Updated from the initial publication date of February 25, 2020
This year marks 50 years since Tudor launched its first chronograph, the Oysterdate Series 7000 or “Home Plate” as the collectors call it. Conceived as a robust, functional watch, this chronograph’s distinct design has endured over the years. And with a resurgence of interest in vintage Tudor collecting, a here’s a quick look at Tudor chronographs over the last five decades.
1970: SERIES 7000 OR “HOME PLATE”
Launched in 1970, the Oysterdate chronograph was sports watch powered by the manual-winding Valjoux 7734 movement. Its 39 mm case was bigger than the Rolex Daytona models of the day (36 mm) and the design was a little more imposing. It appeared in three variations, one of which only existed as a prototype.
Ref. 7031: This featured a black Plexiglas bezel with a 500-unit tachymetric scale. An example from circa 1971 (Ref. 7130/0) is us up for sale the Phillips Hong Kong Watch Auction X in July for an estimate of $15,400-$32,100.
Ref. 7032: Distinguished by a brushed steel bezel with an engraved tachymeter scale.
Ref. 7033: The third version had a bidirectional rotating bezel with a black anodized aluminium insert with 12 hour markings. It was powered by Vajoux 233 movement, but this model never went beyond prototype stage.
All three references had common dial variations in gray and black. The unusual painted luminous hour markers in an irregular pentagonal shape, earning them the nickname "Home Plate", a reference to the home plate on a baseball field. The minute’s register had 45-minute graduations, uncommon since most chronograph registers of the day measured only up to 30 minutes.
1971: The Second Series: SERIES 7100 OR "MONTE-CARLO"
The year 1971 saw the launch of Tudor’s sophomore chronograph, a line that stayed in the brand's catalogue until 1977. The 7100 models were nicknamed “Mont-Carlo” by collectors because of its roulette wheel-style sub dials. This series also debuted Tudor’s signature blue dial alongside the gray and black variants. The watch had the same case as the first series but featured a more sophisticated movement.
Instead of the Valjoux 7734, it was powered by the Valjoux 234. While the 7734 was a cam-actuated chronograph, the 234 was a more traditional column wheel chronograph movement. This new series consisted of three references.
Ref: 7149/0: Featured an Plexiglas bezel and tachymetric scale graduated up to 500 units per hour.
Ref: 7159/0: Fitted with a satin-brushed steel bezel and engraved tachymetric scale.
Ref: 7169/0 became the now mass-produced incarnation of the 7033/0 prototype with a rotating 12 hour bezel with an anodized aluminum insert.
In the early years of the 7100 series, the steel bracelet remained the same as on the first chronographs. It later evolved towards a bracelet still of the Oyster type, but with solid links,
1976: The Third Series: "BIG BLOCK" CHRONOGRAPH (SERIES 9400 AND 79100)
In 1976, Tudor fitted its chronographs with automatic movements for the first time, 12 years before elder sibling Rolex fitted the Daytona with self-winding ones. The Prince Oysterdate’s case was made thicker to accommodate the rotor of the self-winding movement, earning it the nickname "Big Block" in collectors' circles. The name "Big Block" endured when the following 79100 series was introduced in 1989, which underwent only minimal modifications.
The 9400 series consisted of three references, each distinguished by their bezel type, a feature also present in the "Big Blocks" of the 79100 series that came later. Several dial variations including the popular panda and reverse panda configurations were made available.
Powered by a Valjoux 7750 movement now, this was a chronograph that looked different from anything else that Tudor had put out before because the layout was a tri-compax as opposed to the bi-compax ones that came before. The three register layout now included the addition of an hour counter with the counter group shifting left and a date window at 3 o'clock. A Ref. 9420/0 Big Block with a grey dial with blue and orange accents is up for sale at the Phillips Hong Kong Auction X in July 2020 with a pre-sale estimate of $9.000-15,4000.
1995: The Fourth Series: PRINCE OYSTERDATE "SAPPHIRE" (79200 SERIES)
Tudor redesigned its chronograph cases in 1995 and debuted them on the new 792000 series. The case was more Daytona-esque now, a little more refined and rounded. The big change was the presence of a black anodized aluminium insert that replaced the traditional Plexiglas tachymetric-scale bezel insert, and a sapphire crystal with a Cyclops lens was adopted to replace the Plexiglas crystal. It was also available in two-tone (gold and steel) versions and on a leather strap. It was powered by an updated Valjoux 7750 movement.
There were three versions here too.
Ref. 79260: Marked by a fixed black aluminum bezel with a tachymeter scale.
Ref. 79270: Featured a rotating black aluminum bezel with 12-hour marking.
Ref. 79280: Had a fixed polished steel tachymeter bezel
2010: RETURN OF THE "HOME PLATE"
Tudor launched the Heritage Chrono in 2010 to mark the 40th anniversary of their first chronograph. This was a thoroughly modern watch but featured design codes that were inspired by Ref. 7033 (the prototype from 1970). The watch had several refined flourishes like bevelled, polished angles of the lugs, polished crown guards, knurling on the rotating bezel and pushers, and so on. It was also a bigger case – 42 mm as opposed to the 39 mm of the Ref. 7033.
Two different dials, inspired by the options available in 1970, were offered with this new model: grey with black sub-counters or black with grey sub-counters. While the pentagonal hour markers or "Home Plates" were originally painted, the 2010 version had applied hour markers in the same shape for a more sophisticated look. The watch was offered with a black, grey or orange Jacquard fabric strap, a first for the time. A steel bracelet was also available.
In 2013, a new version of this model was launched with a blue-accented dial, the Heritage Chrono Blue. In addition to its colour, this new model also featured a dial inspired by the second generation “Monte-Carlo” chronographs launched in 1971. Both models were powered by an ETA 2892 movement with a chronograph module.
2013: A CERAMIC CHRONOGRAPH
In 2013, Tudor launched the Fastrider Black Shield, a sporty chronograph with a matt black monobloc ceramic case. Initially offered in a black with red hour markers or black with bronze-coloured hour markers, the Fastrider Black Shield was also made available in a high-contrast format, black with white hour markers.
It was powered by the automatic ETA 7753 movement with a rapid date corrector at 9 o'clock. The new model’s strap came in either matt black leather with white topstitching or black rubber.
2017: A MANUFACTURE CHRONOGRAPH
In 2017, Tudor expanded its flagship Black Bay range with a clutch of new references including a chronograph with an integrated chronograph movement for under $5,000.The year it launched, it won “Petite Aiguille” prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
The watch has the signature design elements that the Black Bay is famous for – the domed sapphire crystal, the snowflake hand, the big crown – but mixes these elements with classic chronograph styling. The watch was powered by Caliber MT5813, a new integrated column wheel chronograph movement. It is a result of an interesting collaboration between Tudor and Breitling. It has a 70-hour power reserve, a silicon balance spring, and is a chronometer-rated by the Swiss COSC institute.
In 2019, Tudor unveiled the new Black Bay chronograph S&G (S&G is Tudor speak for two tone steel and gold watches). However, this is not the 2017 chronograph in new livery, Tudor has introduced subtle changes that go a long way. The watch uses a 41 mm case just like the original, but it is now slimmer by more than a millimeter. Thanks to a domed sapphire crystal that was thinned out from the inside, Tudor’s engineers were able to move the hands and dial closer to the roof of the crystal and subsequently pull the movement higher into the case and thereby reduce the thickness of the middle case. If you look closely, there is no rehaut (or flange) to the dial.