The good folks of Rolex have celebrated hard over the Christmas period and with their company credit card bills due in a couple of months they treated the world to the much-anticipated price rise…Happy New Year waitlisters!
So with Rolex up but this time not just on the grey market @koolpep takes us on a short historical tour of baby brother Tudor, very much worth considering for any as yet unspent Christmas money
Shortly after World War 2, Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, revealed in a document that he has mulled over a specific issue for years. His problem was that he wanted to offer his authorized dealers a product that could be sold cheaper than Rolex watches but with an equal approach to quality. His solution was to form a separate company to fabricate and market such a watch. The company name he gave it was: Montres Tudor S.A. based on Wilsdorf’s love for the aristocracy.
As always with Rolex, there is some secrecy involved. Technically the company Tudor already existed before, actually since 1926 and was used by Wilsdorf to cater to some overseas markets.
Initially, the logo consisted of the name Tudor with the T being elongated over the whole name, having some Hindi flair to it. Eventually, this changed into a shield with a rose – the historic symbol of the British dynasty of the Tudors – you find that rose still in the royal coat of arms of the UK. Hans Wilsdorf always had great admiration for Britain, though born a German, Hans Wilsdorf founded Rolex in London and moved the company eventually to Geneva.
Wilsdorf was able to offer similar quality to Rolex at lower prices with the use of many Rolex inventions in Tudor watches with the main difference being the use of different, more affordable movements from various suppliers rather than the supplier for Rolex, Aegler. The cases, crowns, buckles etc would carry Rolex logos.
In 1952 the Tudor Oyster Prince “earned” the Oyster case and the “perpetual” automatic winding system from Rolex. Both of these technical advancements were Rolex exclusives before that time.
The Oyster Prince was the first watch that was actively marketed as an explorer watch. Tudor equipped arctic explorers with his watches free of charge in return for detailed notes about their performance during the 2 year-long mission. They also were asked to send back the watches so that they could be assessed and examined, valuable information to make watches better and see where the most wear and tear happened. In exchange, the expedition participants were given a commemorative (new) watch. Tudor was marketed as a robust and reliable watch that could withstand the toughest tests.
1957 also saw the birth of the Tudor Advisor – with an Alarm complication.
Tudor advertised the Rolex heritage very strongly with cases, crowns and other parts sometimes proudly displaying the Rolex Logos. Even on the dial, the Rolex name was sometimes mentioned.
Tudor began to use the Submariner case – the Prince Oyster Submariner was born. This happened only 12 months after the release of the Rolex Submariner. With the 7924 model a few years later the French and US Navy ordered these watches. Other Navies around the world followed shortly after.
The Tudor Submariner models are highly collectable and sought after currently – maybe one of the reasons that Tudor dug through their archives and eventually found a prototype, the PO1, that they could resurrect and re-issue in a modernized form. Welcome the 2019 winner of the GPHG price – the Tudor Black Bay P-01 that is based on an alleged prototype for the US Navy in the 60s.
A P01 on my wrist. Am not feeling it.
The Snowflake hands were introduced in 1969 and the Tudor Oysterdate Chrono was introduced in the 70s – the current Heritage Chronos are based on these!
The 80s were not kind to Tudor. The Quartz-Crisis took its toll and by the end of the 90s Tudor was not represented in many of the major markets in the world. Tudor did, however, sell watches and was “in business” just in very few select markets around the world…to put that into perspective – 90% of their sales occurred in China.
Tudor Chrono 1970s
Use of Rolex crown and case back on Prince Oysterdate approx. 1998
Same watch after service and with new bracelet (Tudor also replaced the Rolex crown with a new Tudor signed crown, thankfully they gave me the Rolex signed crown to keep the set complete)
Resurgence & in-house era
2010 was the year the Heritage Chrono got re-issued under the guidance of current Montblanc CEO Davide Cerrato who was then Design and Marketing Chief of Tudor. Together with the Tudor CEO Philippe Perevelli – they restarted Tudor and maybe got the whole industry into a retro-revival craze.
Black Bay red with ETA movement and “smiley face”
It started with the beautiful and unique Heritage Chrono in 2010 – based on the Monte-Carlo version of the 70s Chrono, in 2011 the Advisor was re-issued in modernized form and the absolute mega-hit landed in 2012 with the introduction of the Black Bay line – followed by the Black Bay Chrono in 2017 and Black Bay GMT in 2018 .
From 2015 Tudor started to use their very own movements in some models. That is something Tudor had never done before, they never had their own movements. This shows the long term strategy of the Rolex/Tudor company to build up Tudor to and that can stand on its own and is not depending on a competitors (Swatch Group) movements moving forward.
Black Bay GMT with an in-house movement.
2013 marked also the year in which Tudor re-entered the US market. 2014 it was officially back in the UK and the Asian markets of South Korea and Japan are back in their snowflake crosshairs since 2018.
In-house movements and cooperation with Breitling, Chanel, Kenissi
Tudor used ETA movements almost exclusively mostly 2824-2, 2892 (plus a chrono module) for the Heritage Chrono and other movements based on the Valjoux 7750. When Tudor started putting its own movement into a watch it did so with a new model. The North Flag.This is the only Tudor featuring a power reserve indicator and one of very few to feature a display case back. Obviously someone at Tudor was mighty proud of the movement and wanted the world to notice. The same movement was then used in the Pelagos (though without the Power Reserve indicator).
In 2017 another shocker rocked the watch world. Tudor and Breitling announced they are sharing movements. Nobody really expected that but the benefits are many.
My BB Chrono with Breitling / Tudor in-house (?) movement.
Tudor builds a movement for Breitling that includes a few changes that Breitling requires for their movements that Tudor doesn’t do to their own. This includes decoration. In turn, Breitling supplies Tudor with a Chronograph movement that is built to Tudor specs. Both brands claim them as their own in-house movements – well…
Here is a list of Tudor movements:
MT5402 – used in the BB 58 (no date)
MT5601 – based on MT 5612 but slightly larger for the bronze versions of the Black Bay line (no date)
MT5602 – based on the MT5612 used in the Black Bay line (no date)
MT5612 – used in Pelagos and Heritage Black Bay lines (with date at 3) as well as in the P01
MT5621 – used in the North Flag (includes Power Reserve indicator and date)
MT5641 – used in the Glamour double date line with a small second and a big date display
MT 5652 – used in the Black Bay GMT (with date and 24 hour hand, true GMT function)
MT5813 – Chronograph movement with vertical clutch and column wheel based on the Breitling B01
Unique to all MT (Manufacture Tudor) movements is the power reserve of 70 hours, silicon hairspring and Chronometer certification (COSC).
There are still a few watches in the current line up that use ETA movements like the Heritage Chrono – what happens to them in the future is to be seen based on the COMCO decision.
Tudor Heritage Chrono with ETA 2892 movement with a Chronograph module
Quality-wise the old Wilsdorf mantra is still in practice – Tudor tests their watches the same way Rolex does. However, with literally hammering out one new inhouse movement after the other – something has to give. A huge batch of the earlier Black Bay GMT watches were plagued with the “Date Wheel” issue where the date either gets stuck in between dates or skips two days instead of one. To Tudor’s credit this issue is fixed free of charge should a movement show these signs and with January 2020 Tudor increased their warranty to 5 years.
Disclaimer: I own 3 Tudor watches so far and there is no end in sight.
My Tudor collection, a Rolex Oyster Perpetual sneaked into the picture too.
All Images are either my own or from the Rolex and Tudor websites. Tudor also has a lovely app to explore their history – it’s free and I encourage everyone to give it a try to get way more details than this article and also more marketing spin.
Where will Tudor go from here? I believe that Tudor is perfectly set up to continue to fill the gap Rolex leaves behind moving upmarket. They are becoming a stronger Omega competitor, upping their game every year with “daring” designs, improved technology and in-house movements. I do feel their catalogue of watches is a bit too large at the moment, a few lines that are pretty regional like the 1926 and Double Date etc. They either will be discontinued or refreshed with in-house movements.
A rare sight Tudor Glamour Double Date with Diamonds and massive size (42mm) – this one with ETA movement – current models already have the in-house MT5641 chronometer movement.
Tudor had a great 2019 and should continue to grow out of the Rolex shadow in 2020 becoming a more and more separate entity. Surely very exciting times ahead for us Tudor fans.
Ralf aka koolpep lives and works in Dubai, UAE.
If he is not travelling for work or on Safari in Africa, or on a race track, he loves to talk and collect watches and deep dives into the audiophile headphone abyss.