Tudor was once best known as the affordable subsidiary of Rolex, where one could purchase a robust timekeeper sans the luxury and associated price tag of the brand’s big brother. In 2012 that perception began to change with the introduction of the Black Bay collection, Tudor’s most successful modern collection of watches which drew inspiration from some of their military-issue divers from the 1970s. These watches were markedly different from any of Rolex’s offerings, being thoroughly vintage-styled but built to a modern standard of quality, which really helped differentiate Tudor and make it more than a poor-man’s Rolex.
Now it seems that any discussion about Tudor watches begins and ends with the Black Bay collection in its endless configurations. By my count there are 20 different variations of the Black Bay currently available, not including strap changes. While the Black Bay and its “Snowflake” handset has become almost synonymous with Tudor, there are many other excellent watches bearing the Shield and Rose that simply don’t get the attention they deserve.
Many of these watches also sell for much less than a Black Bay on the used market simply because they get overlooked, making them a smart buy for someone who likes the build quality and heritage of Tudor but wants a more unique timepiece that can serve as a better conversation starter than “just another Black Bay”.
1. Heritage Ranger reference 79910
The Ranger is unique in Tudor’s line-up with its rugged military field-watch design. The Ranger emphasises legibility in a no-nonsense way, offering a more casually styled and much cheaper alternative to the Rolex Explorer. With a thickness of 12.2mm and a lug-to-lug measurement of 48mm the Ranger wears beautifully, coupled with an all-brushed steel case and bracelet and 150M of water resistance this is a watch unafraid of a little misadventure.
Powering the watch is the tried-and-tested ETA 2824, modified by Tudor to replace the shock absorber from the stock Incabloc to the theoretically more robust Kif and replacing the regulation system to better fine-tune chronometric performance. Don’t let the fact that this isn’t an in-house movement deter you; the ETA 2824 in this modified incarnation is a reliable workhorse that will likely perform better than most of the manufacture calibres on the market.
2. Submariner Snowflake reference 9411
The Tudor Submariner with “Snowflake” hands is the original model on which the Black Bay collection was based. These watches are fast gaining in popularity among vintage collectors, being seen as even more desirable than early Rolex Submariners due to the lower production numbers – and thus increased scarcity – of Tudor watches from that era.
This watch owes its design cues to the Marine Nationale (French Navy), who found that Rolex’s “Mercedes” handset was too difficult to read at depth. The now iconic Snowflake handset was born to meet their specifications, and this watch became the official diving watch for the Marine Nationale for over two decades. The Submariner Snowflake makes for a much better conversation starter than its modern reinterpretation the Black Bay, as well as offering a great investment potential as a collector’s item.
3. Pelagos LHD reference 25610TNL
Speaking of the Marine Nationale, the Pelagos LHD (or left-hand drive, with its reversed crown) also draws inspiration from a historic Tudor Submariner issued to a left-handed French navy officer in 1981. Although intended to be worn on the right hand so the crown faces outwards, there’s a case to be made for right-handers wearing this on their left hand like usual; in this configuration, the crown faces inwards away from your wrist, making it both much less prone to being accidentally knocked about as well as preventing the crown from sticking into the back of your wrist when flexing your hand.
The Pelagos is a more robust, more serious diver than the Black Bay in many ways. It offers much greater water resistance (500M on the Pelagos vs 200M on the Black Bay), an automatic helium escape valve for saturation divers, and one of the very best diving bracelets in the watch industry with its self-adjusting spring loaded mechanism. The Pelagos LHD also one-ups the Black Bay with its use of a scratchproof ceramic diving bezel, versus the more fragile anodised aluminium used on its vintage-inspired brethren. Tudor made a name for themselves as a purveyor of robust tool watches, and few embody that ethos as well as the Pelagos.
4. Prince Day-Date reference 76200
If the prospect of a Rolex ‘President’ Day-Date is enticing but the sticker price is too bitter a pill to swallow, the Tudor Prince Day-Date offers a charming and much more palatably-priced alternative. These are dressy watches by most standards, but unlike your traditional dress watch the Prince Day-Date is made to be worn everyday with its solid 100M water resistance and reliable ETA 2834-2 movement. Charles wrote an excellent review of the Prince Day-Date here which goes into much more detail on this attractive timepiece.
5. North Flag reference 91210N
Last but certainly not least, we have my personal favourite modern Tudor watch, the North Flag. This is one of the most criminally underappreciated watches in Tudor’s collection in my opinion, as it offers several unique design elements not found anywhere else in the Tudor/Rolex stable. The North Flag debuted in 2015 and was designed to showcase the new Tudor manufacture calibre MT5621, the first in-house movement ever produced by the brand. To show it off the North Flag utilizes a sapphire crystal display case back, a very rare feature indeed within the world of Rolex.
To my knowledge the only other watch Rolex or Tudor have ever made with a sapphire case-back is the Cellini Prince, which originally debuted way back in 1928 and was briefly reprised in 2005 as an unapologetically opulent Art Nouveau styled dress watch. The other extremely rare feature on the North Flag is the power reserve indicator, located at 9 o’clock on the dial. PR indicators are another thing that the Rolex group just doesn’t do; the only other watch ever to feature this is the Tudor Heritage Advisor which uses it for the alarm complication. With both an exhibition case-back and a power reserve indicator, the North Flag may be the most unique watch ever produced by Tudor.