50 Years of Chronographs: A Look at Some of the Most Notable Tudor Watches
Ah, the ’70s—the decade that gave us Apollo 13, the Watergate scandal, Jaws, Disney World, and the breakup of The Beatles—but watch enthusiasts can identify it for another reason entirely: 1970 was the year that Tudor watches unveiled the Oysterdate, its very first chronograph.
Though Tudor’s origins date back to 1946, when Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf created a diffusion watch line that would carry the same DNA, but at a more democratic price point, 1970 is the year the brand decided to venture into more sporty, rugged, versatile territory. Tudor chronographs are designed to give superior technical performance paired with the brand’s robust and unapologetically masculine image, becoming one of its most enduring and coveted models to date.
As the Tudor chronograph marks its golden anniversary, we take a look back at its evolution, as seen in the launches, models, and innovations that have turned it into a collector's item that you would be proud to have on your wrist for another 50 years to come.
The Tudor Chronograph Oysterdate makes its debut with an ad campaign fronted by rally driver Tim Wheatley. This emphasizes the watch’s sports performance capabilities, although the hefty, solid design and orange accents (complemented by the bright orange presentation case) certainly do the job, as well. The painted luminous pentagonal hour markers call to mind the home plates on a baseball field, earning the watch its affectionate nickname.
1971: Monte Carlo
The following year sees the arrival of the second generation of chronographs—this one comes equipped with a manually wound movement, the Valjoux 234. It also introduces dials reminiscent of a roulette wheel, which is why fans dubbed it the Monte Carlo, after the glamorous casino capital of Monaco. A new brand signature makes its first appearance with this model, too: the classic Tudor combination of gray and blue, as seen in the two-tone dial with the bezel to match.
1976 and 1989: Big Block
The Prince Oysterdate watches first make an appearance in 1976, this time, with an important upgrade: They were the first Tudor chronographs to be equipped with self-winding movements. The Valjoux caliber 7750 was 1.5mm thicker than the Valjoux 234, so the case had to be made more substantial, which is why collectors christened this the “Big Block” series. The features were pretty much retained with minimal modifications when the second wave of Big Blocks came out in 1989. In the accompanying ad campaign, the watch’s hefty stainless steel is compared to knights’ armor, harking back to Tudor watches’ English roots (its original logo was a rose, as in the symbol of the House of Tudor).
1995: Sapphire Chronograph
The Prince Oysterdate makes its entry into the modern age with a softer, more refined design, as the next wave of models boasts gentler, rounder curves and an elegant silhouette. The watch also gets an upgrade with the introduction of a sapphire crystal, while the materials are now available with more variations, too, including gold, steel, and leather straps.
2010 and 2013: Heritage Chrono
To celebrate Tudor chronographs’ 40th anniversary, the brand launches the Heritage Chrono, taking design cues from the original 1970s release—notably the return of the pentagonal hour markers, a.k.a. the beloved “Homeplates.” Black, gray, and orange jacquard fabric straps are offered in addition to bracelets made of steel, igniting an industry trend. Three years later, the Heritage Chrono Blue, taking its cue from the Monte Carlo’s signature blue dial, proves that everything old can be new again, and even better the second time around.
2013: Fastrider Black Shield
Tudor experiments with new materials with the debut of the Fastrider Black Shield, a matte black chronograph that is a marked departure from the usual traditional look. It also allowed the brand to show off its mastery of high-tech ceramic and a more fashionable aesthetic, taking inspiration from the sleek, sharp lines of a superbike and boasting a monochrome all-black vibe.
2017: Black Bay Chrono
Tudor’s expertise in the world of motorsports and divers’ watches comes to a head with the unveiling of the Black Bay Chrono, a combination of the brand’s aquatic know-how with the chronograph’s timekeeping capabilities. It caused such a sensation that it was awarded Best Watch Under 8,000 Swiss Francs at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, encapsulating all of the things that Tudor watches does best—high-performance, value-for-money timepieces with history and heritage to boot.