Although we have some (vintage) Rolex devotees amongst us, we also have some Tudor fans, and with this year’s Baselworld 2012 offerings from the former, a few of us have already been muttering aloud about whether Tudor is more interesting than its older sibling. The Heritage Chrono (especially attractive on the NATO) features in at least one person’s collection, and the new 're-edition', the Heritage Black Bay (Ref. 79220R) has captured our attention.
Tudor was introduced by Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf in March 1946, when he declared that he wished to make watches that could be sold at a lower price than Rolexes. With their own Oyster, Prince and Submariner models, for many years the brand was very closely identified with Rolex, including carrying the Rolex crown on the watch face, use of Rolex signed bracelets and crowns and even the Oyster case. Especially during the first couple of decades of the brand’s existence, people would say that if you’re buying a Tudor, you’re buying a Rolex. For example one of the most popular Tudor models has been the Submariner. Early models used a modified Fleurier 350 caliber, branded the Tudor 390 caliber. These are often mistaken as Rolex movements as they shared a similar rotor winding device. During the mid to late 1960’s Rolex switched ETA to supply the base movements for Tudors. By the 1990s, a stronger delineation was established between the two brands, so that Tudor wasn’t merely seen as the cheaper cousin of Rolex, though for many aficionados, Tudor has long held its own and been considered as bang for buck.
The new Tudor Heritage Black Bay is inspired by the brand’s vintage divers, whose history harks back to 1954, but modernised and resized to 41mm. The ‘snowflake’ reference relates to the distinctive shape of the hands, which were a feature of some 1970s models (e.g. 'Snowflake Submariner'), so it’s basically a 1950s Tudor with 1970s influences, sized for 2012 preferences and with added colour.
With the vintage-inspired domed crystal, black domed ‘gilt’ (gold-lettered) dial and lumed hour markers, this new model has a matte burgundy unidirectional bezel, a colour featuring in 1970s models. This burgundy is also picked up in the Tudor rose engraved crown.
Living inside is the automatic Calibre 2824, with a power reserve of 38 hours.
The Heritage Black Bay will be available with either a bracelet or leather strap with an additional black fabric strap (not a NATO). The price will be 3250 CHF for the Oyster bracelet version and 2950 CHF for the leather strap Black Bay.
What we like about this watch is that it is a no-nonsense Submariner with a heritage aspect, it looks good (loving the matte burgundy), and it appears to be a good all-round low-key tool watch. Looking at the Baselworld 2012 novelties from both Rolex and Tudor, in a quick survey of most of us, we reckon Tudor is giving Rolex a run for their money, and of the new models, would choose one of the Tudors ahead of one of the Rolexes.
There’s an interesting video about the Heritage chrono strap on the Tudor website. Unfortunately I can't seem to embed the video into this post, so click here to watch it.
If you want to read more about the history of Tudor Submariners, take a look at Tudor Collector's comprehensive site.