With a noticeable and clear return to good health, Tudor is successfully looking to its past to build its future. Tudor is daring to affirm its own identity by drawing on its rich history (its name was trademarked by Hans Wilsdorf already in 1926 but the brand really started growing in 1946).
One line is particularly emblematic of this vigorous repositioning based upon its roots. Aptly called Heritage, it is one of the keys to the recent success of the brand, which has been managed since 2010 by a new young team working to attract a young, urban, cosmopolitan and technically demanding clientele, but a clientele that also appreciates style, elegance and even a certain emotion evoked by the product.
Two first steps
The first really marked step of this “back to the future” strategy was the Heritage Chrono, launched in 2010, that became an immediate icon of the brand. Breathing new life into the Tudor Oysterdate Chronograph of the 1970s, this model methodically revisits its codes while updating them to today’s tastes. Its 40mm size has increased to 42mm and the lines have been tightened up, thus conferring new vigour upon the piece. Yet, its face remains clearly vintage, with a dial in grey, black, or black and grey highlighted by orange details and pentagonal white indexes that have been worked to accentuate their three dimensional effect. One “detail” is also quite impressive: the Heritage Chrono is mounted either on a steel bracelet or on a superb fabric strap woven with black, grey, and orange bands, along with a clasp that has been directly inspired by seat belts of that era. Thus, the piece from 2010, perfectly in tune with today’s tastes, seems almost more authentic than the original that inspired it. This is undoubtedly one of the keys to its success.
The second stage of re-conquering its own patrimony was the 2011 introduction of the Tudor Heritage Advisor. In this case, it is based on a timepiece from 1957 that has been revisited from top to bottom. The alarm function of this automatic watch, equipped with an additional module, remains unchanged, but its size has increased from 34mm to a much more contemporary 42mm. It maintains the proportions of the original case, the thrust of the lugs, and the purity of the dial, but takes on a new dynamism. The watch is now available in titanium and steel, with subtly alternating polished and brushed surfaces. On the technical side, its movement has been entirely revisited and Tudor has designed a new alarm module. As one doesn’t change a winning team, it also offers—whether on a metal bracelet or alligator leather strap—a second woven black fabric strap that would not be out of place with a tuxedo.
Diving to the source
The third step is taking place now, in the company of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay. Here, we need to go back even further, to 1954, to find the source of inspiration for this diver’s watch. That year, Tudor introduced two diver’s timekeepers, one after the other. The first featured water-resistance to 100 metres followed by a second that was water-resistant to 200 metres, both without a date indication. The new 41mm Black Bay is a synthesis of some of the most iconic diving watches from Tudor’s historical pieces such as the early references 7922 and 7924 (8mm crown) as well as the emblematic “Snowflake” reference 7016 and 7021. These watches revive Tudor’s long history with the world of diving (for example, the Tudor Prince Submariner was worn by the American navy and then adopted by the French navy).
Water-resistant to 200 metres, without a date, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay conserves the general structure and design of the original watch, as well as its fine uni-directional rotating bezel that surrounds the curved dial and its slightly curved glass (earlier made in plexiglass, today in sapphire crystal).
It also maintains the design of the middle case, with its delicate elongated lugs and the bevelled edge in between, as well as the large luminescent hour markers and its famous “Snowflake” hands (a request at the time from French navy divers to better differentiate the hour hand from the minute hand in murky waters). A multitude of small details gives the timepiece its new and very contemporary appearance. Among them are the delicate notches on the rotating bezel and the large 8mm crown decorated with the Tudor Rose emblem. The very particular dark burgundy colour of its bezel comes from the brand’s archives, inspired by a watch from the early 80’s. Its vintage allure is strengthened by a few subtle differences—a masterful “aging”, such as the chocolate powdering on the black dial, or the scale in a gold tending towards bronze, or even the rose gold that encloses the hour markers and the “Snowflake” hands right down to the light beige tones of the luminescent coating (which glows green in the dark). So many of these fine touches are reminiscent of the piece’s original appearance. Equipped with an automatic movement, it is available with a steel or aged leather bracelet, and always includes the obligatory woven fabric strap—here, in a deep black colour, but thicker than normal to match the necessary robustness of the watch.
Ready for the great depths
Tudor’s second “exercise” for 2012 relating to the world of diving is called Pelagos. In this case, it is less a question of rethinking an earlier model than it is about synthesising various elements taken from the past, such as the design elements of its remarkable square indexes and its “Snowflake” hands. But, while this identity evokes the historical codes, it recomposes them in such a way that a new, original and strong piece is created. A true diving instrument, the Pelagos is very technical. Water-resistant to 500 metres and thus equipped with a helium valve, it is driven by an automatic movement. The case is made of titanium with a satin finish, which gives it a rough look with a patina that accentuates its sporty and professional appearance. Its uni-directional bezel is made of titanium with a sanded matte black ceramic disc sporting indications coated with a white luminescent material.
Developed in conjunction with engineers and professional divers who regularly tested it at depths of 40 metres in the murky waters of Lake Geneva near Tudor’s headquarters, this watch also comes with an innovation that diving buffs will find interesting. The professional divers pointed out to Tudor’s engineers that, under water pressure, the diver’s wrist can lose up to 17 mm in circumference. The brushed titanium bracelet of the Pelagos has therefore been fitted with an “intelligent” clasp. This patented slide system has three positions that, in addition to the traditional lengthening mechanism, allows for a very fine automatic adjustment of the bracelet. Thanks to its spring mechanism, the clasp becomes self-retractable and tightens or loosens by itself, automatically adapting to the variations in the wrist as it is subjected to more or less pressure. The Pelagos is also available with a rubber strap with a third strand that can be adapted by pulling it.
Capturing the iconic essence of the watch does not mean re-creating the older piece’s exact identity, but rather evoking its spirit, in other words, synthesising the stylistic elements of the past and expressing them in the most contemporary manner possible, as well as making technical improvements to their functionalities. Another example of the winning approach taken by Tudor.
Tudor is employing more effective visual communication, emphasising the brand’s design elements, notably the omnipresent red and black, which gives it a strong identity. With its notable specific environment—affirmed sportiness paired with great elegance and a contemporary approach to its vintage spirit—Tudor has well and truly found its place among the plethora of brands.
The brand’s offer is perfectly targeted to its young consumers sensitive to style, many of whom are not even aware of the organic ties between Tudor and Rolex. If they discover them, they can only be reassured in their choice—if by chance they should need any reassurance.
To make its famous fabric straps, Tudor works with an historic manufacturer, one of the last artisanal “ribbon makers” in existence. (For confidentiality reasons, we are not able to give the name of this company.)
It is surprising to realise just how close watchmaking, in its most artisanal production aspects, and an art such as the fabrication of ribbons actually are. In ribbon making, the savoir-faire and the hand of man continue to play an essential role, even if they adopt ultra-modern technologies. Thus, even if the ribbons of today are designed on a computer and produced using the latest materials, their artisanal production is still based on weaving methods that are as antique as they are sophisticated.
The suppleness and “intelligence” of the human hand remain fundamental, notably in the preparation, the smoothing, and the tension of the threads that will make up the ribbon. Here also, as in watchmaking, meticulousness, precision, and training play a capital role. The time required to complete these operations cannot be reduced, unless it is to the detriment of the quality. As the director of the enterprise muses, “a ribbon is a concentrate of technique, design, harmony, and taste… a concentrate of human efforts.” Might we not say the same thing about watchmaking?
Source: Europa Star October - November 2012 Magazine Issue