Rome wasn’t built in a day — and neither was Rolex, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre and other watch manufacturers praised for their vertical integration and lauded for their array of in-house calibers. While we all applaud the handful of brands that bring new and increasingly complicated calibers to market virtually every year, we also should take note of other brands, many of them smaller, independently owned, or known throughout their history more for outsourcing their movements, that are taking a more incremental approach. In this series of articles, we look at five brands — three Swiss, two German — that are taking it slow and steady. This week, we explore the development of manufacture movements at Rolex-owned Tudor Watch Co.
For much of its existence, Tudor had been regarded by most timepiece aficionados as the little brother of watch-industry giant Rolex, and its watches had mostly reflected that in both their derivative designs and their use of outsourced movements. Since its much-ballyhooed return to the United States market in 2013 after an absence of nearly 10 years, however, Tudor has established a look and identity that is more distinctly its own. And when the subsidiary company made the inevitable decision to seek out more vertical integration in its movement-making, it did not do what many would have expected —i.e., turn to Rolex, rather than suppliers such as ETA, to provide its calibers — but instead established its own atelier in the watchmaking hotbed of Bienne, Switzerland, where Rolex and numerous other brands are also headquartered.
The first movement to emerge from the new Manufacture Tudor, Caliber MT5621, was five years in the making and debuted in the Tudor North Flag model in 2015. In keeping with that watch’s “explorer’s tool watch” aesthetic, as well as Tudor’s mandate to produce high-quality Swiss-made mechanical watches at affordable prices, the movement features a minimal level of decoration and a matte look, but does not skimp on other important technical features: it’s equipped with both a date display and a power-reserve indicator; it’s got a power reserve of 70 hours; it beats at a frequency of 28,800 vph and has a variable inertia oscillator equipped with a silicon balance spring; and its automatic winding system is bidirectional. Perhaps most notably, Caliber MT5621 is officially chronometer-certified by COSC.
Methodically baby-stepping forward, Tudor added a date function to the movement — while dropping the power reserve indicator — to create Caliber MT5612, which debuted in 2017’s Heritage Black Bay Steel. Many of the contemporary Tudor models that took watch aficionados by storm upon the brand’s U.S. return, specifically in the Black Bay and Pelagos series, have recently seen their outsourced ETA movements replaced by either Caliber MT5621 or MT5612. For the Pelagos LHD (“Left Hand Drive”), Tudor modified the MT5612 caliber to include a left-side winding stem.
And when Tudor resolved to introduce its own dedicated chronograph movement, it worked not with Rolex but with Breitling, adopting that brand’s Caliber B01 as the base for Tudor Caliber MT5813, which made its auspicious debut in 2017’s Heritage Black Bay Chronograph. (The partnership is mutually beneficial; Breitling uses the stripped-down, sans-chronograph version, the MT5612, as a base movement for its Heritage Superocean model.)
Caliber MT5813 brings to the table all the considerable attributes of the B01, which made headlines as Breitling’s first in-house movement back in 2009 — bidirectional winding, a column-wheel controlled chronograph mechanism with a vertical clutch, a 70-hour power reserve in a single mainspring barrel, a non-magnetic silicon balance spring, a speedy 28,800-vph frequency, and a COSC chronometer certification — while still being recognizable through the exhibition caseback as belonging to Tudor, with its industrial-look, matte-surface plates and skeletonized rotor. Tudor has indicated that more collaborative efforts with Breitling may be on the horizon, meaning venerated Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf’s other little watch brand may be stepping even further from Big Brother’s shadow in the near future.
To read last week’s article showcasing the in-house movements of Nomos Glashütte, click here. And join us next week as we wrap up the series with the watch brand that is newest to the movement-making game, Geneva’s Raymond Weil.