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Tudor hits the mark

Tudor hits the mark

Monday, 23 March 2015
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

Tudor came to Baselworld with its first two watches to be powered by an in-house, COSC-certified calibre. The product of a perfectly mastered industrial project, as one would expect of Rolex’s sister brand, these timepieces are hitting the market at extremely competitive prices.

At the end of the day, Swatch Group won on all counts, including ideological, and can phase out supplies of movements and parts to third parties until 2020, when it will pull the plug entirely. While a week is a long time in politics, in industrial terms five years is just around the corner, meaning companies in the watchmaking sector have had no choice than to wake up to reality and look for alternatives. Movement manufacturers can offer solutions but only within limits, hence the increase over recent years in the number of new calibres to be designed and produced by the brands themselves. Not just anyone, however, can take this road as two examples clearly show. The factory which TAG Heuer opened in Chevenez in 2013, initially geared to produce 50,000 movements a year, took a CHF 40 million investment. When setting up Fleurier Ebauches, which should produce in the region of 20,000 movements this year, Chopard had to put CHF 25 million on the table.
A two-stage approach
Several companies are nonetheless convinced that the end justifies the (substantial) means. Tudor is one of them. “For some years now I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous,” wrote Hans Wilsdorf in 1926 when founding Montres Tudor SA, the company tasked with making and selling just such a timepiece. Large-series production began twenty years later, in 1946. As Swiss daily Le Temps notes in its watch supplement, Tudor equipped all its timepieces with third-party movements, more often than not Calibre 390, developed in 1952 by Fabrique d’Ebauches de Fleurier and personalised for Tudor. ETA, which in the early 1980s became part of Swatch Group, also supplied Tudor from 1962. Its ETA 2824-2 movement became a particular favourite as of 1987.
That, however, is history. A wind of change has been blowing at Tudor for some time now. This was first evidenced by a completely new approach to the product, with models inspired by vintage styles and clearly positioned as “tool watches” cut out for adventure. Models with names like Pelagos for diving, Fastrider for speed junkies, or Ranger and its image of dogs dragging sleds across frozen landscapes. This first stage was essentially based on the image of ruggedness and reliability which these vintages styles inspire. It now gives way to a second stage highlighting the “engines” inside, and which makes its debut at Baselworld with the first two Tudor watches to be driven by in-house movements. They are Pelagos (Calibre MT5612) and North Flag (Calibre MT5621). Most of the attention is being focused on the latter of the two, for the simple reason that it brings with it a new and still relatively virgin territory, where snow permanently encases rocky outcrops and glaciers form deep rifts. Its historical reference is the British North Greenland Expedition of 1952 to 1954, in which Commander James Simpson led a team of thirty scientists, all equipped with Tudor watches.
Solid and precise
These new Tudor movements, with their generously sized “old-school” construction, ooze solidity from the mat silver finish to the balance bridge, variable inertia balance and cut-out rotor. They deliver a 70-hour power reserve, beat at 28,800 vph and have a silicon balance spring. Precision is certified by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), another first for Tudor. This new calibre can be admired through the sapphire crystal back of the North Flag’s monobloc 40mm case in satin-brushed steel. The bezel is also in steel with a ceramic edge. An instantaneous date, power-reserve disc and stop-seconds complete the line-up.
Tudor has succeeded in positioning its new offering, the result of a major industrial project, at a highly competitive price point. Many of the brands showing at Baselworld are making distinct efforts to deliver products at prices likely to win new recruits to the mechanical watch. But at CHF 3,400 for the North Flag on a leather strap and CHF 4,200 for the Pelagos, featuring a ceramic unidirectional bezel, helium valve and water-resistance to 500 metres, Tudor is offering a lot of watch for the money. The brand with the shield is out to (re)conquer fans.

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