Tudor: The “Other” Rolex Brand

Many collectors are unfamiliar with or know little about the up and coming Tudor brand. The name “Tudor” was first registered in Geneva by Isaac Blumenthal on December 13, 1906 under registration number 21383. It was then transferred to Philippe Huther de Colombierein 1926, and finally sold to Hans Wilsdorf in 1936. No one has precise records, but the first traces of the Rolex-produced Tudors appear in the midforties, after the Second World War. Despite the generally prevailing public opinion, there is actually very little difference between the design and conception of Tudor and Rolex.

Apart from Tudor watch movements generally having fewer jewels, their conception and construction were virtually identical to those of Rolex. Rolex felt strongly that in producing a “second line” of watches, the public perception of Tudor had to be equivalent to that of Rolex. As such, they even extended the Rolex warranty to all Tudors at the time. All early Tudors, until the mid-1990’s, featured Rolex crowns and cases. Rolex bracelets were used until 1971 when the first Tudor signed bracelets appeared on women’s watches. The differences in caliber used in Rolex and Tudor watches will be addressed in a future article; here we will focus on some of the more collectible models.

Tudor Prince Submariner

Ref 7922 and 7924: the “non crown-guard” Submariners. As with Rolex Submariners, this model (Ref. 7922), water resistant to 330ft., came with a small crown and thicker case. Ref. 7924 had a larger case and crown to support the increased water pressure (to 660ft) . Both these models first appeared in 1958 and were fitted with the famous caliber 390, a 17 jewel movement based on the Valjoux 722. It is interesting to note that the Tudor Submariners have always been self-winding, unlike the earlier Rolex Submariners.

Ref 7928: At approximately the same time, the second series of Submariners was launched with crown-guards, Reference 7928 (SFr 360). This Submariner, water-resistant to 660 ft, was the equivalent of the Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513, so close that it even used its bezel. This watch still used the same caliber, 390, and was produced until 1966.

Ref 7016 and 7021: in the 1969-1970 Tudor catalogues two new references appeared. Ref. 7016 was considered the successor of 7928 but some significant changes were noticeable. Firstly, a new caliber was introduced, caliber 2461. This 11½’’‘ligne movement now had 25 jewels and was ETA-based. Secondly, the dials changed (available in either black or blue) and for the first time bore the square military-type indexes. The second model, reference 7021, was identical to the first, with the exception of the date with cyclops lens. The movement, caliber 2484, was also ETA-based, with 17 jewels.

Ref 9411: 1973 saw the launch of the last Submariner reference, 9411. It replaced Reference 7021 and was identical to it, with the exception of the movement, which was replaced by caliber 2784, with 25 jewels. There are a few other Tudor Submariner references, however it is the earlier ones which are of most interest to collectors. It is also important to note that Tudor was a major supplier of specialized divers’ watches for many armed forces, most notably the French Marine Nationale (M.N.) and the US Navy. These watches were supplied as early as the 1960s, with Reference 7928, and continued through the mid eighties.

Tudor Chronographs

The Tudor chronographs are probably the most collectible Tudors on today’s market. They can be divided into three distinct generations. Chronographs appeared in the Tudor catalogues for the first time in 1971, but strangely the first generation was never illustrated.

First Generation: Ref. 7031 and Ref. 7032. These chronographs were only produced for two years, in 1970 and 1971. They both featured the manually-wound caliber 7734 and the only difference between them is that reference 7031 has a black plastic bezel and 7032 a fixed metal tachometer bezel. Their most distinctive features are the characteristically shaped indexes and the colorful orange markers of the dial.

Second Generation: When Tudor first introduced a revolving blue metal bezel (Ref. 7169) in 1971, the chronographs still featured the characteristic markers on all three references (Ref. 7149 and Ref. 7159). The evolution from the first to second generation was marked by a new chronograph caliber, 234. It is also important to note that while in their official catalogues this is the only type of dial offered, in advertisements, the new dials can be seen. These featured a new type of luminous straight marker, as well as new dial colors, including a blue surround and blue sub-counters.

Third generation: Tudor chronographs became self-winding. They were introduced in 1976 with new references, indicating a different bezel from all previous generations. All three references are fitted with the famous caliber 7750 and now feature two chronograph counters, a subsidiary dial for constant seconds and the date at 3 o’clock. The 9420 now features a plastic tachometer bezel, the 9421 a revolving black (or blue) bezel and the 9430 a fixed metal tachometer bezel.

The first of these chronographs only bear the inscription “Chrono-Time” while the later models bear the words “Oysterdate Automatic Chrono-Time” around the counter at 6 o’clock. These chronographs were to evolve over the years (the dials were offered in various colors and configurations) with different reference numbers up to 94300. All had the same characteristics, and in the late 1980’s Tudor stopped producing the so-called exotic dials.

Tudor Advisor

This was another interesting development from Tudor/Rolex, a wristwatch with alarm. The Advisor appeared in 1957 and was offered as three different references until it was discontinued in 1977.

Ref 7926: in a traditional mid-sized Rolex case with a riveted Rolex bracelet. Equipped with manual winding 17 jewel caliber 1475, it was offered with at least three different dial configurations, with either faceted or diamond indexes, or Arabic numerals. Dials were available in either silver or black.

Ref 1537: the dressier version of the Advisor with a thinner case and lugs. Both Ref. 7926 and 1537 were available until 1968.

Ref 10050: the last and final version of the Advisor, available from 1969 to 1977. It was in stainless steel only (SFr 270), and was fitted with a new movement, caliber 3475.

Tudor Day-Date

Also one of the most attractive Tudor watches due to its oversized steel case and its resemblance to the Rolex Day-Date. A particularly desirable version is the one with an oversized rotating bezel. The Day-Date came in three distinct models, each with its own distinct bezel. The watch was also available with a variety of dials, in black, gray, silver, or blue. The model evolved throughout the years. Here we will focus on the earlier models which appeared in Tudor catalogues from 1970 to 1979, at which point the reference was changed to 9450 (9451 and 9461). These references, 7017, 7019/3, and 7020, were equipped with a non quick-set 13 3/4 line movement, caliber 1895.

Ref 7017: the classic day-date with a fixed bezel, available only in steel with either a leather strap or a metal bracelet (SFr 398 and 430).

Ref 7019/3: with fluted bezel, available in stainless steel and yellow gold or stainless steel and white gold (ref. 7019/4) (SFr 498 and 520 respectively).

Ref 7020: the most collectible of all three models, with a rotating steel bezel. Truly distinctive, it has no equivalent in the Rolex range (SFr 440 with leather strap).

As Rolex prices constantly increase, the Tudor range offers good entry level watches that may be collected at reasonable prices, and which, in addition, utilize many Rolex parts. And remember, when buying a vintage Tudor, look for models that reflect their age and are as original as possible. Spare parts are scarce, so keep this in mind when buying a Tudor that requires repair.

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