What prompted Hans Wilsdorf, the legendary founder of Rolex, to create a second brand named Tudor during the late
’40s? While theories abound, the most cogent of these suggests that Wilsdorf was about to shepherd Rolex into what
would be an enduring era of profound commercial success coinciding with his launch of the sports model, the
Submariner, in 1953 and the GMT-Master in 1954. Ever the canny industrialist, it is highly conceivable that Wilsdorf
realised that while he could produce his famous waterproof Oyster case and patented screw-down crown in abundance,
he was limited in terms of capacity by the number of Rolex movements he could create.
One can imagine Wilsdorf arriving at this logical solution: Why not use Rolex cases, crowns and bracelets and combine
them with the best outsourced movements in the Swiss watch industry? Since these movements were his own vision, and
distinct from the Rolex movements, Wilsdorf could not call these watches Rolexes. So, he decided instead to create a
new brand named ‘Tudor’.
Indeed, the motivation behind Wilsdorf’s creation of Tudor bears remarkable parallels to Ferrari’s motivation to
create Dino. Both companies were seeking to increase their industrial capacity significantly. With Rolex, Wilsdorf
was limited by his movement-production capacity. With Ferrari, Enzo was limited by the cost of his cars. The
solution which both men arrived at was essentially the same.
For Wilsdorf, he would use his patented Rolex Oyster case and screw-down crown and matchmake this with outsourced
movements. Ferrari, meanwhile, decided to make lower-cost, smaller-engine cars to compete with Porsche in their own
category. Interestingly, these engines would not be made at Ferrari, but at the Fiat plant. In order to race in the
newly created 1.6-litre Formula 2 category, the motor had to be produced in 500 road-going examples, and the only
way to achieve this was to also have the motor power a Fiat model, also named ‘Dino’, confusingly enough.
Just as Wilsdorf created Tudor in order not to dilute the equity of Rolex, Enzo Ferrari too decided to create these
more accessible sportscars under a separate brand, named for his son Alfredo ‘Dino’ Ferrari, whose main focus had
been the development of six-cylinder engines before his premature death from muscular dystrophy at 24 years of age
in 1956. Dino was created as a brand name for any Ferrari with less than 12 cylinders, but the brand name would
later be retired in 1976. Tudor, on the other hand, with its exclusively non-Rolex movements, is still going strong.
In fact, today they have movements that are completely of their own making.
Somewhere along the way, both the resulting Dino cars, the 206 GT, 246 GT and 246 GTS, as well as the Submariner
diving watches created by Tudor, would become design icons with reputations for legendary performance that far
transcended their humble beginnings. They would both ascend beyond their initial status, renowned for being
accessibly priced, which they still are, and achieve reputations as genre definers. Moreover, collectors all around
the world would seek them out and their values would correspondingly skyrocket over the years.
To this day, Tudor has remained a brand for watches featuring all of Rolex’s iconic waterproof technology, in
combination with some of the best-made, dependable movements in the industry. Over the years, because of their lower
price, Tudor Submariners have become some of the most frequently adopted timepieces by armed forces around the world
— in particular by France’s Marine Nationale — and there is documented evidence showing that the Argentine police
have regularly issued Tudor Subs to their personnel.
One great advantage of their lower price point is this: While Rolex remained somewhat conservative in styling, and
has been slow to evolve, the more youth-oriented Tudor has always been home to tremendous design innovation. From
the famous ‘Home Plate’ chronographs to the iconic ‘Snowflake’ Submariners, Tudor has never been afraid to push
watch designs forward, and in so doing has achieved some of the most memorable timepieces in history.
Indeed, another similarity between Dino and Tudor relates to this shared sense of design daring. Enzo Ferrari had, up
until the Dino, resisted creating a mid-engine car. His rationale was that the mid-engine placement of the motor
could make the handling of the car unpredictable, and he had concerns that in conjunction with a V12 Ferrari motor’s
power, his customers could run afoul of issues related to traction and physics. But because the Dino had a
six-cylinder engine, Ferrari approved a mid-engine layout for the first time. In addition to this radical new
concept, the design of the Dino’s coachwork, by the legendary Sergio Pininfarina, was nothing less than
History of Tudor Submariners
From 1954 to 1978, Tudor created some of the world’s most collectible diving watches. The first Tudor Submariner was
the ref. 7922, which in terms of case and dial iconography was very similar to the Rolex ref. 6538 of that era. And,
like the ref. 6538, it boasted a herculean 8mm crown. These watches exist with both 100-metre as well as 200-metre
depth ratings. In the late ’50s, the ref. 7922 was also released in a version with a smaller 6mm crown, similar to
that found on Rolex’s ref. 5508 Submariner. The caliber 390 automatic movement used for the ref. 7922 was
manufactured for Tudor by a company named Fabrique d’Ébauches de Fleurier.
The model ref. 7923 is interesting, as it is the only manual-winding Submariner ever produced either by Rolex or
Tudor. Its basic iconography closely resembles that of the smaller-crown ref. 7922 watches. The Tudor Submariner
ref. 7924 is a subtle evolution of the ref. 7922, and was offered in a thicker case with a large crown, as well as a
thinner case with small-crown configurations.
The second famous Tudor, the ref. 7928 Submariner, emerged around 1960 and was produced until 1968. It was
distinguished by crown guards similar to those found on the Rolex ref. 5512/5513 watches. Early models boasted both
square and pointed crown guards, as well as gilt dials, and are breathtakingly beautiful. The earliest of the ref.
7928 pieces feature a unique combination of gilt chapter ring, gilt writing and square crown guards — they’re among
the most collectible Tudor Submariners of all time.