Behind the Hype: How Tudor Watches Transformed to Become a Global Luxury Staple

Behind the Hype: How Tudor Watches Transformed to Become a Global Luxury Staple

Tudor Watches was born out of Geneva, Switzerland in 1926 when Hans Wilsdorf, the mind behind Rolex, decided he wanted to create a sister brand at a more affordable price point. After its inception, Tudor gained significance due to its relation to Rolex, but it also built a reputation for its distinct attention to detail and versatile qualities. What began as the go-to watch for both the French and U.S. Navy has now become a luxury staple amongst star athletes and even business professionals. In the latest installment of Behind the Hype, Hypebeast recognizes the unique history of Tudor Watches and dissects how the brand managed to stand out from the shadow of Rolex to become a mainstay amongst timepiece aficionados.

Tudor Watches were first put on the map due to the Oyster Prince Submariner Diving Watch which debuted in 1954. The utilitarian timepiece was issued with water resistance up to 100m as well as both automatic and manual movements. It became largely popular with the U.S. and French Navy and professional scuba divers for its ease of use and dependability — its function was even deemed “perfect” by the commander of the Underwater Study and Research Group (Groupement d’Étude et de Recherches Sous-Marine) in 1956. After establishing supremacy in the diving watch realm, the brand went on to create a wide range of other diving models from 1954 to 1999, each constantly improving upon the last. The most famous submariner model to date is the Reference 9401, or the Tudor Blue, which sports an opulent blue dial and bezel. The popularity the brand garnered from original diving models opened the door for a new generation of Tudor Watches.

Following the wide success of early, practical models, Tudor introduced its first Chronograph — the Oysterdate — in the ‘70s. This pushed the envelope of what was expected from the watch supplier, proving that it could exist outside of diving models. Today, the brand has transformed into a staple for celebrities from David Beckham to John Mayer and everyday wearers alike. The Oysterdate is now hard to come by, but it paved the way for the contemporary Black Bay and Pelagos Diving watches, both of which are fan favorites. The brand then went on to create more diverse models to cater to the different lifestyles of Tudor wearers.

Now used in cycling, sailing, skateboarding, and extreme snow sports, Tudor watches are continually coveted for its versatility. Not only do professional athletes endorse the fine-tuned timepieces, but they have also been co-signed by a number of popular figures. Ed Sheeran had 82 Tudor watches custom-made and gifted to his tour crew, streetwear brand Undefeated created 50 limited-edition “friends only” watches, and Taiwanese actor and singer Jay Chou is also a brand ambassador (his favorite models are the Black Bay Chrono and Tudor Royal). Other brand partnerships include a collaboration with Olympian and world champion athlete Fabian Cancellara to launch a Swiss cycling team, the All-Black New Zealand Rugby team, the World Surf League, and more. David Beckham’s long-time relationship with Tudor as a global ambassador began when he was gifted his first model engraved with the sentiment, “Welcome to the Family.” These solid relationships portray the grand evolution Tudor has experienced, from military heritage to a beloved name in fashion, sports, and pop culture.

After propelling into the mainstream, Tudor Watches began developing more modern models. The Black Bay line launched in 2012, signifying a new era for the brand in which original designs are honored through sleek, reinterpreted updates. The Black Bay watches have a signature display that is easily identifiable and all start at $2,600 USD. Iterations include the Black Bay GMT with a 24-hour graduated rotating bezel, the Black Bay Chrono, and the Black Bay 58 — the most pricey piece in the range, crafted from brown alligator and 18k yellow gold and starting at $16,000 USD. Another popular line, the Pelagos Diving line, consists of sports-focused models with snowflake hands, introduced with the Reference 7016 model back in 1969. Pelagos models include the Standard, Pelagos LHD for left-handed wearers, and the Pelagos 39 which start at $4,100 USD.

Along with an assortment of choices to suit one’s lifestyle, what truly sets Tudor apart in the watch game are its high-quality features. In 2015, the brand took its standards one step further by shifting to a production process with movements made in-house. This yielded the Manufacture Calibre, a precise, high-performance Calibre characterized by a 70-hour power reserve and a variable inertia oscillator. The movement is additionally certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute. Each model has its own variation of the Tudor Manufacture Calibre, some of which are larger in diameter or bear special engravings. Even the aesthetic choices of Tudor watches became more elevated, as the Heritage Chrono features a metal bracelet paired with straps woven by French manufacturer Julien Faure company, known for working with Chanel. The company uses a Jacquard weaving pattern, ensuring dependability and sturdiness through a dense high thread count.

Over decades, Tudor has made a name for itself as both a sports and style-focused brand that stands apart from the rest. Practical features assist in performance, while top-notch stylistic features cement the timepieces as luxury fashion collector’s items.

To learn more about Tudor and its history, watch the video above. For a closer look at all available models, check out Tudor’s website here.
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