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Horological Culture • 14 Mar 2018
Exploring the Tudor Value Proposition
While the brand was originally conceived as a more affordable watch for someone who could not yet afford a Rolex, Tudor today has advanced to the cutting edge of affordable watchmaking. More adventurous – and retro inspired – designs, use of modern materials and solid, in-house movements, demonstrates Tudor’s success. Indeed, its current day revival that began in 2010 can only be described as extraordinary, for which there exists no parallel in watchmaking in the past decade.
The key to Tudor’s success now lies in understanding the power of its past. Its road to Damascus began when the brand returned to its roots and studied its historical bestsellers from the 1940s onwards. The overriding stars from its archives such as the Submariner, Monte-Carlo chronographs, Ranger and Advisor alarm then formed the basis of its reboot.
First was the Heritage Chronograph, a reinterpretation of the legendary “Home Plate” chronograph from 1971, which caused a media frenzy when it was launched at the Baselworld 2010. And a year later Tudor relaunched the Advisor, giving its collection a complication even its big brother Rolex does not have.
But Tudor understood that the task of interpreting history is one of creation, and not just replicating, and that a heritage reissue should neither be the result of an innovation lag nor a reaction to a thriving vintage watch market, but a sign of progress itself. In 2012, the brand launched the Heritage Black Bay, which was a watch that eschewed reproducing any one reference. Instead, it paid homage to the brand’s entire history of dive watches from the ‘50s to the ‘80s. The Black Bay inherited the gilt dial and Big Crown from the ref. 7924, the snowflake hands from 1969 and the burgundy bezel from the ’80s. As such, while steeped in familiarity, the Black Bay was a never-before-seen masterpiece that would become a sports watch icon of the 21st century, and also Tudor’s bestselling Heritage model.
Then in 2017 Tudor ventured further with the Heritage Black Bay Chrono. Drawing upon its bestselling Black Bay, the chronograph watch bore all the elements that made the Black Bay a runaway success – the same circular hour markers and snowflake hands were injected into a new chronograph design that is completely distinct from any vintage Tudor, perhaps marking the beginning of a new chapter in the brand’s design evolution.
Over the past seven years Tudor has established an identity distinct from its coroneted cousin not just in terms of design but also materials. While Rolex has thus far only ever used titanium for the case backs of the DeepSea, Tudor did the inverse by creating an entire watch – the Pelagos – from titanium but fitted with a steel case back.
Then in 2015, Tudor launched what would become the pièce de résistance of the line, the Black Bay Bronze. In the past two years, the aluminum-copper alloy has continued to be widely adopted across the industry, a fad that the bronze Tudor helped propel. A material that quickly acquires a handsome patina is, after all, fitting for a heritage-inspired dive watch. Since then, the Black Bay Bronze has lent itself to two desirable incarnations – the retailer-exclusive Black Bay Bronze Blue Bucherer as well as the one-off Black Bay Bronze One for Only Watch 2017 which sold for a whopping SFr350,000.
Down the line, another watch that caused the same stir a year later was the Black Bay Dark. Prior to this, watch lovers who hankered for an all-black Tudor (or Rolex) would have had to achieve it through aftermarket means, running the risk of voiding their warrantees and forever foregoing factory servicing. The Black Bay Dark changed that, being the first PVD-treated timepiece to come from the makers of the world’s most iconic diving watches.
Tudor further showed that it understood brilliantly the desires of the modern-day consumer when it offered its own fabric NATO-style straps for the Heritage collection. And it went to considerable effort to go beyond the standard synthetic fabric straps most brands offer. Tudor’s straps are manufactured by an old school passementerie manufacturer in Lyon using a traditional Jacquard looming technique. The result is a soft, high-quality strap with a thickness and weight superior to most fabric straps.
New and improved movements
And perhaps the greatest achievement for a brand in its price range is what’s inside Tudor’s watches. In 2015, the brand became a true movement manufacture when it introduced the MT 5621 inside the North Flag. The calibre was the first in-house as well as COSC-certified movement in the Tudor’s 70-year history. Not only was it proprietary, the movement further boasted a silicon hairspring, a variable-inertia balance and a 70-hour power reserve. Since then, Tudor has been steadily installing the manufacture movement across its entire catalog. While the base mechanics are the same, minor variations differentiate the calibers, such as the power reserve indication on the North Flag or the lack of a date function on the Heritage Black Bay Dark.
Then, two years after it claimed manufacture status, Tudor announced a partnership with Brietling for the Heritage Black Bay Chrono, imploding the overblown idea that in-house is always the ideal solution. While its chronograph watches such as the Fastrider and the Heritage Chrono had formerly relied on robust but unremarkable ETA movements, Tudor chose to refine its value proposition by installing Brietling’s sophisticated chronograph B01 in the Black Bay Chrono.
With several years of production under its belt, the Breitling movement is a proven performer, equipped with a column-wheel, vertical clutch, and silicon hairspring, plus COSC certification – typically features found on pricier chronographs. With that, Tudor proved unequivocally its commitment to delivering superior value.
Excellent Price Points
At the core of Tudor’s phenomenal reboot was ensuring that prices are kept affordable. Many a time, there is a corresponding premium to pay once a company switches from an outsourced to an in-house movement. The Black Bay introduced in 2012 had a provocatively low price of SFr2950 and now, with an in-house movement, it still costs SFr3200 on a leather strap and SFr3500 on a steel bracelet. Tudor’s COSC-certified silicon-hairspring equipped movement commands a mere SFr250 increment.
The Pelagos, the brand’s highest spec dive watch and perhaps the best value dive watch in the market today, is rated to 500m, with a titanium case, a helium escape valve, a ceramic luminous bezel and powered by the MT5612 movement – all for a modest price of SFr4200 on bracelet.
And lastly, proving that the collaboration was an astute decision, the Black Bay Chrono equipped with the B01 movement is priced at SFr4800 on bracelet, which in other words is almost half the price of a Breitling Chronomat with the same movement.