Having charted its destiny from diffusion line to a brand in its own right, did Tudor diverge from Hans Wilsdorf’s original vision? What watch collector John Low and Watch Palace owner John How discovered, might surprise you
According to John How, owner of Watch Palace, an institution in the Singapore watch retail scene since 1978, the designs of early Tudor timepieces, especially those with jubilee bracelets were virtually identical to their more established older brother Rolex.
“Rolex were already high in demand back in those days for the quality it offers, but there was no lack of offering from Tudor,” recalls How. Indeed, when Tudor was a new company, it was more like Rolex than it is today, and this is because of the fact that Tudor was actually founded by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex.
The iconic crown could be seen on casebacks, parts and bracelets, How John Low, an avid collector of Tudor special editions and customer of Watch Palace. “I witnessed first-hand the longevity of a Tudor: it remained right on the minute without servicing for over 30 years.
It was already in the back of my mind when I browsed through a magazine and saw the Harrod’s special edition. That was the spark that ignited my Tudor craze. I’ve acquired at least seven pieces since.”
Indeed, since its relaunch, Tudor has become a status symbol in its own right, taking reference from older models while making incremental updates, further gaining admiration for its military divers association. remembers that consumers in the ’70s and ’80s still gravitated towards Rolex, but he also remembers how the Tudor Prince was an early bestseller for visiting Hong Kong and Chinese tourists.
After its relaunch, however, Tudor has built a different reputation, of a high-quality, reputable watch company, with a rich and interesting history, which reflects quality craftsmanship and watchmaking.
FOR SOME YEARS NOW I HAVE BEEN CONSIDERING THE IDEA OF MAKING A WATCH THAT OUR AGENTS COULD SELL AT A MORE MODEST PRICE THAN OUR ROLEX WATCHES, AND YET ONE THAT WOULD ATTAIN THE STANDARDS OF DEPENDABILITY FOR WHICH ROLEX ARE FAMOUS. I DECIDED TO FORM A SEPARATE COMPANY, WITH THE OBJECT OF MAKING AND MARKETING THIS NEW WATCH. IT IS CALLED THE TUDOR WATCH COMPANY.” HANS WILSDORF
“Tudor wasn’t in my radar having seen my father wearing it, I thought that it was a bit old. However, as I matured, I began to appreciate the durability and how it served my father who was a career soldier,” said To John How’s recollection, the evolution of Tudor has been interesting to follow from a retailers’ perspective.
“Materials have changed. Usage patterns have changed. Calibres have improved. The price point relative to the value of what Tudor offers became an incredible selling point for new customers who weren’t initially convinced about the brand.”
In today’s market, a new generation is drawn to Tudor such that demand has outpaced supply, resulting in wait lists. Low explained the fervour, “For $5,000, you get a tool watch with in-house movement and 70 hours power reserve, and also the overall luxurious aesthetics. As you examine the history of the brand, there’s so much innovation that went into Tudor, especially today. It has captured the younger generation because it’s no longer the same old stainless steel watches. The full ceramic Black Bay I’m wearing now is avant-garde yet historic in its muse from the old Milsub.”
Not Your Ordinary Milsub, Not Your Ordinary Tool Watch
From large recognisable crowns sans crown guards on a case with sensuous unbroken curves, to snowflake hands, the Tudor Black Bay today stands as a distinctive icon in a family tree that has grown increasingly divergent. “I love the shield. It’s a symbol of strength. It’s tough,” said How.
“The collaboration with Marine National stands out for me because it is an existing military collaboration that goes all the way back to a brand milestone,” shared Low, “It’s more than a tool watch, it’s used by men of action who are still in action.”
To Low, the introduction of the Black Bay Fifty-Eight stands out, “You can see the clear lineage from the earliest reference 7922. It stands out particularly if you consider the boldness of going to a more period authentic case diameter versus the larger-sized dive watches today.
“Another new Tudor timepiece that really speaks to me is the latest Pelagos FXD. Recalling the old military tool watches and today, still used by active servicemen, the fixed lugs are a real point of distinction that again, establishes Tudor with its own iconic elements,” Low continued.
Owner of Watch Palace, Mr. How also considers 2021 to be a major milestone year for Tudor. “From launching the FiftyEight 925 (aka Silver) with taupe dial, the revamped Black Bay chronograph and now the Pelagos FXD, Tudor has been growing in strength as a brand apart from its origins.”
Indeed, it is fair to say that when Wilsdorf founded Tudor, it was a very early example of what would be referred to today as a “diffusion brand” and though it was founded in 1926, slightly over 20 years after the founding of Rolex, it would be in 1946, when Wilsdorf finally decided to register Tudor as a watch company in its own right, that would set the foundations for the modernist dive watch maker today.
Wilsdorf had hoped to offer the “working man” a watch as robust but affordable on a “working man’s budget” and, indeed, on the wrists of military personnel and servicemen, Tudor has managed to carve a distinct reputation from other luxury watchmakers.
Today, the brand has come a long distance, from live testing its Oyster Prince on 1,000 miles of rough Alpine roads during the Monaco International to 252 hours on the arm of a coal miner engaged in excavation, having an everyday watch that could endure everything life throws at it, and yet is so sophisticated, Tudor can lay claim to a particular boldness on its part, living up to its contemporary claim of being the watch for people who are “born to dare”.
Watch Palace is located at 304 Orchard Road, #01-01/02 Lucky Plaza, Singapore 238863