Why Tudor is more than Rolex’s little brother

The brand's heritage with special forces soldiers gives it a tough and respected history.

April 6, 2016

The world’s most recognizable watch brand, Rolex, was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf. Not too many people know, however, that the same man founded the Tudor brand in 1946.

While it may not be as famous as its big brother, Tudor has made some exceptional tool watches over the last 70 years. Last month saw the release of another worthy member of the Tudor Heritage range – the Black Bay Bronze.

Originally the brand’s name wasn’t going to be Tudor at all, but rather it would’ve been named after Hans Wilsdorf himself. But, as it turned out, the name ‘Tudor’ stuck.

These watches were made tough. As such they were adopted by British and US armed forces, and even the French Marine Nationale. In fact it was a custom among the French Marines to make oversized straps for these watches from parachute cords, recognizable by their central yellow thread. This inspired Tudor’s beige and brown woven jacquard strap. Otherwise you can choose the aged leather strap with a bronze buckle. 

I’ve found it to be very rare to find a vintage Tudor in perfect, original condition. For example, the Marine Nationale issued Tudors in bulk to military personnel and hired their own watchmakers to service and maintain them. Because of this you will find mismatched hands and dials as well as MN-issued Tudors with either black dials from the early 70s or blue dials from the late 70s. Even so, they’re some of the best diver watches to be had.

The brand developed a strong following among divers throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it was in 1968 on the reference 7016/0 that the ‘Snowflake’ hour hands were first seen. Tudors with this feature are among the most sought after vintage tool watches on the market. Since then the design on the hands has become synonymous with Tudor. The Black Bay Bronze released at Baselworld this year pays tribute to those origins. 

This new Tudor houses the COSC-certified Tudor-calibre MT5601, completely in-house manufactured. It’s equipped with a non­magnetic silicon balance spring, and its 70 hour power reserve means that you can take the watch off on Friday, and put it back on the wrist on Monday without worrying about losing time.

Another notable addition is the case made from Bronze, with bronze-coloured PVD-treated steel case back (so as not to cause allergic reactions with the skin).

There is also a bronze unidirectional rotatable bezel with a disc in matt brown anodised aluminium. The material makes me think of old navy ships, and what I love about it is that it is designed to develop a unique patina over time, which will add value to the watch in the long run.

The bronze case measures in at 43 mm, with a high-quality satin finish. It also has a prominent winding crown, just like the famous reference 7924 from 1958, known as the ‘Tudor Big Crown’.

All in all, it’s a watch worthy to continue the Tudor Heritage line. It can be compared to many top tier watches, even though it is priced fairly modestly at just under $4,000. 

Tariq Malik is owner of Momentum Dubai, the UAE's first and only vintage watch boutique. Visit momentum-dubai.com.