A brand can truly lay claim to heritage when they start having 50th anniversaries. Tudor is having its second golden anniversary in successive years – 2019 was 50 years of the snowflake hands and now 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the chronograph. The Tudor Oyster has been around since the 1930s, it wasn’t specifically utilised for a chronograph until 1970. And what a debut it was! The golden era of racing led to a number of iconic chronographs, but perhaps none so striking as the Oysterdate references 7031 and 7032, with their robust 40mm cases and striking orange and grey dials. The Tudor Chronographs are watches that we have always had a lot of love for here at Revolution and I have written about the four main eras of the vintage chronograph watches over the years. So today we thought we would revisit those pieces and highlight some key points from each.
The Saga Begins
As I said at the start of this piece, the 7000 series were first launched in 1970 in two references. In line with the brand’s current tagline of Born To Dare, these watches really were daring, especially when thinking of the seriousness of the Wilsdorf stable. Eye-catching orange flashes on a grey and black dial base are the order of the day with interesting pentagonal hour markers. It was these hour markers, with their uncanny resemblance to the home base on a baseball field that led to the nickname ‘Homeplate’ by collectors.
The references available were:
• 7031: Black plastic tachymeter bezel
• 7032: Brushed steel tachymeter bezel
Both references were identical except for the bezels. These watches are now one of the most sought-after vintage Tudor models. There was also a black-dialled version, which is exceedingly rare. I would estimate that less than a dozen examples are known of these black versions and it is a commonly held belief that these black dials were service replacements.
The Full Monte
In 1971 Tudor unveiled the second series of chronographs. As with the first series watches, the 7100 watches featured painted hour markers that in my mind give the watches a sportier aesthetic reminiscent of vintage Submariners. The home plate markers were replaced with a more conventional rectangle of lume flanked by two black lines. The use of bright colours was, however, even more pronounced with bright orange elements on both chronograph registers as well as on the outer seconds markers. It was this second series that became known by collectors as the original Monte Carlo watches, as the dials had a resemblance to the roulette tables of the famous casinos of Monte Carlo.
The colour ways were either grey/blue/orange or grey/black orange and there were three models which, like the 7000 series, were differentiated by the bezel type:
• 7149: Plastic tachymeter bezel (blue or black)
• 7159: Brushed steel tachymeter bezel
• 7169: 12-hour graduated bezel bi-directional rotating (blue or black)
The Big Blocks
The precedent had now been set for colourful dials that would continue to be a feature of Tudor chronographs. Introduced in 1976, the third series of chronographs saw Tudor take a big leap, in terms of innovation, and from now on the watches would feature automatic movements, making the Big Blocks the first self-winding chronographs from the Wilsdorf group – over a decade before Rolex introduced their first automatic Daytona chrono; the Zenith-powered reference 16520.
The first Big Block watches were the 9400 series, which ran until approximately the late 1980s. There were three different references that were solely distinguished by three different bezel variations:
• 9420: Plastic tachymeter bezel
• 9421: 12 hour graduated bezel (bi-directional rotating)
• 9430: Brushed steel tachymeter bezel
In the late 1980s Tudor replaced the 9400 series watches with the 79100 series. These watches retained the successful Big Block case, however these watches were only available with the two-color, non-exotic dial configuration. As with the 9400 series, there were three references which were all differentiated by their bezel type:
• 79160: Black plastic tachymeter bezel
• 79170: Black graduated 12 hour bi-directional bezel
• 79180: Steel tachymeter bezel
The Prince Chrono
In 1995 Tudor launched the new Prince chronograph. Up until this point the cases of the Tudor chronos had been quite deep and flat sided – a true ‘presence’ on the wrist. The fourth series witnessed a complete redesign of the case. Gone were the flat sides and sharp edges and instead a softer case was utilised that was very similar to its stable mate the Rolex Daytona. As per previous iterations of the chronos, there were three watches available, the reference number referring to the bezel type. They were:
• 79260 – Black aluminium fixed tachymeter bezel
• 79270 – Black rotating 12-hour bezel
• 79280 – Polished steel tachymeter bezel