Market Trends

Tudor – The Thinking Man’s Oyster

Long gone are the days when Tudor was seen as a second rate Rolex. Since 2010, the brand has been revamped and repositioned to be one of the biggest players in the luxury watch space.
By Ross Povey
Mar 21, 2023
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Long gone are the days when Tudor was seen as a second rate Rolex. Since 2010, the brand has been revamped and repositioned to be one of the biggest players in the luxury watch space. Having spent over a decade out of the UK and US markets, the brand now has a strong foothold in the global market thanks to its Black Bay and Pelagos lines, which reimagine watches from the brand’s archive in a truly 21st century execution. As modern Tudors have become de rigueur for the knowledgeable watch consumer, vintage Tudors too have exploded in both popularity and value. And, as the brand’s founder intended, there is a Tudor for everyone…

Figure 1 Tudor Pelagos 39 Ref. 25407N

Back to Basics

Mr Hans Wilsdorf was the founder of arguably the most significant and enduring watch brand - Rolex. He also founded Tudor, which he envisaged as a more utilitarian cousin to the ‘coroneted’ head of the family. The name Tudor was registered in 1926 and then in 1946, the brand began offering elegant time-only watches that bore the name of Hans Wilsdorf’s greatest achievement; Oyster. 

Figure 2 Tudor Oyster Prince Waffle Dial

All important vintage Tudors are in variations of the Oyster case, from chronographs to dive watches. The simple Oyster watches from the 1950s through to the 1990s are a great place for collectors to begin. In fact, seasoned collectors can also find these watches fun to search for as they were made in such large numbers, but with a staggering variety of dial variations. With prices ranging from a few hundred Euros they are accessible and stylish in equal measure. In recent years examples with texture dials, known as ‘waffle’ dials, have become extremely popular especially in the oversize cases such as reference 7919, 7929 and 7914. For something extra special look for tropical dials where the dials, that were originally either black or white, have turned a shade of brown. Each one is unique and collectors love this!

Start Stop Reset

The market for Tudor chronographs has always been strong, especially the so-called  Homeplates, with prices doubling in the past few years.  The Tudor chronograph story began in 1970 with the Oysterdate Chronograph. Known as the Homeplate, due to its hour markers that resemble the Homeplate on a baseball field, the watches were a bold choice for the era. The watches had robust cases measuring 40mm and they housed eye-catching exotic dials in grey and bright orange hues. There is a very rare version of this watch with a black dial, instead of grey. The black Homeplate is the most coveted of all production Tudor chronographs and can achieve six-figure sums at auction.

Collectors love chronographs and one version that has become a must-have for Tudor collectors is the Big Block. In 1976, Tudor became the first brand in the Wilsdorf stable to offer an automatic chronograph, 12 years before Rolex announced the Daytona Perpetual. Due to the winding rotor on the movement, the watches had very deep cases, hence the name Big Block. The first series Big Blocks have become very desirable in recent years, especially so-called exotic dial variations with blue and orange dials. The three references are 9420 with plastic ‘bakelite’ tachymeter, reference 9421 with 12 hour calibrated bi-directional bezel and 9430 with a steel tachymeter scale bezel.

Figure 3 Tudor Big Block Ref. 9421

One of the best value Tudor chronographs, with plenty of room for potential growth is the fourth series, the Prince chronograph, that was introduced in 1995. The watches were made available with a plethora of dial variations, including some striking brightly coloured dials with matching leather straps. Look out too for rare sunburst dials in red, blue and green. 

A Deep History

The market has always been strong for certain Tudor Submariners and it’s important to remember that there wouldn’t be a Black Bay or Pelagos without the Tudor Sub. For many years now, king of collectible Tudor Submariners has been the 1958 reference 7924, the first Tudor dive watch to be waterproof to 200 meters, with an oversized winding crown, and the watch on which the smash-hit Black Bay Fifty-Eight is based.  This so-called Big Crown Submariner is highly sought after by collectors and if it can be proven to have been issued to the French Navy, the sky is the limit!

Figure 4 Tudor Submariner Ref. 7924

Another trend that has emerged in recent years are Snowflake Submariners. In the late 1960s, the French navy divers requested more legible hands for when diving in low light and murky water. Tudor’s response was the iconic Snowflake hands, a style that is now the modern-day brand’s key signature. Snowflake Submariners were launched in 1969 and the watches have always been linked with the MN. Civilian Snowflake Submariners are now very collectible, with prices in line with vintage Rolex Submariners of the same era. A MN-issued watch costs three times more than a civilian example when accompanied by documentation that proves it was part of the military arsenal. 

Figure 5 Tudor Oyster Prince Submarine

Modern Moments

Not all modern Tudors are born equal. Tudor has a track record of producing small-run editions for military and other specialist groups such as the Metropolitan Police’s Royalty and Specialist Protection Unit (RaSP). Tasked with looking after the Royal Family and UK politicians, the branch has had two RaSP Edition Black Bays, both of which feature the unit’s crest on the lower half of the dial and a unique case back engraving. It is very rare for these watches to appear at auction, but when one did recently it sold for twenty times its retail price!

Figure 6 Tudor Black Bay for the Metropolitan Police Force

There are other rare modern Tudors to keep an eye open for too. The Black Bay Chrono Dark is a black PVD coated chronograph to celebrate the brand’s partnership with the New Zealand national rugby team, the All Blacks. Tudor is only making one watch for every capped All Black player, which to date is around 1150 pieces with each one being uniquely numbered. Another very rare Tudor is the original Black Bay with black dial. The watch was introduced at the end of 2014, but a few weeks later the brand unveiled a new in-house calibre, meaning that the black dial and bezel combination was made for a very short period and is a super-rare watch and sure fire future classic.