Tudor vs Rolex - How to find the right brand for you

by John Wallis


January 16. 2018 - by John Wallis

Tudor vs Rolex - an old question. Two great sibling firms, children of the same visionary father, that have long been counted among the most popular luxury watch brands in the world. Similar in so many ways and yet demonstrating key differences that have won dedicated fans of each approach. Which is the right choice for you?

Many forget that despite being the poster child for the peerless Swiss watch, Rolex was born and raised in London. Legendary founder, Hans Wilsdorf, loved England and its history, which is why his second brand bears the name of a British royal dynasty from the Middle Ages. It even used the Tudor Rose as its logo for some time, before changing to the shield emblem we know today.

Tudor was originally conceived as very much a "junior" partner, a younger brother. The watches were made in the Rolex factory, to the same quality specs, but equipped with outsourced Ebauche (later ETA) movements. This allowed them to be sold at a lower price point, accessible to more potential buyers, while Rolex watches stuck with prestigious in-house movements. This relationship has changed in recent years. Tudor has experienced a dramatic series of developments that have brought the company fully out of Rolex's shadow, with legions of dedicated collectors whose interest does not depend on the brands' connection.

Rolex: daddy's boy

Rolex initially won fame through its groundbreaking technological contributions to 20th Century horology, from the "Oyster" water resistant case to the date window in the famous Rolex Datejust. But, while its watches were indeed used by many professionals and sportsmen, the brand soon emerged as more of a style icon than a tool watch specialist. Collectors flocked to Rolex timepieces for their astonishing understated-yet-exceptionally-fashionable designs. Watches like the ultra-famous Rolex Submariner, as used by the King of Cool himself, James Bond, have been worn far more often to formal events than they have been worn actually diving.

In many ways, Rolex is a very conservative brand. It has found something that works, and it has not deviated far from this core sense of style that has proven so timeless. Its collections rarely unveil grand new designs - where there is change, it is intentionally incremental. Indeed, the tiny variations among the many models is one thing that a lot of collectors appreciate. What Rolex provides is a sense of true and enduring luxury that everyone can recognise and admire. No one can match it for reputation and attention to detail. But its commitment to its trusty formula has sometimes left watch fans wanting something more. 

Top 5 Rolex watches at CHRONEXT

1. Rolex Datejust

Timeless elegance like no other, the Rolex Datejust has long been among the most popular and desirable timepieces from Rolex. First unveiled in 1945, the watch is adored for its iconic design and breathtaking range of variant editions.

Shop the Rolex Datejust

2. Rolex Oyster Perpetual

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a classic style with flawless, pared-down design. The water-resistant and automatic winding watch is available in a range of sizes and materials, making it highly sought after by men and women alike.

  Shop the Rolex Oyster Perpetual

3. Rolex GMT-Master II

First created for Pan Am pilots in the 50s, the GMT Master has become much more than a professional watch. Desired for its remarkable functionality and robustness, this model is best known for its distinctive black dial which provides exceptional readability.

  Shop the Rolex GMT Master II

4. Rolex Submariner Date

The Rolex Submariner Date is a legend in and out of the water. With its distinctive dial, large luminescent hour markers and solid link Oyster bracelet, the sporty and elegant design of this timepiece make it suitable for every occasion.

Shop the Rolex Submariner Date

5. Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

With a name that comes from the most famous motor racing circuit in the United States, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona impresses on and off the racetrack. Its highly reliable chronograph and bezel with tachymetric scale provide impeccable, high-performance function.

  Shop the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Tudor: the prodigal son returns

Enter Tudor. This is a brand that never took the spotlight, never became a household name. Founded officially in 1946, it was certainly noticed by many watch lovers and professionals. The 1950s Tudor Submariner was a close cousin of Rolex's, using the same cases from the same manufacture. In the 50s and 60s, Tudor was sought out by several military branches from a range of countries (including US armed forces, for diving missions), as well as scientific expeditions to sites such as Greenland. The brand pulled out of the US and UK markets for a long time, only to return triumphantly in 2013.

In the intervening years, Tudor has provided a bit more "revolution" to Rolex's slow "evolution". The company has had a greater license to experiment and tinker with new designs, often with much success. Icons such as the famous Tudor "snowflake" hands are one result of such freedom. At the same time, Tudor has gradually built a history for itself alongside Rolex, and not merely under its wing. This is the basis of the glorious Tudor Heritage series launched in 2010, which critics have praised for its stunning use of its own historic models to inspire a new range of gorgeous timepieces such as the Tudor Black Bay, creating quite the buzz in the industry.

Top 5 Tudor watches at CHRONEXT

1. Tudor Pelagos

The Tudor Pelagos is a tool watch with all of the bells and whistles. Its titanium bracelet, modern snowflake hands and waterproof capability up to 500 meters, make it one of the most complete traditional mechanical divers’ watches available today.

Shop the Tudor Pelagos

2. Tudor Heritage Black Bay

The Tudor Heritage Black Bay is one of Tudor’s most iconic models. First introduced in 2012, the watch is available in three different versions with the latest 2016 update including a mechanical movement manufactured by Tudor.

  Shop the Tudor Heritage Black Bay

3. Tudor Heritage North Flag

Inspired by adventure, the Tudor Heritage North Flag has a technical and sophisticated design. The modern watch comes with hybrid steel-ceramic components and a Manufacture Calibre making it suitable for any adventure.

  Shop the Tudor Heritage North Flag

4. Tudor Fastrider

The Tudor Fastrider is a sporty tool watch with entirely matt finishes. The collection is available in a range of matt colours with a 42 mm steel case and fixed matt black ceramic bezel with engraved tachymetric scale.

  Shop the Tudor Fastrider

5. Tudor Glamour

An elegant timepiece with a broad range of features. The Tudor Glamour line is available in a range of cases from a dainty 26 mm to a larger 41 mm allowing customers to choose from a variety of sizes and styles to find their perfect fit.

  Shop the Tudor Glamour

So what's it going to be?

At the end of the day, Rolex vs Tudor may not be the right question after all. Despite the different paths they have taken, the two brands remain close brothers. Their styles are not vastly different, and Tudor even boasts superb in-house movements now, as seen in recent versions of the Black Bay and the Tudor Pelagos. If you love one, there is no reason not to love both. And yet, many fans find themselves instinctively drawn to the unique charms of one over the other. Rather than choosing between the brands themselves, we recommend you consider all the various model collections in their stables, and find the pieces that speak to you.

John Wallis

by John Wallis

Living and working in London, John has been writing about watches since graduating university. He got his start at SalonQP, London's finest watch show, where he was inspired by the breadth and creativity of the modern industry. His fascination with mechanical horology has only grown from there.

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