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History of Time

The History of Tudor Watches

Paul Altieri

In the intricate tapestry of watchmaking, where history merges seamlessly with contemporary artistry, Tudor watches shine as luminous threads weaving tales of precision, elegance, and enduring legacy. Established by Hans Wilsdorf, the same mastermind behind Rolex, Tudor was never just another watch brand; it was birthed with a specific vision and purpose. It was Wilsdorf’s dream to create a timepiece that held the essence of Rolex’s impeccable quality and reliability but catered to a wider audience with its more accessible pricing. 

As decades unfolded, this dream manifested into tangible masterpieces that adorned wrists worldwide. Every tick of a Tudor watch isn’t just a second passing; it’s a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to horological excellence. It’s a testament to a lineage that, while drawing inspiration from its Rolex heritage, forged its own distinctive path.

“My fascination with Tudor watches has only deepened over time. Beyond their functional elegance, Tudor timepieces encapsulate an adventurous spirit within their design and craftsmanship. Embrace not just a watch, but a narrative of horological mastery and style that remains as captivating as ever in the world of timekeeping.”

– Paul Altieri, Founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches.

Bob’s Watches, as dealers of luxury timepieces, has had the privilege of experiencing Tudor’s transformation up close. From its inaugural models that echoed Rolex’s classic designs to its unique contemporary iterations that capture the spirit of modern times, Tudor has remained a brand in perpetual evolution. Today, as we delve into this captivating journey, we invite you to explore Tudor not just as a watch brand, but as an epic tale of time itself.

Origins and Foundation

Tudor Watches History Black Bay Pelagos

Not to be confused with the Tudor 1926 model, the tale of Tudor watches is inexorably linked to the year 1926, a pivotal moment in the annals of watchmaking. This was the year ‘The Tudor’ was registered as a brand, marking the beginning of an epoch that would reshape the horological landscape.

Behind this ambitious venture stood Hans Wilsdorf, the visionary genius already renowned for bringing the world Rolex. However, his aspirations for Tudor were distinct. With Rolex already reigning supreme in the realm of luxury watchmaking, Wilsdorf perceived a gap in the market – a space for timepieces that encapsulated the reliability and craftsmanship synonymous with Rolex, but at a price point that rendered them more accessible to a wider audience. Tudor was Wilsdorf’s answer to this discerned need.

The brand’s name itself, ‘Tudor,’ harkened back to the Tudor period in England, a time characterized by exploration, artistry, and the dawning of a new age. Just as the Tudor dynasty marked a significant chapter in English history, Wilsdorf envisioned his new brand to carve out its own significant narrative in the world of watches.

In its embryonic stages, Tudor watches bore unmistakable resemblances to their Rolex counterparts, from the elegance of their designs to the intricacy of their craftsmanship. Yet, even in these early models, there were signs – subtle hints of differentiation – that foreshadowed Tudor’s eventual evolution into a brand with its own distinct identity.

As Wilsdorf once remarked, his intention was not just to create a watch but to cultivate an experience. In Tudor, he saw an opportunity to make the Rolex promise of precision and reliability more widespread, ensuring that luxury wasn’t just an experience for the few but a privilege accessible to many.

The Early Models

Tudor Submariner 7928

As Tudor began its journey in the sprawling landscape of horology, the brand’s earliest vintage Tudor models served as a testament to its foundational ethos. Drawing from Rolex’s well-established design language, the first Tudor timepieces bore a familial resemblance to their prestigious predecessors. Yet, they were more than just affordable renditions of Rolex designs; they were the birth pangs of a brand striving to find its voice.

Each early Tudor watch was a marriage of Rolex’s renowned craftsmanship and Tudor’s commitment to affordable luxury watches. The dials, the bezels, and the bracelets all echoed the Rolex spirit, but with nuanced variations that hinted at Tudor’s individual aspirations. These variations were not mere aesthetic choices but strategic decisions aimed at carving a niche in a market already crowded with illustrious names.

As collectors and watch enthusiasts began to encounter these early Tudor models, they noticed something intriguing. Beyond the immediate visual cues that tied Tudor to Rolex, there was a burgeoning sense of identity. It was evident in the weight of the watch, the choice of materials, and the detailing of the dial. It was clear that while Tudor had one foot rooted in the legacy of Rolex, the other was stepping forward, eager to chart its own course.

In these formative years, the world got its first glimpse of what Tudor could offer: reliability reminiscent of Rolex, but with an identity striving to be unique, daring, and different.

The Birth of the Oyster Case

Tudor History Black Bay Burgundy Bezel ETA Movement

The 1940s ushered in a new era for Tudor, heralded by the introduction of the brands waterproof Oyster case. This wasn’t just another feature for the budding brand – it was a monumental leap in the realm of watchmaking. The adoption of the Oyster case didn’t merely accentuate Tudor’s aesthetics; it fortified its reputation as a brand committed to resilience and innovation.

But what made the Oyster case so revolutionary? To understand this, one must first appreciate the challenges of waterproofing in watchmaking. Water, with its ceaseless ability to infiltrate the smallest of spaces, has always been the nemesis of precision instruments. Watches, with their intricate assemblies and delicate mechanisms, were especially vulnerable. Many a prized timepiece had fallen prey to an unexpected deluge or an accidental plunge.

Wilsdorf, with his characteristic foresight, recognized this vulnerability early on. Having already introduced the Oyster case to Rolex’s lineup, he understood its transformative potential for Tudor. This case, with its hermetically sealed design, offered an impenetrable fortress against water and dust. Its introduction to Tudor’s offerings wasn’t just an upgrade; it was a declaration. A statement that Tudor, much like its elder sibling Rolex, was a brand that refused to compromise on durability.

The incorporation of the Oyster case into Tudor’s repertoire transformed its watches from mere time-telling instruments to reliable companions for life’s adventures. Whether one was braving the rain-soaked streets of London or diving into the azure waters of the Mediterranean, with an Oyster-cased Tudor watch on their wrist, one could be assured of its unfaltering performance.

The Oyster case was more than a feature – it was a symbol of Tudor’s evolution, a testament to the brand’s dedication to melding form with function, and design with durability.

The Advent of the Submariner


The 1950s saw the horological landscape evolve with the rising demand for dive watches, and Tudor was quick to heed the call. 1954 marked the unveiling of the Tudor Submariner watch collection, a timepiece that was more than just a nod to its marine environment – it was a masterclass in underwater precision and reliability.

While Rolex had already introduced its Submariner model a year earlier, Tudor’s iteration was never an attempt at mimicry. Yes, it drew parallels to its Rolex counterpart in design ethos, but the Tudor Submariner had its own tale to tell. The Tudor dive watch was designed as a professional tool for divers, marrying form with functionality, aesthetics with the application.

Its luminescent markers, designed for optimal visibility in the murky depths of the sea, its rotating bezel to track dive times, and its robust construction to withstand the pressures of the deep, all underscored Tudor’s commitment to genuine utility. This wasn’t just a watch; it was a testament to human endeavor and exploration.

As the Tudor Submariner models evolved, they introduced variations that catered to a diverse range of diving professionals and enthusiasts. It wasn’t long before the watch began gaining traction, not just among the diving community, but with a broader audience that appreciated its rugged aesthetics combined with technical prowess.

Beyond its functionality, the Tudor Submariner became emblematic of a lifestyle. To wear one was to signal a kinship with the adventurous, with those who dared to dive deeper, both literally and metaphorically. Today, reflecting on the Submariner’s legacy, it stands as a hallmark of Tudor’s prowess, a reminder of a time when the brand dived into the unknown and emerged triumphant.

The Snowflake Hands and Their Significance

History Tudor Black Bay S&G

Design nuances, especially in the watchmaking world, can convey volumes. Such is the story of the Tudor ‘Snowflake’ hands, an emblematic feature introduced by Tudor in the late 1960s. More than just an aesthetic choice, these unique hands became a defining visual hallmark for the brand.

Originally appearing on the Submariner models designed for the French Navy, the orgin of the ‘Snowflake’ hands weren’t merely a stylistic whim. Functionality was at the heart of their design. The distinctive square shapes on the hour hand and the correlating square hour markers provided enhanced legibility under the challenging low-light conditions experienced by divers deep beneath the ocean’s surface. This functional design ensured that divers could read the time swiftly, even in the murkiest waters while wearing a Tudor Submariner with Snowflake hands.

But as time moved forward, the snowflake hands transcended their functional origins. They became an iconic design statement, synonymous with Tudor’s commitment to blending purpose with personality. Recognized and revered by collectors and enthusiasts, the snowflake hands are a testament to Tudor’s ability to innovate in both form and function.

Today, whenever one spots those distinct hands sweeping gracefully over a Tudor watch’s dial, they’re not just observing the time. They’re witnessing a piece of Tudor’s storied history – a tangible symbol of the brand’s dedication to crafting watches that resonate both technically and aesthetically.

The Modern Era and Rebranding

History Tudor Pelagos Blue Dial

Every brand, even those steeped in rich history, finds moments when reinvigoration becomes essential. For Tudor, the dawn of the 21st century signaled the onset of such a renaissance. The watch industry had undergone significant shifts with the rise of smartwatches and digital timepieces, but Tudor, rooted in its storied past, envisioned a future where traditional craftsmanship met modern sensibilities.

The rebranding wasn’t just a refresh of logo and marketing materials—it was a wholesale reimagining of Tudor’s identity. Gone were the direct associations with Rolex, replaced instead by a more independent spirit, an attitude that screamed of daring and differentiation. The new mantra was clear: be bold, be distinct, but always remain true to Tudor’s core values of reliability and design excellence.

Central to this modern era was the launch of the “Born to Dare” campaign. It encapsulated everything the new Tudor aspired to be: fearless, innovative, and unapologetically authentic. Collaborations with ambassadors known for their audacity, like David Beckham and Lady Gaga, further underlined Tudor’s commitment to this audacious new direction.

Yet, amidst all this change, what remained consistent was Tudor’s dedication to horological perfection. The modern collection saw the introduction of timepieces like the Tudor Black Bay collection, the Tudor Pelagos watch collection, and the Black Bay 58 – watches that drew from Tudor’s rich archives but were unmistakably designed for the contemporary wearer.

Today, as we reflect on this transformative era, it’s evident that Tudor’s rebranding was not just about adapting to the times but about charting a path forward, reminding the world that true luxury is timeless, always evolving, yet anchored in tradition.

Collaborations and Partnerships

Tudor Watches History Tudor Black Bay 36

The journey of Tudor, in its quest to redefine luxury watchmaking, has been marked by strategic alliances and groundbreaking collaborations. Each partnership, carefully chosen, serves as a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation.

One cannot discuss Tudor’s collaborations without highlighting its longstanding relationship with the French Navy. This partnership, rooted in the 1960s, was more than just a business endeavor—it was a collaboration borne out of mutual respect and a shared pursuit of precision and reliability under the most challenging conditions.

In more recent times, Tudor’s foray into the world of motorsports, via its association with the FIA World Endurance Championship, underscores the brand’s passion for speed, precision, and innovation. A look at the brand’s Tudor Grantour series gives a glimpse of iconic timepieces dedicated to racing.

Similarly, partnerships with cultural icons like David Beckham and ambassador Lady Gaga echo Tudor’s modern spirit, bridging the gap between horological tradition and contemporary flair.

These collaborations, each unique, have played a pivotal role in shaping Tudor’s identity, amplifying its values, and showcasing its versatility in melding with diverse realms, from the oceanic depths to the glamour of global stages.

Tudor Today

In the ever-evolving tapestry of watchmaking, Tudor stands today as a beacon of excellence, continually balancing its storied past with modern aspirations. The brand has managed to carve a niche for itself, stepping out of the shadow of its illustrious sibling, Rolex, and emerging as a protagonist in its own horological narrative.

The contemporary collection of Tudor watches speaks to this transformative journey. The popular Tudor Black Bay timepieces, with their timeless appeal, pays homage to the diving watches of the 1950s, seamlessly blending retro aesthetics with state-of-the-art craftsmanship. Similarly, the Tudor Pelagos stands as a testament to the brand’s commitment to diving professionals, reflecting the latest in watchmaking technology while nodding to its maritime heritage. And let’s not forget the fervor the Black Bay 58 has ignited among enthusiasts, encapsulating the brand’s versatility.

Yet, it’s not just the timepieces that define Tudor today. The brand’s ethos, crystallized in the “Born to Dare” campaign, resonates in every endeavor. It’s a call to arms, a challenge to break boundaries, and an invitation to those who see life as an adventure, whether they’re traversing the deepest oceans or gracing the red carpets.

Tudor’s commitment to pushing the envelope, both in design and technology, coupled with its respect for tradition, places it in a unique position in today’s market. It’s a brand that acknowledges its roots while fiercely embracing the future, ensuring that Tudor, as we know it today, remains synonymous with elegance, endurance, and evolution.


The trajectory of Tudor, from its inception to its present-day stature, is nothing short of remarkable. While it began as a brand aiming to offer the reliability of a Rolex at a more accessible price point, Tudor has since emerged from those initial parameters, crafting its own legacy in the world of luxury watchmaking.

Every tick of a Tudor watch is not just a measure of seconds, but a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to innovation, design, and precision. Whether it’s the iconic Snowflake hands, the adventurous spirit of the Submariner, or the modern allure of the Black Bay 58, Tudor continually captivates both seasoned collectors and newcomers alike.

For those considering a journey into the world of Tudor, a visit to Bob’s Watches Tudor collection offers an immersive experience. As you explore, remember that with every Tudor timepiece, you don’t just wear a watch – you adorn yourself with a piece of horological history, alive with stories of the past and promises of the future.

Paul Altieri
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