The Wilsdorf team initially registered the name Tudor in 1926 and the first branded timepieces started to appear as
early as 1932 in the form of rectangular and cushion-shaped wristwatches. These very first pieces were typically Art
Deco in their styling and featured a distinctive logo that collectors now refer to as the “Long T” – the right-hand
side of the T extended over the top of the rest of the logo. All these pieces contained Tudor-marked movements and
dials, but were housed in cases from a number of casemakers including the Rolex Watch Company (RWC) and Hadley. The
watches were very successful in Australia, where they were predominantly retailed by Catanach’s, the country’s
oldest family-run jewellery business. In fact, many of the watches retailed featured “double named” dials, where
both Tudor and the retailer’s name are printed on the dial.
Following on from these market tests, Montres Tudor SA was formally launched in 1946. Tudor is arguably best known
for two watch families – the Submariners and the
chronographs. Both models are tool watches;
the Submariner was produced for divers (a tool of their trade) and the chronographs generally for timing
motorsports. But before either of these key lines were launched, Tudor was producing simple and elegant time-only
watches that bore a legend of the Wilsdorf house’s greatest achievement – “OYSTER”.
A Case for Tudor
Tudor Oyster timepieces started to appear in 1946 as manual-wind watches. Most were housed in 34mm steel Oyster cases
and featured a vast array of dial variations. In 1952, the “Oyster Prince” was introduced. Prince signified the
presence of an automatic movement and was Tudor’s equivalent of Rolex’s “Perpetual”. These automatic movements were
modified by Tudor but, based on the Fleurier Calibre 390. They were — and are — one of the most robust movements one
could imagine; bulletproof almost!
I have discovered a number of these watches over the years, some of which have never been serviced but still work
perfectly and keep excellent time. From the very outset Hans Wilsdorf was clear that these watches would be of the
same impeccable quality and reliability as Rolex. He had two key elements that he’d pioneered with Rolex — the
Oyster case and the auto-wind movement. His decision to bestow these two unique elements on the Tudor watches was
key to making them live up to his high expectations and promise. They would also benefit from being granted the full
Rolex guarantee — something that still stands today.
One of the main attractions of a Tudor and Rolex watch for me is the Oyster case. In my opinion, it is iconic and one
of the most beautiful and aesthetically-pleasing designs of the 20th century. The balanced design of the case is the
perfect combination of form and function. It has been interpreted in many different ways from its purest form in the
early watches through the Submariners and chronographs of the 1970s and 1980s into the Heritage Black Bays of recent
years. But the real essence of the Oyster is back at the origins of the brand in the 1950s. They weren’t glamorous
watches at the time and were, indeed, marketed as utilitarian timepieces with adverts showing them being worn by
construction workers. They were watches for everyman; the blue-collar Oyster.
So, what exactly is an Oyster? The name is inspired by the shellfish that lives its life underwater and Wilsdorf
designed a system that would hermetically seal the movement inside the case. This was achieved by two main
principles — screws and seals. He developed a winding and setting crown that screwed down against the side of the
case, making the traditionally vulnerable stem hole impervious to moisture. The same principle was applied to the
caseback, which screwed down to the mid-case and was additionally sealed with a rubber gasket. The crystal was
sealed too — in the early years via a pressure-fit system and later via a crystal-retaining ring. It was these
systems that have continued to make modern Rolex and Tudor watches waterproof to this today.
Two Become Three
The early Oysters were two-piece case designs, known by Italian collectors as monoblocco construction. These watches
had cases with the mid-case and “bezel” manufactured out of one piece of steel. The caseback screwed against the
mid-case to seal the watch and the crystal was fitted from inside the case using a pressure-fit seal. This made
changing the crystals more time consuming as the whole watch needed to be disassembled to fit a new glass. Model
references such as the 7809 were monoblocco and were, in fact, the watches used for the Greenland Expedition of
The introduction of the three-piece case made replacing scuffed and cracked crystals a lot easier and it is the
system that is still in use today. The screw-down crown and caseback were still key features, but the third element
was a bezel that was pressed over the crystal to seal the case. The mid-case of the watch had a small lip onto which
the tropic (no date bubble) or Cyclops (with date bubble) crystal would fit. A bezel ring was then pressed down
around the circumference of the crystal to seal the watch. This made changing crystals a lot quicker and easier as
the movement and caseback remain in place. This upgrade was reflected in model reference numbers with 79XX, models
such as the 7904 (manual wind) and 7909 (automatic).
For collectors, one of the most interesting aspects of collecting these old Tudors is the dials. There were many
different model references, but the sheer number of dial variations is staggering. I still quite regularly come
across versions I have not seen before and it is always intriguing to see the detail and quality that was achieved
nearly 70 years ago. Of particular note are the textured dials, known by collectors as “waffle” dials. Whether in
black or gently patinated ivory, these waffle dials lift a watch to new heights. Or how about a gilt dial with
relief-print text in stunning deep black like a pool of oil? Whatever you fancy, there’s a vintage Tudor Oyster for
This watch features the most incredible “tropical” gilt dial. The tropical effect is what collectors call a dial that
has aged to a brown hue from its original black. This example is almost caramel in tone and looks stunning on its
rivet construction Oyster bracelet.
This FEF390-powered automatic Oyster is similar to those used on the Tudor-supported Greenland Expedition from
1952-54. The dial has turned a very attractive ivory colour over the years and features sunken numerals at 12, 3, 6
Waffle Dial 7904
A manual-wind Oyster benefits from a slim, low-profile case due to the lack of oscillating rotor on the movement. The
printing quality is incredible on a face of such complex construction considering when they were made. The dial has
aged uniformly to a panna cotta shade.
Oversize 7919 Oysterdate Waffle
This watch is special, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the dial is incredible – black waffle with crisp gilt
lettering and a gilt-coloured window around the date aperture that displays a roulette date wheel (even numbers red
and odd numbers black). That in itself would be enough. The 7919, however, unlike the vast majority of Oysters of
this era that were 34mm cases with 19mm lug widths, has a large case size with 20mm lugs – a lot like the “Ovettone
'' Rolexes of the era. With Rolex Datejusts featuring dials like this hitting £20,000-30,000, this Tudor is a
Tudor Oysters at Our Shop
A classic Oyster watch on an Oyster bracelet is arguably one of the most timeless timepieces that you can strap to
your wrist. This week, we have added this reference 90990 to our shop. The watch features a silver dial with long
applied hour markers with interesting black caps. The 32mm size makes this the perefct unisex watch. The folded link
Rolex Oyster bracelet adds to the vintage charm of this watch.
The other Tudor Prince addition to our shop is a classic Oyster watch, featuring an automatic movement and the
timeless elegant look that has remained unchanged for decades. The 32mm case is the perfect unisex size and the
silver dial with applied baton markers remains in very good condition. The reference 72000 spent many years in the
Tudor catalogue and came with a vast array of different dials, which appeals to the collector. Like Pokemon
cards...you have to try and get them all! The jubilee bracelet adds a dressier edge to the watch.
If you are looking for a Tudor Prince from the 1960s, we have a gorgeous piece to offer from our selection of vintage
timepieces. The dial in this Oyster is in all-original and very good condition. The dial surface is still
beautifully clean. The model and serial engravings on the caseback are still very clear and the overall case is