For most of its history, Tudor has been known as a Rolex subsidiary company: a more cost effective way to buy a watch of comparable quality - except powered by a third party movement. The brand utilizes the same materials Rolex boasts for their watches, but keep their costs down by using less expensive, but incredibly reliable movements from ETA and Valjoux instead of the in-house Rolex movements.
However in more recent years, the brand has made huge strides in distinguishing itself from its big brother, stepping out of its massive shadow with a series of models that range from the modern and cutting edge to those which call back to the absolute best of the vintage glory days.
Today Tudor is recognized as very much its own entity, creating a portfolio of highly accomplished and beautifully crafted models. Additionally, the brand has even made the move to bring the creation of its own, in-house movements. They may still shelter under the Rolex umbrella - something that ensures an engineering and design pedigree few others can match; however the brand is an extremely impressive manufacturer in its own right.
Tudor was not the first attempt by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf to establish an alternative to his primary watch line. In 1909, just four years after the inception of Wilsdorf & Davis (which would go on to become Rolex itself), he registered the trade name Omigra, hoping to attract the huge market of those who wanted a fine wristwatch but who couldn’t afford his premium range. However, that name was quickly abandoned after Wilsdorf realized just how similar the title was to the well proven and already highly successful Omega brand.
In the following few years he tried and discarded several other names, including Falcon, Genex, Lexis, Hofex, Rolexis, and Rolwatco. By 1911, Wilsdorf had chosen one which stuck a little longer, deciding to adopt the surname of Noble Prize-winning Italian inventor Marconi for his more affordable line.
It was determined to keep the Rolex and Marconi watches as completely separate bodies; Marconi models would not be sold through Rolex retailers and they wouldn’t have the Rolex name on them anywhere - not on the dial or the movement. In fact, it was the movements which presented many of the problems for Wilsdorf and his new marque. It was no secret that Marconi watches were basically the same as the far more expensive Rolex but with a cheaper caliber. While the older sibling company sourced their engines from the legendary movement maker Aegler, Marconi models were powered with mechanisms from either Beguelin or The General Watch Co. (the latter, incidentally, founded by the Brandt brothers in 1848 who then went on to form Omega).
But the wristwatch was still in its infancy during this time and the buying public was not as concerned with the performance of the movements as it is today. As a result, Marconi started to significantly outsell Rolex. The watches offered enough of what people wanted from a Rolex to make paying substantially more for an actual Rolex unnecessary. It was the same situation for several other rebrands, with Unicorn, Rolco and the Oyster Watch Co. all suffering the same fate.But in 1926, Wilsdorf decided on 'Tudor', and the name was trademarked on his behalf by Swiss watchmaker Veuve de Philippe Hüther.
The major difference with this move was that Wilsdorf finally allowed the sub-brand to be promoted as a Rolex product. They could be sold through the same main retailer network and many of the earliest pieces bound for the Australian market even had ‘Rolex Watch Co. Ltd' on the dial below the Tudor text. These watches also outshone the main brand and in 1946 the company was set out on its own, registered under the name Montres Tudor S.A., a joint stock business with all the shares owned by Rolex.
Once given a certain amount of independence, the brand began to flourish. The brand was granted the right to utilize the same two key innovations that made Rolex watches famous - the self-winding movement and waterproof case. Embracing these two pioneering technologies, they launched their Oyster Collection in the mid-forties. The following decade was marked by other collections which mirrored Rolex’s output, including the Prince series and the Oyster Prince Submariner, the company's first diving watch, developed in association with the French Navy.
With their robust build and excellent reliability, the manufacturer would go on to enjoy long relationships with several other global military forces, including in the U.S. and U.K. During the remainder of the 20th century, The company added more and more models to its product line, and on its 50th anniversary in 1996, replaced all its Rolex-signed components (such as cases, winding crowns and bracelets) with versions bearing their own logo. However, in the subsequent few years, business started to suffer and the brand, unable to shed its image of the ‘poor man's Rolex', halted sales in Britain and America.
It would take until the early years of the 2000s before the brand experienced its renaissance. Drawing heavily on successes from the past, they started offering modern day interpretations of several of their vintage pieces. The Heritage Chrono is almost a direct reworking of the Monte Carlo chronograph from the seventies. The Black Bay series honors their former highly renowned dive watches, complete with snowflake handset and a guard-less crown - design elements borrowed from the beloved Submariner models of the 1950s. A wonderful retro throwback, it gained the GPHG (Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève) in 2013.
Today, rather than being a second choice, they forged their own identity and faultless reputation. The success of the contemporary range has also awakened a fascination with the originals from yesteryear, and some collectible references have started selling at prices that rival their Rolex counterparts on the pre-owned market.
|Black Bay Heritage (ref. 79230B)||$3,575 - $3,900|
|Black Bay Chrono (ref. 79360N)||$5,000- $5,325|
|Black Bay Bronze (ref. 79250BA)||$4,250|
|Black Bay GMT (ref. 79830RB)||$3,850 - $4,175|
|Pelagos (ref. 25600TB)||$4,725|
|Heritage Chrono (ref. 70330N)||$4,200 - $4,525|
Like most luxury timepieces, the price of a Tudor watch will be determined by the specific model, age, configuration, and overall condition. Current 2023 retail prices for brand-new reference start out at just $1,750 for the smallest women's models in the 1926 collection, which are powered by third-party movements. Additionally, retail prices top out at $7,250 for the Black Bay Chrono S&G on a bracelet, which is powered by the in-house Caliber MT5813 movement. On the pre-owned market, a noticeable savings can be found on certain models. However just like watches from their parent company, Tudor timepieces retain their value relatively well, and some models even trade hands for more than their retail prices on the secondary market due to an overwhelming demand.
With that in mind, there are certain rare and collectible vintage references such as the "Snowflake" Submariner watches from the 1960s and 1970s can reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars, rivaling secondary market prices for certain Rolex Submariner models.
Tudor and Rolex's first dive watches, both known as the Submariner, were developed simultaneously and launched within months of each other between 1953 and 1954. Side by side, there was very little to visually separate the early models, with matching cases and bezels, even down to using identical handsets and hour markers. The main difference was internal: the Submariner ran on the less expensive Fleurier caliber 390, versus the Rolex's Aegler A260.
The two collections kept in line throughout much of their initial run, both growing in diameter and adding crown guards around the beginning of the 60s. However, by the time the second generation of Sub was issued in 1969, the sister company was making moves to set its offering apart.
The ref. 7016 is the reference which debuted the brand's now trademark snowflake hands, actually requested by the French Navy to make it easier to distinguish between the hour and minute hands while underwater. The indexes were redesigned, changing from circles to squares for the same reason, and it was also available in a blue dial option. At the same time, the ref. 7021 was released, the first model with a date function.
With its excellent reputation and lower price point, the Submariner was a great seller, and the series continued on until the final iteration, the ref. 79000 series, was unveiled in the mid-80s. Finally coming to an end in 1999, many of the important design details from the classic Submariner references have been reintroduced to other models from Tudor, such as the Black Bay and Pelagos collections.
The Ranger is one of the brand's most important watches. Initially released in 1967 with the ref. 7995/0, it marked the first time the company had really made an effort to differentiate itself from Rolex. Until then, models from both manufacturers were almost aesthetic duplicates of one another, just with different movements and branding. Most of them even shared the same model name.
The Ranger was the brands equivalent of the Explorer, but unlike the two Submariner watches, there was no danger of confusing the two. An out-and-out tool model, legibility was key and the watch adopted an easily readable 3/6/9/12 Arabic numeral black dial. Between that, a rather small 34mm size, and an interesting handset (snake's head hour hand and paddle seconds hand) the watch managed to establish its own personality.
There followed a number of references of the Ranger over the years, with both date and non-date versions until it was replaced with the Ranger II in the 1970s. The unusual styling of that piece meant that it wasn't hugely popular at the time (although it would go on to inspire the contemporary North Flag range), and in 2014, a revamp of the original model was brought out.
Now a part of the massively successful Heritage series, the modern Tudor Heritage Ranger has embraced most of the design elements of the vintage watch and housed them in a far larger 41mm case. The dial detailing is consistent with the early models, with the exception of the seconds hand now being bright red.
The Tudor Pelagos is a luxury dive watch. It features a titanium case, a sapphire crystal, and a self-winding mechanical movement. The watch is water resistant to 500 meters and has a helium escape valve, making it suitable for deep sea diving.
The Pelagos also has a unique bracelet system which allows for easy adjustments for a comfortable fit. It is considered as one of the best dive watches in the market, with its quality, durability and functionality.
The one and only watch to ever come from the Rolex group to feature an alarm, the Tudor Advisor dates back to 1957. The ref. 7926 housed a manually-wound Adolph Schild caliber 1475 in a 34mm Oyster case, with a sophisticated dress watch dial, featuring dauphine hands and plain stick indexes.
On the side were two crowns, the standard one for setting and winding the movement, and the other, at two o’clock, for activating the alarm module itself. An additional bright red hand on the face indicated the set time for the signal to start. In production for just over a decade, it was released with a small number of different dial variations during its run.
The Advisor went through a significant redesign in 1968 when the ref. 7926 was superseded by the ref. 10050. Hour markers were now notched rectangles and baton hands replaced the former triangular style.
The movement was also updated to the caliber 3475, a 17-jewel mechanism which was still hand wound. That model lasted up until 1977 and then it was retired completely.
When Tudor went through its recovery in the 2000s, they were able to reinvent the Advisor for a modern audience. The ref. 79620T from 2011 was a major departure from the vintage models, measuring some 42mm in diameter and adding a power reserve meter, a calendar display, and an alarm on/off indicator to the dial.
Now powered by the ETA 2892, it is the first Advisor to have an automatic caliber and the latest collection consists of a beautiful cognac tinted model.
The Tudor Black Bay is a line of luxury watches produced by Tudor, a sister brand of Rolex. The Black Bay is known for its vintage-inspired design, which is influenced by the brand's dive watches from the 1950s and 60s, as well as its association with Rolex.
The watch features a 41mm case, a unidirectional rotating bezel, and a screw-down crown. The Black Bay also has a variety of options for the dial, including black, blue, and burgundy.
The watch is powered by the in-house manufactured automatic movement, caliber MT5602 and has a power reserve of 70 hours. The Black Bay is highly sought after by watch collectors and enthusiasts for its combination of vintage style, modern technology, and its association with the prestigious brand Rolex.
Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf invented the concept of the brand ambassador, or testimonee, so it is no surprise that Tudor also invests a great deal of time, effort and money in aligning itself with a host of famous representatives. However, it is only a very recent occurrence, kicking off when soccer legend David Beckham was brought onboard in 2017.
Later that year, Tudor scored another coup when Lady Gaga signed up, and both she and Beckham are often seen sporting various models from the Heritage series. Also in 2017, New Zealand’s iconic rugby team, the All Blacks partnered with the manufacturer, underlining the toughness and reliability of the brand. Most recently, Taiwanese musician Jay Chou officially joined Tudor, regularly wearing one of the 1926 line of casually elegant dress watches. As well as enlisting several of the great and good from the celebrity world, the watchmaker also has strong ties with motorsport, acting as entitlement partner to the Tudor United Sports Car Championship, as well as official timing partner for both the FIA World Endurance Championship and Ducati motorcycles
Of course, the relationship between Tudor and the military goes way back to 1956 when the French Marine Nationale assumed the company's Submariner as their standard issue timepiece. Others armed forces followed suit, and by the 1970s the Sub was being used by diving specialists from underwater demolition teams to the U.S. Navy Seals. In fact, the Canadian Navy was still using the Tudor Sub until it was retired in the late 90s.
Tudor is certainly enjoying a golden age at the moment, and its main distinction from Rolex is still definitely apparent. Prices right across its collection are extremely reasonable when comparing the two. In 2018, Tudor released its first ever dual time zone watch, the Black Bay GMT. It was so well received it even managed to steal some of the spotlight from Rolex’s biggest announcement of that year: the reintroduction of the concept’s originator, their fabled GMT-Master II in steel with a Pepsi bezel - something for which the industry had been requesting for years.
Tudor's GMT watch was also steel with a blue and red bezel, along with a vintage-inspired case (without crown guards), snowflake hands, and the in-house MT5652 movement. With a retail price of less than half of Rolex's model, the Black Bay GMT was a world-wide success. It is a similar story with the Heritage Black Bay, which looks for all the world like a Big Crown Submariner from the 1950s. Again, retail prices are less than half the cost of a modern Rolex Submariner, making it a strong value proposition. Lastly, the Heritage Chrono retails for almost a third of the price of the Rolex Daytona (assuming you are even able to find one). However you slice it, Tudor makes some exceptionally impressive and affordable watches
With a long and celebrated history, a legacy of superb craftsmanship, and a range of styles wide enough to suit anyone's tastes, there are a host of reasons to choose a one of these stylish watches. Best of all, and by contrast with its illustrious big brother, The brand doesn’t restrict the supply of their models to the same extent as Rolex, so there is a great chance that you will actually be able to buy one without having to pay significantly above retail or having to put your name at the bottom of a multi-year waitlist.
With that in mind, some of the most popular models can get a little short on supply; however, secondary market prices are still perfectly realistic, with little or no premiums being added for availability. Should you decide to purchase your Tudor watch from an independent retailer, always make sure you do as much research as you can on the dealer and always buy from a trusted and reputable source. As always, 'buy the seller' is a phrase that applies to the watch industry almost more than any other.