The watch manufacturers that set up camp within the Palexpo for the 2023 iteration of Watches and Wonders all showed a real knack for designing booths and displays that truly spoke to the distinct personalities of their brands. If there’s one thing the watch industry knows, it is itself. Whether it was Rolex’s hulking, seemingly impenetrable fortress of a display, IWC’s sleek late ‘70s German science lab, or the glamorous confines of Cartier’s plush walk-through, showgoers truly felt like they were being welcomed into these brand’s worlds in an immersive way, and – none more so than Tudor.
Tudor’s booth was stationed across from sibling brand Rolex and was an absolute whirlwind of activity the entire time the C + T Team was on site. While the releases Tudor brought to the show made a splash, the brand’s “Small Crown” Submariner homage, the Black Bay 54, was the showstopper for many enthusiasts. Tudor’s highly interactive booth featured displays that let you experience their watches and technology firsthand, had cases filled with a comprehensive selection of vintage Tudor Subs that showed the beloved watch’s evolution, and felt as educational as it did engaging. The C + T Team spent a lot more time at Tudor than we expected to during our trip to the massive Swiss trade show, and these are our thoughts on not only Tudor’s new releases, but the Tudor experience as a whole.
We’re all very big fans of the Tudor brand at C + T. We sell a lot of Tudor watches and we personally own a lot of Tudor watches. In fact, I’m wearing a vintage Tudor “Snowflake” right now, and I frequently wear a Black Bay 58 as a daily. Tudor is a brand that you can have fun with. It’s a brand that is accessible, but it’s also a brand that carries weight and historical relevance. At Watches and Wonders, it was made obvious once again that Tudor occupies a really unique space in the market in that they still make relatively accessible watches, but they aren’t just a toy or just pieces that remind us of another brand’s more expensive pieces. Tudor makes technical, professional watches, but they’re also a brand that allows itself to have a bit more fun with its releases than say its big brother, Rolex. You could definitely see that personality difference in Tudor’s booth itself, which was interactive, fun, and took itself a little bit less seriously than Rolex’s display. TheTudor booth had a crowd consistently this year and what I found interesting is it seemed like the showgoers at the Tudor booth were from the enthusiast side of horology – people that were genuinely excited about the new releases and a bit more energetic and engaged. There was a distinct difference in energy there.
I can’t stress enough how well Tudor’s booth itself represented the brand’s personality; they had watches on stands so that showgoers could see and feel the watches in a real way, rather than just staring at them through glass. Some of the watches had really fun displays that had them mounted on stands with half-bracelets so you could take a wrist shot and kind of try the piece on. It’s obvious that Tudor wants you to experience their watches in a more tangible way, and the way they presented themselves and Watches and Wonders was much more playful than any of the other brands there.
Most importantly to me as a vintage dealer and enthusiast, Tudor understands and honors its past in a real way, in a way that’s seen tangibly in its watches – not just its website copy. The big watch of the show for many of us was the Tudor Black Bay 54, a modern homage to the brand’s vintage ref. 7922 “Small Crown” Submariner from 1954. Not only is the 54 a modern homage, but Tudor displayed it alongside a major collection of beautiful vintage Tudor Subs to show the evolution of the piece. Very few other brands tapped so directly into their past at Watches and Wonders, let alone brought vintage pieces to show alongside their modern wares.
With the 54, you see early Rolex Submariner and early Tudor Submariner lineage in a really direct way. The elements they pulled from Tudor’s past really uplifts the 54’s design. For example, instead of using “Mercedes” hands and trying to push harder on the Rolex connection,Tudor kept the signature “Snowflake” hands. It’s a brand that knows its personality, knows its history, and knows its customer really, really well. They play with things that the average customer might not notice, but enthusiasts go crazy for – like paying homage to a “no hash” insert on the 54, using vintage-inspired fonts, and losing the red triangle in the bezel insert because Tudors didn’t have those until 1957. The 54 is a masterclass in paying homage to the brand’s past, but doing it in a way that uplifts a watch with modern functionality and modern quality. It has the same water resistance rating as a modern Submariner, but there’s no crown guards and the watch is 37mm, which just looks right to me. They’re the only brand really doing anything like that rightnow. If Rolex made a watch that paid homage in a similar way to the “Big Crown” Submariner or a “Small Crown” Submariner, it would be earth shattering.
Tudor also showed a new Black Bay with a burgundy bezel insert, which is a very nice update to the origina that I think will sell really well for them. I especially like that they’re making that watch available on Jubilee now. Overall, Tudor really put a flag in the ground as the enthusiasts brand this year, and I think we can all agree the Black Bay 54 is going to be a modern classic like the 58. It’s a watch a lot of serious vintage collectors will include in their watch boxes and actually wear as a daily driver or weekend piece.
I think it’s been pretty well solidified that Tudor is the modern watch brand for the enthusiast. You’re not gonna find a higher quality watch at that price point, so the value proposition is tremendous with modern Tudor right now. They don’t seem to miss, they listen to their clientele, and they listen to the enthusiast base. What we saw at their booth this year is further proof that Tudor produces watches specifically for the enthusiast, and that they’re a company of enthusiasts, and that’s represented so well in how they chose to display their pieces and their booth’s design this year.
Tudor’s booth was interactive, it was fun, but it’s also very serious. The interactive things at Tudor’s booth were done with extreme precision and I think for true enthusiasts – people that respect the brand’s history and respect watchmaking on a technical level – the fun is in interacting with something that actually has substance. You felt like you were learning in the Tudor booth and that has a lot of value in bringing people deeper into the brand – even if you were literally just turning a knob on some fun display that shows how the stretch works in a Tudor bracelet. In a sea of booths that may have looked really inspiring or had an impactful display, but no interactive element, it felt particularly remarkable.
Tudor had an excellent display of vintage pieces to show the evolution of the Tudor Sub, and the standout in that collection for me was the Sub with square crown card with a red triangle bezel and a “tropical” dial. It’s an exceptional watch, only a handful of them exist, and the one that Tudor has in their museum is an exceptional example, so seeing that displayed alongside their new releases was really special. As far as the releases themselves go, I’m going to be getting a Black Bay 54 for my personal collection. This is going to be a theme from this trip for me, but I wasn’t particularly impressed with the 54 in photos, but in-the-metal, it’s an exceptional watch. And I also think it looks incredible on the rubber strap. The bracelet is obviously beautiful and the proportions work beautifully, but I like how it looks on rubber a lot. That watch really took me by surprise.
We can harp on about “Oh, they did a modern ‘Small Crown’ and it makes sense for them to do that because they already did the 58 and it’s a direct homage.” We can get as granular as we want about the little details that make the 54 a win as vintage fans and enthusiasts, but ultimately, if you just take the thing as a whole and look at it from inside the glass objectively, it’s simply a beautiful watch. It’s a beautiful watch that someone with no sense of the history it’s pulling from or any familiarity with the visual easter eggs it incorporates will appreciate and enjoy and wear proudly. The 54 feels extremely vintage-inspired, but it also feels undeniably modern at the same time. That’s a really tough trick to pull off. That’s where Tudor is most successful; they make watches that satisfy the enthusiast, but are enjoyed by the layman. Maybe that says something about the design language of the ‘50s and how far we’ve gotten from that sort of purpose-driven elegance?
I also really liked the white dial GMT Tudor brought to the show. The white dial is a really nice update to the watch and gives it a completely different personality than the black variant, and it’s a dial that doesn’t really show how interesting it truly is in photos. While it might look like a typical flat white dial in pictures, it has a unique metallic, almost iridescent sheen to it that’s difficult to appreciate without handling the watch. It’s an underrated piece in my opinion. Everything Tudor showed at Watches and Wonders 2023 shows that their design team is really listening to what their demographic is asking for. The Pelagos 39 was my watch of the year in 2022 and while I don’t think the 54 was necessarily the overall watch of the show here, it’s one I will be buying for myself, and it’s one that has me looking forward to seeing what else Tudor does with the hot streak they’ve been on.
My point of entry into watch collecting and the vintage watch world was always tool watches and pieces that were worn by people that used them for interesting/admirable vocations. Racers, pilots, divers, scientists, etc. I will always prefer a more utility-focused watch to anything else and I think cool, easily-romanticized tool watches should be available at all price points. Watches that you could wear with a suit, but that you’re more likely to see on a wrist lurking a few inches below a rolled-up sleeve. Tudor really hits that mark for me in a lot of ways, and they’re arguably in a class of their own when it comes to being a brand that provides that and has legitimate and important horological history.
The key thing I took away from their display at Watches and Wonders this year is that Tudor isn’t just one of the only brands in their respective space really doing great work, but they’re remarkably self-aware and cater to their customer in a way few other brands do. I’ll echo my colleagues in saying that the Tudor booth was the only one at the show that felt truly interactive, inviting, and had the buzz of an enthusiast-based crowd. The Black Bay 54 is a watch that genuinely seemed to light the show on fire and for someone that prefers traditional case sizes, a 37mm Submariner with a modern build and vintage-inspired visuals queues is undoubtedly something I will have to own at some point. I can’t think of a better daily driver tool watch.
I find myself struggling a little with the divide some of these historically relevant brands have with their past. The vintage market and vintage watch enthusiasts are a major, major part of the machine that drives this industry forward and I think it’s really admirable how well Tudor has balanced mining its past for inspiration and honoring it while moving forward. It’s a balancing act that makes me feel like they understand me as a buyer and for them to spell out the lineage of their 54 by displaying a collection of killer vintage pieces that show the evolution of the Tudor Sub really spoke to me, and it drove home just how cool the 54 is because it still looked fantastic next to vintage examples. Can you imagine Rolex displaying the new yellow gold GMT next to a clean gold ref. 1675? They would never.
I also really liked the white dial GMT Tudor displayed, but it also had me daydreaming about them doing a 37mm GMT in the Black Bay 54 case format. The white dial is lovely, but makes the watch feel a little larger than it already did and that makes it a little less appealing to me on-wrist, though it looks fabulous in-person and I can see the change of dial color selling a lot of those watches for Tudor.
Overall, it’s just exciting to see a brand listening. To see a brand with its finger on-the-pulse of the community, and it’s my hope that Tudor’s continued success will be something other heritage brands take note of and consider in their own pursuits. It’s proof that the establishment marques can successfully give us pieces with a real vintage aesthetic and still sell a lot of watches.
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