In 2008, a group of men stood united by a single mission— to unlock the genetic code of one of watchmaking’s most fabled names, and the second brand created by Hans Wilsdorf, founder of Rolex. The brand’s name was Tudor. Registered in 1946, it created watches with the unique formula of Rolex cases, distinguished by their waterproof screw-down casebacks and crowns, combined with outsourced movements, to offer Rolex’s famous performance at a more-accessible price.
Throughout the ensuing four decades, Tudor would become a brand whose sports watches were synonymous with reliability and robustness. So much so that many of Tudor’s dive watches were co-opted by militaries around the world, most conspicuously by France’s Marine Nationale. The watches also possessed a unique design identity that was graphically quirky and avant-gardist, as seen in the famous snowflake hands of the 1969 Tudor Submariner ref. 7016, and the home-plate-shaped counters of the 1970 Oysterdate chronograph ref. 7031/0. But by the dawning of the new millennium, Tudor had lost its way. Its raison d’être had become the mundane task of creating accessibly-priced facsimiles of Rolex watches for the Far Eastern market. And several attempts to reinvigorate the brand had stalled.
But what was about to happen was nothing less than the single greatest revival of a marque in the past decade. By correctly understanding the modern watch consumer’s veneration for the past and fixation with all things vintage, Tudor would reach into the design codes of its history to create the single most powerful vision for retro-modernism in the contemporary watch scene. Beginning first with the Heritage Chronograph, a reinterpretation of the iconic Tudor Home Plate chronograph, which created a media frenzy at the 2010 Baselworld fair. The watches’ commercial success clearly demonstrated that Tudor was onto something.
In 2012, Tudor launched what has become the only genuine new sports-watch icon of the new millennium: the retro-infused, devastatingly seductive Black Bay. A watch so dynamically appealing and offered at such an extraordinary value, at CHF2,950, that it became an instant runaway success. What was particularly amazing was that the Black Bay’s vintage appeal empowered it to transcend its price category. Soon, you found Black Bays being proudly brandished on the wrists of younger customers and the most mature customers normally preoccupied with Richard Mille tourbillons alike. The watch was just that cool.