We all know that both Rolex and Tudor go a long way back. Though Rolex was founded in 1905 as Wilsdorf & Davis in London, the name Rolex was registered a few years later in 1908, and the company transferred to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919, where it still resides today. Tudor was registered for Wilsdorf in 1926 as ‘The Tudor’ by Veuve de Philippe Hüther, a watchmaker and dealer. In 1936, the brand was given back to Wilsdorf. ‘Montres Tudor SA’, as we all know the company today, was created by Wilsdorf in 1946.
Just the “Poor Man’s Rolex”?
In a personal statement by Wilsdorf, Tudor announced the Tudor Oyster Prince in 1952 as “a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous”. In the eyes of many watch enthusiasts, it has been the ‘poor man’s Rolex’ for many years. But is this really true? Tudor has made similar models to the Rolex collection, with DNA of Rolex clearly visible and has even used Rolex marked parts. Just take a look at a Tudor and a Rolex Submariner from the 60’s or 70’s and the similarities are clear.
Things Started to Change
But when we move on a few decades, things slowly seem to change. Rolex is a company that doesn’t really look back. They create what they want, looking to the future rather than their heritage. Yes, it’s there, but history doesn’t seem to guide them. As an example, we’ve all seen the ceramic ‘Pepsi’ GMT-Master being introduced, but only in combination with white gold, which makes it an unaffordable watch for many, if not most, collectors. Tudor, however, has grown strong on many levels. While they are experimenting with many new techniques and processes, they keep a strong connection to their heritage.
One could say things really started to change with the Heritage Chronograph and the Heritage Advisor presented in 2010 and 2011. Both are very nice modern interpretations of historic Tudor collector’s pieces. Basically, these two models paved the way for a watch that is now one of the biggest success stories of the industry: With the introduction of the Heritage Black Bay in 2012, Tudor has set a new standard for the brand. They updated the Submariner with a more modern look, yet kept the DNA clearly visible, and affordable!
Great Watch, Many Choices
During the 2016 Baselworld watch fair, Tudor announced an in-house movement for the Heritage Black Bay Collection. Minor differences on the dial make it clear whether the Black Bay has a standard movement or an in-house movement. The updated collection has horizontal writing on the dial, whereas the previous models had curved text at the 6 o’clock position. Besides the update, they also launched a bronze and DLC version of the Black Bay.
The cool thing about all of these novelties is that Tudor still looks back at the Rolex/Tudor Heritage. Back in the 70s, Tudor delivered ‘snowflake’ Submariners to the French Navy without straps. These Marine Nationale divers are known to have used parachute belts as an elastic strap, making the watch more comfortable to wear and more easily adjustable to a wrist or dive suit. This history has inspired the new strap on the Black Bay Bronze and comes as an extra next to an aged leather strap. The DLC version, or Black Bay Dark, comes with a red triangle in the bezel and red writing on the dial: Details that are clearly inspired by the Submariners from the 50s and 60s. Following the tradition of including details from the past, the Dark version of the Black Bay is also available with a steel bracelet without end links, using a tube-type attachment on the bracelet. This is something that is only seen on the Tudor Submariner with reference 7923 from the 1950s. Also, they reintroduced the riveted strap. Back in the day, the Oyster strap was made from links that were riveted together.
In addition to all of the various heritage models that are clearly linked to their history, Tudor has also more recently expanded their collection with sporty watches like the Fastrider Collection, and created some new models to attract a different audience. This “just a poor man’s Rolex,” has done a great job creating an impressive collection, clearly keeping their heritage in mind and reshaping it to modern times using today’s techniques and materials. Tudor will probably get a lot of collectors enthusiastic and curious about the direction they are headed in the near future.