Posted on Wednesday 23 January 2019 by Ulster Business
John Mulgrew gets hands-on with the flagship of watchmaker Tudor’s revamped line-up and examines the lineage of the luxury Swiss brand
While Tudor’s fresh line-up of watches is somewhat of a deviation from its roots, it’s important to understand where the independent Swiss brand sits in the world of horology.
The brand dates back as far as 1926, when it was transferred to Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf. It’s still lovingly referred to as the Swiss watch stalwart’s sister brand.
From there, following the Second World War, he decided now was the time to expand and give the brand an identity of its own.
The primary difference between the brands back then, was that Rolex watches carried in-house movements, and that Tudor would offer familiar watch styles, such as the Oyster and Submariner, at a more affordable cost, while its big brother would guarantee the technical, aesthetic and functional characteristics, along with distribution and after sales service.
But the brand back then, and the company now, has changed radically. Just a few years ago, it tore up the rulebook on its traditional line – moving away from historically similar watches to Rolex, and a few changes from its classical lines, towards a tight range of watches, bringing in the old and the new.
The core model is the Black Bay. A millimetre larger than the Rolex Submariner, it’s a slightly chunkier affair, without treading into the excessive sizes of some other brand’s modern timepieces. It also offers a new ‘58’ – a smaller 39mm watch, which fits right in as a cheaper alternative to the Submariner, a Black Bay Chronograph and the Pelagos – a larger, more modern affair made out of titanium.
The brand also comes in at a time when Rolex prices have shot up, considerably. Many of the most desirable models in the Rolex line have a waiting list – with second-hand prices outpacing the new book price.
Tudor itself has also embraced this burgeoning demand, releasing its own GMT watch – with so-called ‘Pepsi’ blue and red bezel. Currently, Rolex’s own model – aside from the sizeable price difference – will mean joining a waiting list.
(MORE THAN) A WEEK ON THE WRIST
Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Sitting as Tudor’s poster-boy or flagship in its range, the Black Bay is a dive watch which melds the styling and inspiration of, possibly the most recognisable watch in the world, the Rolex Submariner, with a larger case, while adding patina on the hands and markers.
There’s no crown-guard, ala Rolex. This time, it’s a larger, screw-down, with an etched Tudor rose – formerly the brand’s logo.
Overall, the Black Bay’s case is brushed, including the caseback, with the finish smoothly transitioning into a polish around the sides and crown.
The sapphire crystal glass is slightly domed, sitting around a millimetre off the face off the watch. Around the edge, the bezel is a solid, thick and satisfyingly sold 60-click version, with red triangle and lume dot.
This version is on a steel bracelet, but is also available on a leather or fabric band, along with red dial and blue – the latter without the patina on the markers and hands.
The bracelet is a stand-out characteristic of the piece, certainly in terms of build quality. The three-piece links have a lug width of 22mm, tapering to around 20mm. It’s brushed, but polished and riveted along the side. On the clasp, there’s a double-locking system, with a thoughtful inclusion of the Tudor shield logo into the mechanism, along with three points of micro-adjustment.
This watch, available from jeweller Lunn’s, spent several days on my wrist – from the office, to out-and-about and around the house. It’s a comfortable piece to wear – balanced between a bit more heft than its more expensive sibling, but never straying into the realm of gaudy or garish.
After a few hours, it felt very much like one of my own. I did miss the date, however, but those after additional complications or functionality could look to the chronograph version, or the larger Pelagos.
The Black Bay is a well-balanced piece – easily sitting at the centre of a Venn diagram between casual and formal.
The brand itself is firing everything at the new range, with endorsements from David Beckham and Lady Gaga, aimed at a younger generation with disposable income to spare. While that may not appeal or speak to the horological purists, with the in-house movement, attention to detail, provenance and mixture of the traditional and modern, it’s likely to build a fresh reputation as a ‘watch fan’ timepiece, and for those who have no issue explaining to those admiring the chunk of steel on their wrists, that it isn’t a Rolex.