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For many people, Tudor is still a relatively fresh and new brand, popular with baby boomers and millennials alike. In actual fact, however, the company is more than 90 years old, having been established in 1926. Tudor has made an art of drawing on this rich past to inspire the designs for its current models. The Black Bay, Pelagos and Heritage Chrono all borrow heavily from past Tudor classics from the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. In particular the Oyster Prince Submariners and the Oysterdate chronographs. Key features from those heritage models have helped bring a strong vintage aesthetic to Tudor’s modern lineup. Read on to learn how.
The Submariner first appeared in 1954 (closely following the Rolex version). The dive watch evolved through numerous modifications, over several decades. By comparison, the Oysterdate chronograph, which debuted in 1970, was quick to find its mark. It took a gamble on an unusual dial design and the wager paid off. The watch immediately found an audience, cementing the design as a ‘keeper’.
Their differing evolutionary paths are reflected in how they influence their modern cousins. The Black Bay family draw on important elements from multiple significant Submariner references. (The Pelagos to a lesser extent does the same.) The Heritage Chrono is more about preserving the winning formulas arrived at in just two series.
Both the Submariner and Oysterdate were housed in a Rolex-type Oyster case. The same case style, with pronounced, bevelled edge lugs, can be seen in the three current models. (It’s also worth mentioning, the style of the steel bracelets used today were developed over the same historical period in focus.)
Influences on the Black Bay
The Black Bay’s resemblance to all Oyster Prince Submariners from that period is generally easy to spot. (With the exception of a select few models mentioned later in connection to the Pelagos.) This is due to the original 1954 Submariner establishing the dial layout and basic bezel design most commonly adopted across the range. Key features from the original, reference 7922, are found on the Black Bay, starting with the black dial. (Selected for legibility underwater.)
Set against the dark surface are the iconic arrangement of luminescent index shapes shared with the Rolex Submariner. An extra-large triangle at 12 o’clock and circular hour markers interspersed with rectangles at the 3, 6 and 9 positions. Beyond ran the minute track boarded by a complete circle. A subtle detail was the thickening of paint at each 5-minute interval. The coin-edge, rotating bezel with 60-minute counter was also present from the start. Numerated for 10s, marked for 5s, and a triangle with luminescent dot to indicate 60.
The next big influencer on the Black Bay is the “Big Crown”, reference 7924, which came out in 1958. (The recently released Black Bay Fifty-Eight is a direct tribute.) It was significant for its oversized, unprotected crown, which is a key feature on all Black Bays. It was also the first Submariner to be waterproof to 200m (20 bar/ 660ft). This was in part due to a new Tropic-type Plexiglas crystal. It was thicker and dome-shaped (for better resistance to water pressure). Today a domed sapphire crystal is standard on all Black Bays. (With the exception of the Tudor Black Bay 32/ 36/ 41 range, which features slimmer cases designed for sliding under shirt cuffs.)
The remaining features for the Black Bay come from the 1969 references, 7016 and 7021. These references not only complete the Black Bay but heavily influence the Pelagos. To both they gave the square-shaped hands known by collectors as “snowflakes”. They also introduced Tudor’s new shield logo (to replace the rose) - a symbol of resistance and reliability. However, the dials of the 1969 references have less in common with the modern Black Bay. Instead, you would be forgiven for mistaking them as an early model Pelagos.
Influences on the Pelagos
The Pelagos takes the majority of its DNA from a select group of Submariners that appeared between 1967 and 1975. Over this period, a subtle evolution of the dial took place, starting with the 1967 reference 7928. The circle bordering the minute track disappeared. And each graduation extended to the flange. The Pelagos minute track is done in a similar fashion. The difference being that it has a sunken dial, so the graduations are now at a taper.
Then in 1969, the eight circular hour markers were switched out for square ones. Reference 7016 and 7021 stand out from other Submariners due to this unique detail. The new face contributed to the Tudor identity and today is preserved on the Pelagos. Reference 7021 also introduced a date window at 3 o’clock, which is retained on the Pelagos.
A third reference with square hours markers was added in 1975 (before the circular indexes made a return). Reference 9401/0 is important for bringing colour. Dials and bezels were offered in blue, in addition to black. (Again, chosen for legibility underwater.) The Pelagos, waterproof to 500m (50 bar/ 1,640ft), comes in these two traditional dive watch colours.
The Black Bay and Pelagos differ in how they approach colour but both share a common connection with their Submariner heritage. The Black Bay makes use of patina-type hues and often off-white lumes. This gives the visual effect of an older diver’s watch that has aged. This colour scheme plays a big part in the vintage appeal. The Pelagos on the other hand presents the aesthetic of the Submariner as it was brand new. Its mono-colour dials and bezels are interrupted only by crisp white accents and lume. (The Pelagos LHD is somewhere in between.)
Home plate and Montecarlo (the Heritage Chrono formulas)
In 1970, Tudor launched its first mechanical chronograph. The Oysterdate was presented with an unusual graphic-style dial. A grey background housed two black counters at 3 and 9 o’clock. (Featuring a 45-minute counter, over the more common 30.) The technical minute track was marked on a white chapter ring, numerated at 5-minute intervals in bold orange font. Orange was also used for the prominent central chronograph seconds hand. Unconventional, luminous, pentagon-shaped hour markers were painted on. They earned the first series the nickname “home plate”. Employing a Valjoux 7734 calibre, a date window was located at 6 o’clock.
The noble but sporty look proved to be a sensation. The Oysterdate chronograph ranks among the most iconic-looking in the genre. Two versions were released - reference 7031/0 and 7032/0 - in the first series. They differed only in bezel type. A third reference, 7033/0, never made it to production. But it foreshadowed the bezel that would become the most popular in the second series. The Heritage Chrono - whose 2010 debut electrified the industry - is a fairly close replica to the first series Oysterdate. The main difference being that the counters at 3 and 9 o’clock have traded places. The modern take of the home plate also offers an inverse of the black and grey.
Released the following year, the second series remained in the catalogue until 1977. While still available in black and grey, the new version introduced blue (and grey) dial and bezel variants. Of the three versions released, reference 7169/0 is most relevant. It featured a rotatable bezel with 12-hour graduations to tell the time in a second time zone. It was produced in large numbers and is the type found on all modern Heritage Chronos.
The dial received more technical counters and more delicate, rectangular hour markers. Colour was also extended over the (previously white) chapter ring. And the minute intervals extended to the circumference of the dial. The effect was reminiscent of a casino roulette wheel, with collectors giving it the nickname “Montecarlo”. The blue of the Montecarlo left a lasting impression. Hence its return to the current catalogue as the Heritage Chrono Blue.
Modern watches with a vintage twist
So, now you know how Tudor draws inspiration from its rich past to create high quality yet accessible mechanical wristwatches, many of which are powered by in-house movements. To learn even more and experience the watches for yourself, we invite you to visit our Norwich boutique to view the full Tudor range.