Mod­ern times

By art­fully min­ing its her­itage, swiss watch brand tu­dor has cre­ated a new de­sign iden­tity that’s all its own

Wallpaper - - December - tu­dor­

Tu­dor’s well-timed rewind

In 1969, unique ‘snowflake’ hands be­gan to ap­pear on Tu­dor’s Sub­mariner div­ing watches. To­day, the wide hands, re­sem­bling a mag­ni­fied snowflake par­ti­cle, are a pow­er­ful graphic sig­ni­fier of a Black Bay, the brand’s big­gest-sell­ing de­sign, and of Tu­dor’s wider resur­gence. Oth­ers in the ‘snowflake’ se­ries in­clude the Black Bay Fifty-eight and this year’s Black Bay GMT. The Pe­la­gos steel bracelet mod­els also take the snowflake hands, but the Black Bay owns them, so to speak.

This quirky de­tail has been sin­gled out as a main­stay of Tu­dor’s con­tem­po­rary of­fer­ing by Rolex and Tu­dor CEO Jean-frédéric Du­four, whose vi­sion chimes with that of Hans Wils­dorf, who es­tab­lished Rolex in 1905. Wils­dorf had long toyed with the idea of pro­duc­ing a watch ‘at a more mod­est price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would at­tain the stan­dard of depend­abil­ity for which Rolex is fa­mous’. In 1926, he ac­quired the ex­clu­sive rights to the Tu­dor trade­mark from Swiss watch­maker and dealer Veuve de Philippe Hüther and con­tin­ued to make watches un­der that name. Wils­dorf, a savvy mar­ket­ing man, waited for the right mo­ment to im­ple­ment his orig­i­nal vi­sion of a more af­ford­able al­ter­na­tive to Rolex. In 1946, the year af­ter the end of the Sec­ond World War and with de­sire for lux­ury goods in an un­der­stand­able slump, he launched the Tu­dor brand.

Early ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, fea­tur­ing a road builder and a coal miner, re­veal Wils­dorf ’s eco­nomic tar­get– the blue-col­lar worker. A Tu­dor watch was all about pre­ci­sion, ro­bust­ness and de­sir­abil­ity.

In the late 1950s, Tu­dor be­gan to fo­cus on per­for­mance watches, aus­pi­ciously cre­at­ing a sports watch that was suited to ev­ery­day wear. It is the arena where it ex­cels to­day. The cur­rent ver­sions of 1970s Her­itage Chrono and Her­itage Ranger de­signs re­tain clas­sic sporty ap­peal. At­tempts at a sleeker, finer Tu­dor of­fer­ing, such as this year’s uni­sex 1926, seem un­con­vinc­ing in com­par­i­son.

Tu­dor’s re­cent re­vival has been care­fully en­gi­neered. While the brand has main­tained a steady pres­ence in France, Ger­many and Hong Kong, Tu­dor was pulled from ma­jor US and UK mar­kets at the end of the 1990s as dis­trib­u­tors fo­cused on flashier propo­si­tions. But, mir­ror­ing its founder’s ear­lier re­sponse to more aus­tere times, the brand was re­launched in the US in 2010 and the UK in 2014.

Now, it is pre­sciently in tune with the mar­ket. Tu­dor watches are gain­ing trac­tion with new au­di­ences, from younger buy­ers to those who es­chew con­spic­u­ous lux­ury for well-priced qual­ity. And, they are in­creas­ingly ap­pear­ing on the in­ter­na­tional watch auc­tion cir­cuit, which has tra­di­tion­ally been the pre­serve of ‘finer’ brands.

Says Penny Mor­ris, head of watches at Bon­hams Knights­bridge, ‘Tu­dor has a long his­tory and re­launch­ing vin­tage-in­spired mod­els shows that it recog­nises this strength. Buy­ers want to know that what they are buy­ing has a story. This drives young collectors, who per­haps may not yet have the dis­pos­able in­come to pur­sue watch icons, such as the Valjoux-based Rolex Day­tonas, to brands such as Tu­dor, who are in­ter­est­ing in dif­fer­ent ways.’

The ‘no-de­sign’ ap­proach of Tu­dor’s head de­signer An­ders Ugarte suits the brief to a T. ‘It looks easy be­cause you have a strong start­ing point,’ he says. ‘But vin­tage pieces have a strong per­son­al­ity, so you have to find the right con­tem­po­rary pro­gres­sion.’ That could be a mat­ter of al­ter­ing a case di­am­e­ter and height to achieve a slim­mer or bolder sil­hou­ette. Match­ing the dial and bezel colours is an­other tricky area be­cause, as Ugarte says, ‘each ma­te­rial means light and colour ap­pear in dif­fer­ent ways’.

This month, Tu­dor is launch­ing a new watch. The brand con­firms that it is based on a her­itage piece but that it is not a Black Bay. Tu­dor collectors have a sharp in­stinct for th­ese things, but for the rest of us, Ugarte only has this to say: ‘When­ever I look at the ar­chive, I quickly for­get the de­tails. It is only then that I can start to build a new watch.’

right, the snowflake watch Hands are a graphic sym­bol of tu­dor de­sign

a hand-mod­elled black bay pro­to­type; an early ad­ver­tise­ment fea­tures the tu­dor rose em­blem, which ap­peared in var­i­ous it­er­a­tions through­out the brand’s early his­tory un­til it was re­placed by a me­dieval shield in 1969

clock­wise from above, a 2018 tu­dor black bay fifty-eight model with a Jacquard fab­ric strap by Julien faure; the ar­chive regis­tra­tion let­ter show­ing wils­dorf’s ac­qui­si­tion of rights to use the tu­dor name;

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