Born out of Hans Wilsdorf’s desire to offer a watch with all the qualities of Rolex but at a cheaper price point, Tudor was officially taken under Rolex’s wing in 1946.Sharing the same oyster case as Rolex as well as the self-winding perpetual rotor mechanism, these first watches were initially marketed to the working man. One of the standout features of these early Tudor watches was their robustness in extreme conditions. Whilst Rolex watches were worn by presidents, Tudor watches were worn by motorcycle racers, coal miners and construction workers and were squarely aimed at the working man.
During the 1970’s through to the early 1990’s Tudor continued to mirror the qualities and style of Rolex but in a more flamboyant way. The various exotic chronographs, submariners, date days and rangers mirrored the Rolex offerings, and as always, were offered at a lower price point. Traditionally seen as a “sub-brand” of Rolex, Tudor started to disappear from the US and UK market in the late 1990’s and entered a period of virtual absence. It is during this period that I first discovered and started collecting Tudor watches including date days, submariners and “big block” chronographs.
However, the watches that most captivated me were the oyster Prince’s made in the 1950’s. Most of these watches had much harder lives than their Rolex counterparts. Bought by “one watch” customers they were often worn for years every day and then eventually placed in a drawer once the quartz revolution took over in the late 1970’s. Some of these watches had never even been serviced or back to the factory. However, even having lain dormant for decades, they still seemed to work and keep perfect time when eventually resurfacing.
With beautiful honeycomb dials, gilt markers and amazingly preserved oyster cases, these watches still look relevant today, and in some ways were more beautiful than their Rolex counterparts. Having owned over 40 of these watches, I have never had to do anything more than to polish the glass or regulate the movement. I owned at least 5 of these examples that had never been serviced in over 60 years!
Tudor is once again in the limelight and now marketed by retired footballers and pop stars, rather than foundry workers or coal miners. However, for me, the glory days will always be in the 1950’s and I will look back fondly to the wilderness days when they were one of the best-kept secrets in the vintage watch world.