, and color schemes.  This process has led some detractors to criticize the brand (Do we really need another Black Bay?)--but in the end, it works.  While selfishly I hope this remains one of the few “PVD FXDs,” it would be an easy win for Tudor to produce this design for the masses and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a version become available to the public in the coming years.

A Few Thoughts

To the uninitiated, this article may seem like a waste of time.  So, what, you painted your watch black?  Maybe. But it’s never just a watch.  When I look at this watch, I think of the people that made both it and W.O.E. a reality, and of all the times it’s been on my wrist.  No matter where this platform goes, it will always hold a special place because it is uniquely mine.

Tudor Navy Seals

There Are No Rules

We are of the strong belief that there are no rules when it comes to timepieces.  If you want to polish your Rolex every few years to keep it looking shiny, do it.  If your dream is to modify your Patek to look like a Seiko, have fun.  If you want to put aftermarket diamonds on your AP to celebrate making it out of the trap, congratulations.  

Don’t let conventional wisdom and outside pressure dictate how you enjoy this passion. Life’s too short to live in a box dictated by the watch industry suits or hype collectors pushing an agenda.  Have fun, use your tools, and don't take things too seriously. 


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Sincere appreciation to my dear friend and master of his craft James Rupley for capturing these pictures of the W.O.E. FXD and really bringing it to life for the community.

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Now that you’ve had this for a while, how is the PVD holding up to wear?

Ernie Beckwith

For an obscure OEM PVD dive watch, TAG Heuer had a 1000m Super Professional limited run for Security Defense Forces in the late ‘80s. A beast of a watch if you ask me. I’ll wear my FXD daily, thanks.


Thanks for producing this really fascinating website and the comments in this article are especially resonant as I am sick of being lectured by “collectors” on what can and cannot be done with ONE’S OWN WATCH. Semper paratus from an old Coastie.


Please let us know who did the engraving! I am an Int Op looking to engrave my own Pelagos FXD with regimental flag.


Gotta ask. Who did the engraving on the case back? It came out spectacular!!


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