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Why Tudor Came Out on Top at Watches and Wonders 2024

May 24, 2024

Tudor's releases have rightfully had the most positive reception at this year's trade show.

For many enthusiasts, this year's Watches and Wonders releases from brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe fell flat. In the sea of largely uninspired designs, Tudor stood out. Like last year, enthusiasts have praised the brand's new watches. The monochromatic METAS-certified Black Bay delivers Submariner looks and specs for half the price, and the charming Black Bay 58 GMT "Coke" gives buyers exactly what they want. However, it remains to be seen whether the company can gain market share at the expense of other sports watch brands like Omega and Breitling in the coming years.

The Black Bay 58 GMT "Coke"

For years, Rolex collectors have pined for a new GMT Master II with a red-and-black bezel. This year, the biggest luxury watchmaker has finally answered (sort of). While Rolex left collectors with an uninspired remake of a previous GMT, its sister brand Tudor has delivered a "Coke" GMT. Better yet, Tudor has done so in a more wearable package than its traditional GMT models.

For a price of $4,600, the new Black Bay 58 GMT offers excellent specs. A screw-down crown helps the watch reach its stated 200m of water resistance. The case measures 39mm across, 47.6mm from lug to lug, and 12.8mm tall. For reference, the original Black Bay GMT is a full 15mm thick. The use of a domed sapphire crystal allowed Tudor to position the movement and dial higher to reduce case thickness for this release. The smaller case also required a smaller movement. The new METAS-certified Caliber M5450-U delivers an impressive 65-hour power reserve at a 4 Hz frequency. 

Notably, the model maintains the vintage design language of the Black Bay collection with its gilt dial, aluminum bezel, slab-sided case, and bracelet with faux rivets. While these features may be appealing to many, they serve as reminders of what the watch is not: a Rolex GMT Master II "Coke."

A Monochromatic METAS-Certified Black Bay

It might seem that Rolex has masterfully undercut itself with the release of the black-and-white Black Bay. The new model ventures as close to the Submariner design as Tudor will likely ever be willing to do. This Black Bay forgoes the fake patina and gilt accents characteristic of the collection for a clean, modern look. Even more startling is that the watch can also compete on specifications. Like the Black Bay Burgundy released last year, the new model bears both COSC and METAS Master Chronometer certifications, guaranteeing power reserve, waterproofness, anti-magnetism, and an accuracy of 0/+5 seconds per day.

Of course, there are some caveats. The old-fashioned slab-sided case, faux rivets of the three-link bracelet, and conspicuous absence of a five-pointed crown are reminders that a Tudor can never truly replace a Rolex for most. However, the Submariner retails for just under $10,000 and resells for even more–the Black Bay Master Chronometer is only $4,550. That price tag is hard to argue with.

The Gold Black Bay 58, Now on a Bracelet

Tudor unveiled the gold Black Bay 58 in 2021. Now, that watch is available with a matching gold bracelet for the bargain price of $32,100. Your eyes do not deceive you–that price tag tops those of many Royal Oaks and Daytonas. So, does Tudor really expect you to buy a Black Bay for Rolex money? Probably not. The brand may be attempting to take advantage of the compromise effect; when a company offers products at low, medium, and high price points, customers will typically compromise by purchasing the product between the two extremes. Importantly, the release sets a precedent for higher-priced models from the brand.

New Clair de Rose Models

Tudor has added "Tudor blue" dials to its line of dressy women's watches. It is hard not to compare the model to Cartier ladies' watches; the Clair de Rose features several Cartier design staples, including a blue spinel cabochon, central guilloché pattern, and Roman numerals. Like the other dial colors, the new models come in three sizes: 26, 30, and 34mm. The smaller references house the T201, which is likely a rebranded ETA 2671, while the largest uses the T601, which is based on the Sellita SW200-1.

Closing Thoughts

Historically, Tudor has allowed Rolex to take advantage of lower price segments without diluting its brand image. Tudor also allows its more illustrious sister company to capitalize off demand for products Rolex is unwilling to introduce, including cheaper dress watches like the Clair de Rose and 1926 and timepieces with titanium cases (until recently). Some would even argue that Rolex uses the brand to test new features–perhaps that is the role the new "Coke" Black Bay 58 GMT serves. Tudor has also found success in the profitable market for vintage designs, allowing Rolex to meet demand in that category while maintaining a more modern look for its own watches.

As Tudor becomes more popular and moves further upmarket to compete with Omega, Rolex may risk cannibalizing its own sales. In other words, Tudor has a strict ceiling dictated by its parent company. With that said, whether a Tudor can replace a Rolex is up to you. What is certain is the brand's value proposition. The releases of the Black Bay 58 GMT and monochromatic Black Bay demonstrate Tudor's masterful ability to meet consumer demands.

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