If you want a Rolex watch but can't get one, a common solution is to turn to Tudor. There are some good reasons for that, not least the brand's impressive quality and value — but also that Tudor is owned by Rolex. There's prestige in the association alone, but what exactly makes Tudor watches different from more expensive Rolex watches?
To get a better understanding of this important brand, we went to the Tudor headquarters (inside the Rolex headquarters) in Geneva to see the watches being made for ourselves. Here's what you need to know about Tudor and how it makes watches.
Are Tudor watches the same as Rolex watches?
There's more to the difference between Tudor and Rolex watches than just the name. Everything from the way watches are made to design and the brand's attitude help distinguish it from its parent company.
Where Rolex has a notoriously guarded and conservative image to maintain, modern Tudor has more freedom to be playful and creative. You'll see designs from Tudor that you'd never see from Rolex, from the use of case materials like bronze and even silver to funky and unexpected designs like the controversial Black Bay P01.
This helps give the brand its own identity, as do signature design elements like its polarizing "snowflake" hands. (Some models, such as the Royal, indeed feel conceived as Rolex alternatives.) Even more substantive differences, however, lie in how the watches are made.
Are Tudor watches made by Rolex?
Are you getting a watch made by Rolex when you buy a Tudor? That would be a little too good to be true. Tudor watches generally aren't made with the same components as those found in Rolex watches, nor are those parts produced at the same facilities.
While Rolex famously makes nearly all watch components itself, this wouldn't be possible at Tudor's price point. Today (though it hasn't always), Tudor buys watch cases and other components from Swiss suppliers. Notably, however, many Tudor watches do feature in-house movements — developed and produced entirely separately from Rolex movements. (Some Tudor collections also use sourced movements.)
What do Tudor watches have in common with a Rolex?
Though diverging from Rolex's vertically integrated model and conservatism, Tudor watches in many ways display its parent company's ethos. That means a highly pragmatic approach both to its products and business, and an impossibly strict approach to quality.
Tudor was conceived in 1946 as "a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that could attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex is famous," according to Rolex/Tudor founder Hans Wilsdorf. That sums it up pretty well.
If it wasn't already obvious, entering the Rolex facilities in Geneva reminds you that the brand's modus operandi is simply to be the best at what it does. For both Rolex and Tudor, that's making the best possible watches in their respective price points. It's evident when you handle products from either brand in person.
Another way that Tudor is comparable to Rolex is in prestige and recognition — though to a different degree. While Tudor isn't (nearly) as well known as Rolex around the world, it's still a highly respected brand — and models such as the Black Bay are some of the most immediately recognizable watches available today, at least to many people who might be inclined to notice a watch at all.
Where are Tudor watches made?
The various components in Tudor watches are made in Switzerland — going beyond the basic requirements of a "Swiss Made" label — and they're assembled at Tudor's headquarters in Geneva. The brand's own movement manufacturer, Kenissi, is located a couple hours' drive away in Le Locle, in Switzerland's traditional watchmaking region.
How does Tudor assure its watches' quality?
Not just assembly, but testing, development and quality control take place in Tudor's laboratory-like Geneva facilities. The workshop floor is a cleanroom and, just like employees, visitors go through a couple stages of doors, don lab coats and step on sticky tape to remove dust. You'd want to know that your watch is made in a pristine environment like this.
Like Rolex, the brand uses a mix of state-of-the-art machines and expert human touch. A human hand is involved in nearly every step of watch production, but only insofar as it's the most effective method. For example, machines help watchmakers assure certain elements are perfectly aligned. Any mistakes or flaws discovered see the component in question returned to the department that had completed the previous step.
If you've ever seen pictures of a watch factory, you've probably seen the likes of machines that dunk watches in water and rotate them on robotic arms to simulate real-world wear. You'll find similar contraptions at Tudor, but the brand goes beyond the basics: its own in-house movements are COSC chronometer-certified, and it even has in-house facilities for meeting the more stringent METAS certification requirements.
What is a METAS certification?
METAS is the abbreviation for the French name of the Swiss Federal Institute of Meteorology. The certification they offer to watch companies is called Master Chronometer, and the above mentioned COSC certification is a mere prerequisite.
In terms of accuracy, a watch is required to have a deviation of no more than five seconds per day (versus the well known -4/+6 of COSC). It's also got to be antimagnetic to 15,000 gauss and maintain water resistance and a healthy power reserve — all while being tested in different positions and at different temperatures. In other words, it guarantees an overall higher standard of performance from a watch.
Currently, only Tudor's Black Bay Ceramic gets the certification (Omega offers many Master Chronometer watches). The METAS testing facilities are only a small area of the Tudor facilities we visited, but the investment indicates that more can be expected in the future.