Tudor was created in 1926 by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, with the goal of making watches with a level of quality close to Rolex, but at a lower price. While the brand was already successful in the 1930s and 1940s, it entered its golden age in the 1950s with the launch of several sports watches, most of them being more affordable versions of iconic Rolex watches like the Submariner.
An early Tudor watch – 1932.
The Tudor of today can boast of many successful historical watches, some even having become highly collectible timepieces. Most prominent are the Submariner, various Monte-Carlo chronographs, the Ranger, and Advisor alarm watch. These watches were the crucial starting points for the brand’s revival that began in the late 2000s.
Indeed, for almost two decades starting in the 1990s, Tudor was neglected and overshadowed by its larger sibling Rolex. Most of its line-up was focused on classic watches, with over 90% of its production sold in China, thanks to limited distribution elsewhere. Believe it or not Tudor was, at that time, not being sold in the USA!
Vintage sports watches by Tudor.
In the late 2000s the brand entered a new era under the direction of Philippe Peverelli who join as CEO in 2009; design and marketing chief Davide Cerrato had previously come on board in 2007. Their mission was clear – to awaken the sleeping beauty – but it wasn’t a simple one, as the Tudor name was barely known by watch lovers, save for a few vintage watch enthusiasts. In that small fan base, however, Tudor found its new direction: vintage inspired wristwatches.
Cerrato and Peverelli both understood the potential of Tudor and its rich heritage. While the brand’s elder sibling Rolex focused on innovation and forward looking designs, Tudor could build its name with what was then a growing trend of vintage-inspired watches. Between 2007 and 2010, David Cerrato revamped Tudor’s in preparation for a major re-entry into various markets. In 2010, the preparation work came to fruition when he presented the Heritage Chrono – the first of what would be the new generation of Tudor watches that made the brand one of the most talked about names at the fair.
The 2010 Heritage Chrono.
The Heritage Chrono that was presented, ref. 70330N, is based on several inspirations and not a specific watch. It has very close resemblance to the highly collectible 1970 Monte-Carlo Chronograph ref. 7031/1 and the 1971 Monte-Carlo Chronograph ref. 7032/1, with a similar Oyster case sporting bevelled lugs, screw-down pushers, and dial design. However, the new watch’s materials, size, and movement are obviously modern.
The 2011 Heritage Advisor.
A year later, Tudor unveiled its second vintage inspired watch. The Advisor is a modern vision of the brand’s 1950s alarm watch, now equipped with an in-house alarm module – making it Tudor’s first step towards producing its own movements in the modern age.
The first Tudor Black Bay, with Burgundy bezel – 2012.
In 2012, Cerrato and Peverelli crossed a second milestone in Tudor’s modern history by presenting what would soon become the brand’s bestseller, the Heritage Black Bay. The Heritage Black Bay ref. 79220R is a modern reinterpretation of the 1960s Submariner ref. 7922 and ref. 7924. The Black Bay brought back a key feature of vintage Tudor dive watches – snowflake hands, now a standard feature on all Heritage dive watches. After the initial burgundy colourway, the Black Bay model was later extended to include two other versions: midnight blue and black, the latter bearing a red triangle on the bezel and gilt lettering on the dial to look even more like a vintage timepiece.
The 2012 Tudor Pelagos.
That same year also saw the debut of a more modern and technical watch, the Pelagos. Despite being the contemporary counterpart to the Heritage series – thanks to its titanium case and extremely clean dial – the Pelagos still bears the brand’s iconic design elements, such as the snowflake hands and Oyster-style case.
Tudor Heritage Ranger.
The story continued in 2014 when the brand introduced yet another a vintage-inspired watch, the Ranger, based on the late 1960s tool watch of the same name.
Tudor Black Shield.
Vintage was not the only inspiration for the revival of Tudor. Cerrato also created several modern-looking watches such as the Fastrider and the Black Shield – modern, robust, and stylish chronographs.
The Tudor Manufacture movement and the new Pelagos.
The latest milestone in Tudor’s modern history concerns its watches’ movements. Indeed, while the brand has been reliant on external movement suppliers for decades and mainly using ETA calibres, Tudor is now producing its own manufacture movement, the MT56xx, which is now available in several versions. This was followed up at Baselworld 2017 when Tudor announced its partnership with Breitling, with the latter supplying chronograph movements to Tudor in return for the MT56xx movements for Breitling’s watches. The very first Tudor watch equipped with the Breitling chronograph movement is the Black Bay Chrono, yet another historically-inspired watch but one that is original in the sense that it is not based on any recognisable vintage Tudor.
The Tudor Black Bay Chrono.
Ensuring a supply of robust movements is the second strategic plank of Tudor’s revival. At the beginning the clear direction was to use known design codes to evoke vintage watches and even their Rolex lineage. But now as the brand has come into its own, movement development helps Tudor build its own identity.
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Frank Geelen – The Netherlands
Frank Geelen is an expert on Haute Horlogerie and beautiful hand-finished mechanical movements make his horological heart beats faster. He loves to explain all technical details of complications like tourbillons, minute repeaters, constant force escapements and column-wheel chronographs and he has been doing that for nine years.