We are excited to begin our vintage sales, here on Revolution, with a selection of watches we have dubbed “The Icons of Tudor”. Founded by Rolex supremo Hans Wilsdorf in 1926, Tudor was conceived as an accessible way to own a Rolex-quality timepiece at a more affordable price point. The watches were effectively Rolex pieces in most ways, except for the movements and dials. Many vintage Rolex and Tudor watches share the same cases, bezels, crowns and crystals.

The Oyster

A 1953 Oyster Royal ref. 7934 with a guilloché textured dial, known by collectors as a "waffle" dial (Image © Revolution)
A 1953 Oyster Royal ref. 7934 with a guilloché textured dial, known by collectors as a "waffle" dial (Image © Revolution)

So where did it all begin? Well, the watches that we recognize as Tudors began to appear in 1946 and in 1952 the Oyster Prince was introduced. The Prince was Tudor’s version of a watch powered by an automatic movement — the equivalent of Rolex’s Perpetual timepieces. In my mind, the Oyster case is one of the most iconic designs of the 20th century, alongside the Fender Stratocaster and the Porsche 911. Like the aforementioned guitar and car, the Oyster has been interpreted in different ways from its original form in the ’50s Oyster watches, through the various iterations in the sports watch lines. But the DNA of the earliest Oyster-cased watches is still there; compare the lines of a 1950s reference 7924 Tudor “Big Crown” Submariner with a Heritage Black Bay. It’s an evolution of timeless and elegant style — no doubt!

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The Submariner

Tudor’s history is steeped in partnerships for research and development. One of the most well-known is its work with the French National Navy, the Marine Nationale (MN), in the development of the Submariner. The story begins in the late 1950s when the MN was sent a small batch of 7922 Submariner watches for testing. Small by today’s standards, these watches were just a touch bigger than a Rolex Datejust at 37mm with a small 6mm winding crown. These pieces were not, however, totally fit for purpose and so Tudor developed a thicker case and fitted it with a large 8mm “brevet” crown. These 7922s were much more usable and were rated to 100m. Ever striving to “go deeper”, Tudor then developed a “Big Crown” watch depth-rated to 200m — the reference 7924. The next issue was that during diving operations, the large crowns had a tendency to get knocked, which compromised the waterproofness of the case. Tudor’s response was the reference 7928, which featured newly introduced crown guards positioned either side of the 7mm winding crown, to offer protection to the crown when divers were carrying out their work. The 7928 subsequently had a near-decade-long production run.

A Canadian Navy issued Tudor ref. 9401/0 non-date Submariner with mismatched dial markers and snowflake hands (Image © Revolution)
A Canadian Navy issued Tudor ref. 9401/0 non-date Submariner with mismatched dial markers and snowflake hands (Image © Revolution)

The next chapter in the Tudor story is the “snowflake” Sub! This iconic and instantly recognizable dial-and-hand style was evidently a result of requests from divers to have watches with a more legible layout. The hour hand in particular is a very unique and large shape, which coupled with the square hour markers and seconds hand truly stands out and would have been a lot easier to read in the depths of the ocean under the stress of combat situations. Available in both black and blue dial and bezel combinations, it’s a must for all Tudor collectors to own a “snowy”!

The Homeplate, Monte Carlo & Big Block Chronographs

The Tudor Monte Carlo ref. 7149 with acrylic tachymeter bezel (Image © Revolution)
The Tudor Monte Carlo ref. 7149 with acrylic tachymeter bezel (Image © Revolution)

The other rock star of the Tudor stable is the chronograph. In terms of the Plexiglas models there were three series. The “Homeplates” (7031/2), the “Monte Carlos” (714/5/69) and the mighty “Big Blocks”. The second series of chronographs, the 71×9 series was introduced in 1971. They have now been given the name “Monte Carlos” by collectors, due to the dial layout being reminiscent of the roulette tables of the famed gambling mecca. The Monte Carlo chronographs saw the introduction of the vibrant blue-and-orange color scheme, alongside the established gray and black (first seen on the Homeplate chronos).

The third and final series of Plexiglas chronographs was the Big Block. The watch was given this name by collectors due to the depth of the case. This was necessary as the Big Block was Tudor’s first automatic chronograph. Interestingly, it was the first automatic chronograph to come out of the Rolex family; a full 12 years ahead of the Zenith-powered Rolex Daytona in 1988.

1977 Big Block Chronograph Ref. 79180 (Image © Revolution)
1977 Big Block Chronograph Ref. 79180 (Image © Revolution)
1984 Big Block Chronograph Ref. 9430 (Image © Revolution)
1984 Big Block Chronograph Ref. 9430 (Image © Revolution)

Where in decades past the Tudors had the decidedly unfair label of being “the poor man’s Rolex”, there is now no doubting the huge surge of interest in vintage Tudor over the past 10 years. Auction results are illustrating the collectors’ growth in interest in rare early examples. In fact, it is now common to see Tudors in the big sales at all the main auction houses, something that was never seen even a few years ago. Tudor is now on the map and represents a great opportunity to invest in iconic and wearable watches. So here we present — Revolution’s “The Icons of Tudor”.