Tudor (Est. 1946) Often described as Rolex’s® slighter sibling, the Tudor brand was officially launched in 1946. Its creator was Hans Wilsdorf who was also the founder of the Rolex® Watch Company. His goal was to market a new watch brand that offered the precision, durability and reliability of Rolex® watches but at more modest pricing.
Tudor watches were also designed to pay tribute to England’s Tudor period. Tudor watches are manufactured by Montres Tudor SA using movements supplied by ETA SA.
Tudor watches were famously used by French Navy divers. The first Tudor Submariners were purchased in the late 1960’s. The same model was used by the US Navy for Navy Seals.
When Tudor models first went into production, new cases produced for Rolex® watches were transformed for Tudor timepieces. The quality and design of Tudor watches bear strong resemblance to branded Rolex® products. The main difference between Tudor and Rolex® is that Tudor does not use the ‘made in-house Rolex® caliber.’ Instead, it uses a purchased standard movement. Nevertheless, the high quality of the automatic and quartz calibres is insured.
In 1926, when Wilsdorf first began conceptualizing his Tudor watches, the house of Veuve de Philippe Hüther, a watch dealer and maker, registered the trademark, The Tudor, for him. The registration was established in Geneva and Wilsdorf acquired exclusive usage rights from Hüther.
The very first watches bear a simple Tudor signature on the dial with the horizontal bar of the T lengthened above the other letters. On some rare pieces, the name Rolex® also appears. Rolex® continued to guarantee the technical and aesthetic quality of Tudor watches until Tudor attained autonomy.
Tudor signed watches include models for both men and women. They were mainly rectangular, barrel-shaped or with beveled sides. They had a two-tone, two-sector cream dial with luminescent Arabic numerals, baton hands in blued steel with luminescent material, a minute track and a small second hand at six o’clock. Its calibre was recognizable by three red rubies on the top plate.
In 1932, Tudor watches intended for the Australian market were delivered exclusively to the Willis Company that was entrusted with distributing them to the best jewelry shops in the country.
In October 1936, Veuve de Philippe Hüther transferred the brand The Tudor to Wilsdorf. It was during this period that the Tudor Dynasty rose appeared on the dials. Inscribed within a shield, the logo symbolized a union of strength: Robust pieces designed with grace and beauty in its lines.
After the World War II and from 1947 onward, a year after Tudor was officially launched, the logo evolved. The shield gradually disappeared and the logo consisted only of the company name and the rose, finely drawn or as an applique in relief.
In 1948, the first dedicated advertisements for Tudor appeared. The models shown were for both men and women and the ad’s text emphasized the watches’ aesthetics, their chronometric precision, and their waterproof guarantee.
In 1952, the brand launched the Tudor Oyster Prince with an advertising campaign that was not limited, as was the usual practice, to showing and describing the product. Instead it emphasized the qualities of strength, reliability and precision with words and illustrations depicting men at work in extreme conditions wearing Tudor wristwatches. In ads until then, wearers were usually shown participating in sporting activities. The new, strong images combined with the product’s credibility, gave Tudor watches a style and personality that conveyed modernity and reliability that surpassed the specific context in which they were displayed.
Wilsdorf used the new campaign to link the Rolex® and Tudor brands and bestow his credibility on the new products.
According to Tudor’s official website, Wilsdorf said, “I have decided that the Tudor Prince deserves to share with Rolex® two advantages I would allow no other watch to use – the famous and unique waterproof Oyster case and the original self-winding Perpetual ’rotor’ mechanism. All Tudor Oyster Princes will have these two exceptional features, previously exclusive to Rolex®. This indicates, I think, the measure of our faith in the new watch. I am proud to give my personal endorsement.”
In 1952, twenty-six Tudor Oyster Princes were included in the British scientific expedition to Greenland organized by the Royal Navy. Their involvement in the mission proved the brand’s strength, reliability, and precision.
In 1954, the brand’s first divers’ watch, the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner made its debut. Designed to fulfill outstanding criteria at a moderate price, it quickly became the instrument of choice for professionals. Over the next forty-five years this watch evolved to meet specific requirements of the many types of divers drawn to it. This included notable performance advancements, e.g., the maximum functional immersion depth, initially set at 100 meters, improved to reach 200 meters with an upgraded version released in 1958.
During this period, multiple experiments determined which characteristics were indispensable to the ideal divers’ watch. It was in the first half of the 1960s that the general lines and technical specifications that constituted the Tudor Submariner became standard.
In 1957, Tudor launched the Advisor, the first alarm watch. It was the only one in the brand’s history to offer an alarm function. From 1957 to 1977 three different versions of the Tudor Advisor were produced, two with an Oyster-type case and a last one with a new dedicated case. In 2011, this legendary alarm watch was relaunched in an entirely redesigned version with a 42mm diameter that exceeded by 8 mm the previous 34 mm version.
The year 1957 also saw the launch of Tudor’s thinnest watch. Only 6 mm thick, it remains a very rare model produced in small numbers for only a few years (1957 to 1963). In the late 1950s, it was recognized in watchmaking history as the thinnest waterproof Tudor wristwatch. Today it is one of the most sought after Tudor timepieces by collectors.
In 1969, the second era of Tudor’s Submariner model began. It would last until 1999, the date of its last appearance in the company’s catalog. While the general foundations of the product remained, there were both technical and stylistic changes.
Technically, the movements previously used were replaced by ETA self-winding movements. Aesthetically, 1969 saw the Tudor Submariner present a famous new face. Developed for the explicit needs of diving, it was characterized by unique dials with square hour markers and matching hands, known to collectors as “snowflakes”. It remained in the catalog until 1981. Through 1976, models with smaller case diameters also appeared in the catalog.
The last years of Tudor’s Submariner line also saw significant innovations with the introductions of highly resistant sapphire crystals, directional bezels with notching, as well as dial and bezel design variations.
In total, from 1969 to 1999, more than 20 different references with numerous variations, all retaining the principal Tudor Submariner characteristics were produced.
From 1969 onward, the rose disappeared from the logo in favor of the shield designating Tudor watches as symbols of solidity and unfailing reliability.
Produced from 1969, the Oyster Prince Date+Day is one of the largest Tudor watches in the Prince line with a 37.5 mm steel case. Its screw-down waterproof case back is inscribed on the inside with, “Montres TUDOR S.A. Geneva Switzerland Patented.” On the outside, the case back is engraved “Original Oyster Case by Rolex Geneva.”
Its dial is metallic blue with a sunray finish and features baton hour markers as well as luminescent dots beside the hour markers on the dial’s minute track, luminescent baton hands, and a large second hand. The date is visible at three o’clock and the day of the week appear at twelve o’clock. It has an Oyster-type bracelet with folding links and a folding clasp signed Rolex®.
In 2004, Tudor stopped selling their watches in America. While the reasons remain obscure, in all likelihood it was a decision made by parent company Rolex®. There aren’t many companies –watchmakers or otherwise- who have a parent like Rolex®. Not only is it the most valuable name in watches across the globe, but one of the world’s most valuable luxury brands. In 2013, however, Tudor made a noteworthy return to the United States.
During its absence from the American market, U.S. watch collectors missed out on several models along with some Tudor watches that were released at the Baselworld watch fairs. These included the Tudor Heritage Black Bay inspired by a model that made its first appearance in 1954. At Baselworld 2014, Tudor released a new version with a matte-black dial and blue bezel.
For Tudor’s U.S. return, it used Baselworld 2013 to introduce a special edition Tudor watch called the Tudor Fastrider Black Shield. As the official “Timing Partner” of Ducati, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, the Fastrider was inspired by motorcycle racing. The design featured several references to motorcycles that included racing stripes on the dial and chronograph pushers that resembled engine pistons. The dial came in three colors: black, white, or “silversun,” and the watch had a triple-link steel bracelet, leather strap, or black fabric strap.
Tudor’s other diving watch, the Pelagos, featured a case made completely of a water-resistant titanium case up to 500 meters (1,640 feet). The Pelagos came with a titanium bracelet equipped with a spring-loaded self-adjusting mechanism (developed and patented by Tudor) that automatically adjusts and contracts as a diver descends and his diving suit compresses. Conversely, it expands as the diver ascends.
While gone from the American market, Tudor also offered ladies’ watches, notably the Claire de Rose collection. One of the highlights of the Claire de Rose is the second hand which is a cut-out of Tudor’s rose symbol. The rose is also found on the cabochon on top of the crown. The Clair de Rose collection also featured mother-of-pearl dials.
Part of the brand’s re-launch strategy was to position Tudor as a complimentary, high quality alternative to Rolex®. Currently, Rolex® and Tudor sit in side by side displays that offer two distinct but not mutually exclusive options for watch lovers. The message is that the same person can enjoy both Rolex® and Tudor watches in their collections.
Even with its aristocratic name, a Tudor is still a Rolex®. Inspired by the brand’s history, Tudor pays homage and respect to iconic models for which Rolex® is known. These timeless designs and exceptional attention to detail have made Tudor an esteemed name in the world of luxury watches.
The biggest reason why people buy Tudor is its attractive design and excellent quality. Tudor has a production facility alongside Rolex® in Switzerland and for the price, it offers excellent watches. It really isn’t a question of Rolex® or Tudor as each brand brings a lot to the table.
Tudor is attractively priced with most models sold in America at under $5,000. It is worth noting that not all Tudor watches are yet available in the US. Of additional importance to consumers is that Tudor rides on Rolex’s® sales and service infrastructure within the United States. This means that customers have what is perhaps the largest and most detailed network of after-sales and repair services should anything go wrong with a watch.