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ROLEX BLOG

The History of Tudor Watches

September 8, 2021

BY Paul Altieri

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Founded in 1926, Tudor is probably best known for being the sibling company of Rolex: the single most famous luxury brand in the entire world. Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf originally created Tudor watches to be the more affordable alternatives to those made by Rolex, and the two brands have an unusual and intertwined history that dates back nearly an entire century to the very earliest days of the Tudor company name. However, following Tudor’s global relaunch in 2009, many new collectors are starting to take note of this historic Swiss watch manufacturer and Tudor has finally stepped out of Rolex’s shadow, cultivating a new generation of passionate collectors in the process.

The Tudor brand as we know it today is drastically different from the one that has existed for most of history. In fact, Tudor stopped selling watches entirely to the United States during the early 2000s and only resumed selling to the American market in 2013. Additionally, a big part of the reason why Tudor was able to succeed during its early years was that it was able to use Rolex’s waterproof Oyster case, which allowed buyers to have access to Rolex’s legendary durability at a more affordable price point. However, the modern Tudor company no longer relies on its ties to Rolex and it now even produces its own in-house movements, further bringing it out of Rolex’s shadow and making the gap between these two companies closer than ever before. To fully appreciate Tudor is to understand its history, so below we are taking a look at the complete history of Tudor watches.

About Tudor Watches

Tudor Watches Key Facts:

– Founded in 1926.

– Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

– Established by Hans Wilsdorf (Rolex Founder).

– Owned by Rolex.

– Originally created as the more affordable alternative to Rolex.

– Supplied watches to the US Navy and French Marine Nationale.

– Used in the British scientific expedition to Greenland.

– Brand was relaunched in 2009.

– Started producing in-house movements in 2016.

Click here to learn more about the history of Tudor watches.

Tudor Watch

Tudor Watches History Black Bay Pelagos

Rolex’s More Affordable Sibling Company

Within the high fashion world, it is rather common for big brand names to offer secondary lines (aka diffusion lines) with more accessible price points and a younger vibe. It’s a way to market designer wares to a mass audience without tarnishing the appeal of the signature line. Think Giorgio Armani’s Emporio Armani, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Ralph Lauren, or Paul Smith’s PS by Paul Smith.

This approach is not common in the luxury watch world (although, frankly, it should be), yet there is one very notable example: Rolex’s Tudor. In fact, Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf was very explicit that the purpose of the Tudor watch company was about “making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standard of dependability for which Rolex is famous.” Textbook diffusion line strategy.

If you follow the luxury watch industry at all, you will have no doubt noticed that Tudor watches are having a moment, especially in the U.S. market. But it wasn’t always this way. Let’s look back at the history of Tudor watches to uncover their origins, evolution, and current standing.

History Tudor Black Bay S&G

The Early Years Of Tudor Watches

In 1926, Swiss watchmaker Veuve de Philippe Hüther (which means “Widow of Philippe Hüther” since the wife took over after her husband died) trademarked the name “The Tudor” and Hans Wilsdorf struck a deal for the exclusive rights to the name.

By 1932, the first Tudor signed watches made their appearance and were sent to the Australian market. The watches were rectangular in shape with beveled edges. Some pieces even included the Rolex name along with Tudor on the dial to make the association clear. Some dials also included the name “Catanach’s” – one of Australia’s oldest jewelers and a retailer of Tudor watches during that time.

Encouraged by the brand’s potential, Hans Wilsdorf acquired “The Tudor” name from Veuve de Philippe Hüther in 1936. And as a marketing man, he added the famed Tudor Rose inside a shield to the logo (the traditional floral symbol of England derived from the emblem of the Royal House of Tudor) to spruce things up.

After WWII, Hans Wilsdorf created the “Montres TUDOR S.A.” company in 1946, with the understanding that Rolex would play a big part in the company’s manufacturing and distribution. This relationship between the two brands explains the parallels between the watches Rolex and Tudor released throughout their respective histories.

Tudor Watches History Tudor Black Bay 36

Tudor Gains Momentum In The Mid-20th-Century

Under the new Montres Tudor banner and armed with a refreshed rose logo sans shield, the company released a slew of new watch models starting in the mid-20th Century. The waterproof and automatic Tudor Oyster Prince made its debut in 1952, and the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner dive watch joined the catalog in 1955. The Tudor Advisor alarm watch and ultra-slim Tudor Oysterthin soon followed in 1957.

The sixties and seventies saw the arrival of the Tudor Oyster Prince Ranger (1967), the Oyster Prince Date+Day (1969), the manual Tudor Oysterdate chronograph (1970), and the self-winding Tudor Oysterdate “Automatic Chrono Time” chronographs (1976). It’s also important to note that in 1969, Tudor redesigned the face of the Oyster Prince Submariner dive watches to include large square-shaped luminous hour markers and matching square-tipped hour hands – these specific Tudor hands are collectively known as “Snowflake hands” today.

When Tudor celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, the company decided it was high time to shed Rolex signed components (such as cases, winding crowns, and bracelets) in favor of Tudor branded ones. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s saw Tudor add more models to its already established collections. However, perhaps due to less-than-stellar sales and brand equity, sometime in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Tudor watches stopped being sold in the American (and other) markets.

History Tudor Pelagos Blue Dial

The Rebirth Of Tudor Watches

Refreshed, rebranded, and refocused, Tudor announced its return to U.S. shores in 2013 – and what a return it has been! As they say, timing is everything, and Tudor’s value-driven proposition (while still having the illustrious Rolex name attached to it) fits perfectly into today’s booming watch enthusiast culture.

The majority of modern Tudor watches draw design cues from their archives but have been updated with larger cases, in-house movements, and contemporary materials. They take the best parts of Tudor’s history and repackage them for the modern watch fan at prices that are not cheap per se, but certainly reachable.

The most popular collections of the current Tudor lineup include the Black Bay, the Pelagos, the North Flag, and the Heritage. The Black Bay flaunts its vintage dive watch vibes more overtly, while the Pelagos leans more towards modern dive watch designs. The modern North Flag adventurer’s watch takes its name from the 1952 British North Greenland Expedition where 25 men were issued Oyster Prince watches; however, its design comes from vintage Tudor Ranger II watches. And as its name implies, the Heritage collection houses faithful reissues of vintage Tudor timepieces such as the Heritage Chrono, the Heritage Ranger, and the Heritage Advisor.

We love a good comeback story and Tudor’s tale is as good as any.

Tudor History Black Bay Burgundy Bezel ETA Movement

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13 Responses to “The History of Tudor Watches”

  1. Abdul Ghani, Mat Yusoff says:

    Dear Sir,

    Could you tell about petented Montre Tudor Sa, oysterdate, rose logo. Submariner 41MM. Rolex casing, rolex crown with Black or red dial?

    What is the present value for this watch?

    Do you interested to buy from me.

    • Paul Altieri says:

      Do you have a specific reference number for the watch you want to learn more about? Either way, if you would like to receive a free quote for your watch, just fill out the ‘sell your watch’ page on our website and one of our representatives will be in touch shortly.

  2. Ronny Geenen says:

    Hi Paul Altieri,
    In May 1977 my wife and I were married 10 years and living in The Netherlands. At that day I we went to Jewelry “Groen” in The Hague and I bought my wife a Rolex 2-tone Lady date. The store manager then showed me the Rolex Tudor Oyster Prince Date+Day.
    I remember that it was about 1/3 of the price of the Rolex Lady, but I love it and bought it. I still wear it every day. The size is 36mm and the size of my wrist is close to 7″
    I am now 84 years old. My history.

  3. Thad Suchy says:

    Paul,
    Was there a transition time in 1996 when Rolex still supplied cases to Tudor but with no “made by Rolex” inscription on the back of the case? My ‘96 Tudor Prince has a plain case but still has the Rolex crown on the stem.
    Thank you.

    • Paul Altieri says:

      This is actually rather common since the Twinlock and Triplock crown technologies are both Rolex inventions. While modern Tudor watches are entirely devoid of Rolex logos and branding, older Tudor watches frequently shared many external components with their Rolex siblings, and in particular the brand’s screw-down crowns.

  4. Spencer Boulter says:

    I have my heart set on the newer advisor piece. I don’t think there is anything I don’t like about it. It’s there anything I should know about this watch before I pull the trigger this week.

    Spence Bolther

    • Paul Altieri says:

      It’s a fantastic watch and a truly underrated model within Tudor’s lineup. Not many watches feature alarm complications these days, and the Tudor Advisor represents one of the more affordable options from a major luxury manufacturer – especially when purchased on the pre-owned market, where a slight savings can typically be found.

  5. Michael Hickley says:

    I am looking at a watch labelled ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL,but as well as having the Rolex symbol below the 12, adn the rolex name, it also has TUDOR above the 6.I am certain this is a fake watch as I am not aware of there being a ROLEX,TUDOR combined names on the dial.
    I have messaged the seller on ebay and have asked several questions, but the seller insists the watch is genuine.
    I am certain this is not a genuine watch.Please alert me if it is fake as I do not want to purchase it and get stung for a lot of money.Many thanks.

    • Paul Altieri says:

      Without seeing the watch in person, it isn’t possible for us properly authenticate it, but at the very least the dial is not original. You will often find the Rolex logo on older Tudor watches, but it will typically appear on the case and crown, not the dial itself. One other possibility is that the watch itself may be genuine, but its dial is aftermarket, fake, or otherwise non-original to the watch in its current state.

    • willem says:

      Michael
      i found that easily on ebay. looks to be a 25 mm case. the dial is refinished (seller mentioned this in the description so he is transparant about that)
      He does state it is not waterproof, which i find strange for an oyster case watch that is said to be completely serviced.
      to me that dial with diamonds, does look not interesting. But that is a matter of taste.
      you would need a picture of the original watch dial, but overall: did tudor deliver this type in the 1970’s?
      it also looks rather thick for a 25 mm case – ladies only –
      the diamonds look rather big (are they certified diamonds?)

      if?i observe the picture of the automatic movement: why is the D somewhat bigger in the word `TUDOR” then the other characters.

      i am not saying this seller is not legit but overall: would you find a better watch in this price range?
      does not look to me like a special watch.
      If Paul could take a look at ebay (which is not his business) he could say more.
      my conclusion after reading this excellent overview: I would consider something else.
      my other rule is that chances on an unusual find will always reappear.
      when in doubt…….
      all the best, and i know, deciding on watches is not easy nowadays.
      i still regret that i did not buy a rolex sub when i was around 20 years old.

  6. Lori Lovett says:

    I have a Tudor Princess Oysterdate that my aunt received from the Phone company on her 25th anniversary. She gave it to me shortly thereafter because “she didn’t like how it set” and it is automatic.

    I have worn it proudly since 1976 and with minor service it runs like a champ. My aunt passed in 2019 so it means that much more to me. I love it!

  7. Paul L Horner says:

    I own a Rolex two-toned Datejust (1980’s?), a Rolex Submariner (116610LN) and a Tudor Black Bay GMT and to tell the truth, I wear the Tudor the most. There is just something about it that I just can’t help but put it on my wrist. It keeps time as well as the Rolex watches in my collection and it seems to be a bit more forgiving regarding light scratches than the 904L stainless of the Submariner.

    Certainly a great watch to own and enjoy.

    Thanks for the history lesson!

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