Tudor is the Younger, More Democratic Brother of Rolex
“Rolex and Tudor are owned by the same company, you know,” a very stylish man once casually said to me, and honestly, my mind was blown. Perhaps this is common knowledge, but to someone who, at the time, was completely watch-uninitiated, the idea that Rolex, an incredibly revered watch brand, carried a—to use fashion parlance—“diffusion” line was completely eye-opening.
It’s like learning for the first time that H&M also owns COS, a favorite among the truly in-the-know because you still need to travel to, say, Hong Kong to get it, as opposed to its fast fashion counterpart which can be found in nearly every mall.
But anyway, we digress. If you want to enrich your watch IQ, know this: Rolex and Tudor are, essentially, the same. But not really. Let’s dive a little deeper.
Rolex and Tudor were both established by Hans Wilsdorf
For starters, Rolex and Tudor share the same founder. In 1905, Hans Wilsdorf began distributing watches in England with his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. In 1908, the duo decided to relocate to Switzerland, the watchmaking capital of the world, and shift toward creating their own watches, and officially, Rolex was born.
Of course, Rolex has gone on to become one of the most pioneering and covetable luxury watch brands in history; there’s really no need to explain the social cachet that comes with owning a Rolex watch. Whether you received one as a graduation gift, a wedding present, or a hand-me-down, or purchased one yourself to celebrate a particular milestone, you will always remember your first Rolex, as it occupies its own special place in watch history.
Wilsdorf wanted a more accessible brand with the Rolex DNA
In 1946, Wilsdorf started another brand that would carry the Rolex DNA: a commitment to the same level of quality and integrity, but this time, at a more accessible price point.
Thus, Tudor was introduced. It referenced Rolex’s early English roots by adopting the name of the Tudor royal dynasty. In fact, its original logo was a rose, the symbol of the House of Tudor, before evolving in the ’60s into a shield, which is the logo used today.
The earliest Tudor models were notable for how similar they were to the classic Rolex styles, and indeed, Tudor and Rolex watches share many of the same patents and innovations: case material, winding crown, crystal, bracelet, and helium escape valve.
Tudor has a more experimental or younger design language
In the decade following its launch, Tudor began to take on its own design identity. By utilizing cloth watch straps, titanium cases, vintage-inspired details, and more playful colorways, it forged a reputation as Rolex’s more experimental, edgier, cooler counterpart, like the fun younger sibling who’s willing to be a little more out there and take risks.
And it could afford to do so, because the main difference between Rolex and Tudor lies in the watch’s guts: the movements. Whereas Rolex’s movements are exclusively in-house, Tudor makes use of Swiss ETA or Valjoux movements, which make it more accessible.
Tudor makes use of Swiss ETA movements
ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse is a subsidiary of the Swatch Group, specializing in watch movements that include quartz calibers, mechanical calibers, and partially assembled movements or ebauchés. The Swiss watch manufacturer supplies the movements that can be found in a range of brands, Tudor among them.
Purists might argue that the best watch movements come from watchmakers that produce them in-house only (as Rolex does), but this is what also drives up the price range and makes it rather cost-prohibitive. An ETA movement is the more democratic option, and that is why Tudor is comparatively more reasonable.
It just recently introduced its own in-house movements
In 2015, Tudor began to introduce models featuring its own in-house movements, an indicator that both watch brands are still constantly evolving. At this point, each has forged a distinct identity, and watch fans are kept on their toes with every new collection and innovation that is introduced.
So if you’re ready to dip a foot into the world of serious watch collecting but haven’t quite worked up to the Rolex pay grade, a Tudor could be the perfect watch to get you started.
Consider Tudor's Black Bay or Heritage Chrono
A great classic Tudor would be the Black Bay, a divers’ watch based on the Rolex Submariner that is as functional as it is beautiful, with design elements that emphasize its vintage appeal.
And if you prefer a watch that shares more of the timeless qualities that its brother brand Rolex is known for, the Heritage Chrono is a classic chronograph with sporty features, like orange highlights, that draws comparisons to the Rolex Daytona. It’s a great introduction to the watch world and helps send out the message that you are ready to make your debut as a serious watch guy.