May 18, 2015
by Matt Diehl
One of the biggest stories to come out of Baselworld 2015 was the unveiling of Tudor’s North Flag – the company’s first-ever model to boast an in-house manufactured movement. Of course, unless you’re Seiko, in-house movement means in-house prices: at 3,500 euros, the North Flag is edging ever closer to what its parent company Rolex charges for a timepiece. So where does that leave an entry-level model like Tudor’s Style collection – a more dress-watch-styled option which Tudor quietly introduced last year? And is it, in fact, an entry-level model?
Figuring out where the Tudor Style lives among Tudor references like the North Flag and the beloved Black Bay and Pelagos indeed tells us something interesting about where Tudor is going. Tudor is clearly segmenting their collection into higher-end pieces (with elite mechanisms to match), as well as having a selection of more affordable pieces that use ETA movements or their equivalent. This is a smart move, in my opinion. On the one hand, it gives Tudor room to hit all the sweet spots of the mid-to-luxury watch market; on the other, this is something Rolex would never do – even the somewhat lamented (and now no longer available) Air-King had an in-house movement, and a higher price than the Tudor Style, to boot. As a result, Tudor sets itself apart from its big brother a bit more, growing an even more distinct identity of its own with each new release.
So where does the Tudor Style fit, exactly, in the brand’s overall aesthetic? For one, it is certainly the company’s most “dress watch” option. But, as I discovered wearing two models of the Style for many months, it’s true genius. This isn’t a dress watch: instead, it’s the horological equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, with a wide utility in a lot of social and business situations. Talk of the ultimate watch model that’s suitable for every situation remains an ongoing obsession with ye olde watch nerds – but the Tudor Style really may be a true all-purpose option.
Being “all purpose,” of course, comes with caveats. The Tudor Style didn’t inspire the kind of fervor that sportier models like the Black Bay, Pelagos, or even the Heritage Ranger did upon release: some felt that trying to be all things to all people doesn’t make for the most exciting watch – and at that price, it might be better to check out a Hamilton or Tissot. But that attitude that doesn’t do the Tudor Style justice. Yes, it is a dressier watch, and you have to like that aesthetic to appreciate it. But where the Tudor Style really stands out are in its hidden charms – ones you would only discover wearing it. And to wear it is to fall in love with it. Like IWC’s current take on its Portofino collection – which houses its most basic entry-level model à la the Tudor Style – intriguingly, the Tudor Style collection is intended to be unisex, with 28mm, 34mm, 38mm, and 41mm options. In terms of case material, two-tone and solid steel are on offer, with the two-tone model obviously coming on a bracelet (more on the bracelet later) and the rest on a leather deployant strap; dial offerings range from gold tone, to silver, to black.
The two Tudor Style watches I tried out were the 38mm with a silver dial and the 41mm with a black dial, both on leather. In wearing them, I discovered that, yes, these are not perfect watches. The silver dial has real readability issues, with the silver sword hands and index markers blurring into it in certain light conditions. It still makes a very, very elegant statement on the wrist – the silver dial Tudor Style would be a fantastic watch to wear with a tuxedo, for example – but it renders it more as an item of jewelry than a truly legible timepiece. As well, I wish the date wheel on the 41mm wasn’t white, and instead, matched the black of the surrounding dial. While there is an argument for their enhanced legibility to be made, non-matching date wheels are a pet peeve of mine – although, to be fair, it is a time-tested look and works fine on, say, the Submariner.
As this is more of a dress watch option, however, I think the black-on-black would have been a more elegant option, and again, would make it stand out from its Rolex big brothers and sisters. And yes, the movement is a basic automatic ETA-equivalent three hander plus date complication – that doesn’t bother me, as dress watches don’t need wildly complicated mechanisms, in my opinion. I personally find ETA watches a bit underrated, in fact: they keep time great – especially when regulated by a heritage company like Tudor to within an in inch of their lives. In fact, both Tudor Style models gave near perfect time when I tested them over the course of a week, maybe losing a few seconds here and there, but nothing noticeable. While I wouldn’t turn down an in-house Calatrava, myself, I appreciate that durability and reliability, with the added attention to detail.
Attention to detail (outside of legibility) is, in fact, where the Tudor Style shines – that is what you’re paying for here, and I think adding up all the perfectly rendered details results in one of the best values on the watch market today. To me, this is what makes the Tudor Style stand out from similar styled watches from more mid-tier brands, and makes it worth the extra bit of cash. For one, I love it when a dressier-style watch has a screw down crown like the Tudor Style does, giving it a little more durability and water resistance than comparable models; the signed crown itself is exceedingly handsome and easy to manipulate with its quasi-onion shape and grooves.
The exquisite nature of the finishing, which alternates brushed and polished options, also lets you know that regardless of price, this is a watch that comes from the Rolex family; I’m hard pressed to think of a watch in this price point that has such nice finishing. (Intriguingly, the 38mm seems to have slightly finer finishing than the larger model – I can’t quite figure out why, exactly, but it does; I also think the lug style in the larger model works better for some reason which I can’t put my finger on.)
The minimal style of the watch really shows off how well Tudor pays attention to the little things. There’s so little ornamentation to distract; therefore, everything has to be right, or it wouldn’t work. The attention to detail proves clear as well from the absolutely wonderful deployant clasp with its signed etching and trademark Tudor shield. That shield is really distinctive – it makes me happy every time I see it; I find myself actually turning my wrist around and just looking at it. It’s really the kind of clasp you’d find on a much more expensive timepiece, as is the high-end leather of the strap. At first, it seems a bit stiff, but it quickly molds to your wrist and feels far more durable than most leather straps I encounter, even on many higher-priced watches.
The dials are also finished to a level beyond the price point. The black dial in particular is incredible – it manages to seem both matte and glossy at the same time, and the contrast of the silver index markers against it proves highly readable from quite a distance. It really is pleasing to look at. And while Tudor is now experimenting with exhibition casebacks, the steel caseback here gives the Tudor Style a subtle chunkiness that adds a bit of sporty vibe, making the watch more versatile.
Ah, versatility – that truly is the Tudor Style’s primary virtue. To that end, I was saddened to discover that Tudor didn’t include a model with the bracelet for our review. The bracelet option for the Tudor Style is fantastic: not to beat a dead horse with this point, but you’re really getting a lot for your buck here. The bracelet is satisfyingly chunky, and in its play of brushed and polished definitely seems to have a bit of the Submariner’s DNA – never a bad thing, in my opinion! Basically, if one got the Tudor Style on the bracelet, and additionally bought the black leather strap and also a brown one, you’d pretty much have all the watch bases covered.
If you wanted to be more casual, rock the bracelet; if you’re heading to the boardroom, court, or the opera, the leather is ideal. 41mm is a nice size, too, versatility-wise. It’s substantial, but doesn’t wear so huge that it would seem out of place in more formal situations. I’ve found 41mm also looks good on almost anyone – you’d have to have either an awfully small or massively huge log-like wrist for it not to fit nicely. All together, it makes for a very handsome presentation. “Handsome” really is the operative word here.
To my mind, the Tudor Style manages to be “entry level” but also goes the extra mile. This is the perfect watch for, say, the new graduate whom is entering the professional world but isn’t prepared to spend $7,000-plus on a timepiece – especially a dress watch that doesn’t do double duty for the weekend. The Tudor name doesn’t just impart prestige: it also suggests that you’re going to get the kind of refinement you can’t get anywhere else at this price (and, like Rolex, will likely maintain a good chunk of its value).
I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed if they got the Tudor Style as a graduation gift (again, with the bracelet – please, parents, get the bracelet as well). It has the nuances and detail that, frankly, you just can’t get on a standard-issue department store watch. This is a real timepiece, and a great place to begin as a budding collector or aspiring professional at the start of a career. At the same time, it’s enough of an unexpected choice to stand out in a sea of TAGs and the like. Really, it goes beyond being a mere starter watch – I’ve actually gotten quite a accustomed to seeing it on my wrist! Are there watches with more exciting complications and movements? Sure – a Richard Mille or Urwerk, this is not. But that also means they’re not as versatile. I’m guessing such timepieces, and even many of the Tudor’s peers, can’t go all the places the Tudor Style can for the cost and with as much… well, style.
Tudor offers a range of Tudor Style collection watches in various sizes from 28mm to 41mm wide on both straps and bracelets as well as dials with and without diamonds. The 38mm and 41mm Tudor Style watches on the leather straps as seen here have a retail price of $2,200 and $2,325 respectively. Those same watches on steel bracelets are $2,300 and $2,425 (there are also two-tone versions in steel and gold). tudorwatch.com