In a crowded market, watch companies have their work cut out. People want watches that are well-made, interesting, hold their value and hopefully have the elusive cool factor. With so much to think about, finding a magic formula for success is very difficult. But nobody seems to have told Tudor. For years now, the Swiss company has been delivering hit after hit and making it look easy.
A decade or so ago, you would not have believed it. Tudor watches back then were not sold in Europe or America, doing most of their business in China. The brand’s transformation since then has been remarkable. It was relaunched in 2009, but the big year was 2012 – the release of the Heritage Black Bay.
That watch made everyone take notice. With a beautiful modern take on the company’s diving watch history, Tudor was suddenly one of the hottest brands around. More heritage-inspired pieces followed, spawning waiting lists that would make big-sister company Rolex proud. This year is no exception, with buyers scrambling to get hold of one of the new Tudors.
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight references the year Tudor first made a watch that was water-resistant to 200 metres. Since the classic diver’s launch in 2018, several new versions have been introduced, but none so surprising as this year.
The Fifty-Eight 18K has a green dial and a 39mm yellowgold case. Gold cases for diving watches are not unheard of – Rolex makes some, as does Panerai – but they are the exception. This makes sense, of course, because for a no-nonsense tool watch, designed to let you know when it is time to head for the surface, fancy materials are not necessary. But as electronic assistance permeates every aspect of modern life, the mechanical watch has the freedom to do as it chooses. In this case, it chooses gold, contrasted with a matt-green dial and bezel.
If gold is unusual for a diving watch, it is not as unexpected as the second watch, the Fifty-Eight 925. That number refers to the alloy more commonly known as sterling silver, and for a watch case that really is unusual. Silver is not normally used, particularly for tool watches, as it is generally considered too soft and prone to tarnishing. But this model uses a proprietary alloy that Tudor says should prevent signs of wear and help retain its luminance over the years.
Both the silver and gold versions use a new version of the MT5400 in-house automatic movement, modified to accommodate another unusual feature of these new models – an open caseback. Examining the movement through the back of your watch has become an almost ubiquitous feature of mechanical watches. For the most part diving watches are still closed because, just like fancy case materials, a viewing panel in the back of your watch isn’t needed for a deep dive. Not vital, perhaps, but a nice touch.
Tudor has also unveiled a slimmed-down version of its all-steel Black Bay Chrono. Available with either a matt black or white opaline dial and contrasting white or black chronograph counters, giving it the classic “panda” or “reverse panda” dial made famous by vintage Rolex Daytonas. The Black Bay Chrono watch has a 41mm stainless steel case and a MT5813 automatic movement, made for Tudor by Breitling.
Tudor has again surprised watch fans and kept the name red hot. The watch market may be crowded, but Tudor is carving out a big slice all for itself.