The Tale of TUDOR’s Chronographs

As TUDOR celebrates 50 years of creating chronographs, we reacquaint ourselves with some of the watchmaker’s most influential chroniclers of time.

The Black Bay Chrono

The very first TUDOR chronograph was introduced in 1970—about half a century ago. This first model, dubbed the Oysterdate, was not only robustly functional and mechanically-superb, it also had a strong visual identity, allowing it to pave the way for 50 years of TUDOR chronographs.

The Debut: 1970

The Oysterdate was TUDOR’s first entry in the realm of chronographs. It featured a manually-wound Valjoux mechanical calibre 7734 movement and a 39mm case, which is pretty common today but was quite imposing by the standards of that time. Also unusual at the time was the graphic design of the dial, with a gray background, black counters and a minute track on a white background. Furthermore, the Oysterdate had luminous pentagon-shaped painted hour markers that earned it the nickname “home plate” for its similarity to the home plate of a basketball field. Lastly, the chronograph minute counter consisted of 45 minutes instead of the more common 30. The Oysterdate was a daring wager on TUDOR’s side, but one that they won as the watch quickly gained a strong following.
Three variations of the sporty Oysterdate were introduced. There’s the Reference 7031/0 with a Plexiglass insert for the bezel featuring a 500-unit graduated tachymetric scale along with Reference 7032/0 which has a satin-finished steel bezel, also engraved with a 500-unit graduated tachymetric scale. The third variant, the Reference 7033/0, featured a bidirectional rotatable bezel with a black 12-unit graduated insert in anodized aluminum. This model, however, never went beyond the prototype stage.

The Casino Aesthetic: 1971

The second generation of TUDOR chronographs—the 7100 series—came out in 1971 and became known as the “Monte Carlo” due to its roulette wheel-style dial. That being said, it still had the same overall style of its predecessor’s dial along with the same case. It did, however, feature a new movement, the manually wound Valjoux 234. Three variations were created in this series: The TUDOR Oysterdate reference 7149/0 with Plexiglass bezel, the Reference 7159/0 with its satin-brushed steel bezel and the Reference 7169/0 which featured a rotatable bezel with a 12-hour graduation to tell the time in a second time zone. The latter, in particular, was based off the 7033/0 prototype.

The Big Block Era: 1976

The year 1976 saw the rise of the third-generation TUDOR chronograph series, the 9400 series, which featured a very important technological innovation: These were the brand’s first chronographs equipped with self-winding mechanical movements. Dubbed the Prince Oysterdate, these new watches were notably thicker to accommodate the rotor and collectors would nickname them “Big Block”—a byname that endured when its successors, the 79100 series, came out in 1986.

The TUDOR Heritage Chrono
The 7000 series Oysterdate in its unique presentation case

Soft Sapphires: 1995

With its fourth generation of chronographs, TUDOR introduced a new aesthetic. The changes to the new Prince Oysterdates—the 79200 series—were arguably subtle yet significant. The case, for one, became more refined and rounded. The Oysterdate’s distinct silhouette was retained, but it now presented softer lines that were curvier and more rounded. Over the following years, other innovations would follow, including the introduction of a sapphire crystal—which resulted in the “Sapphire Chronograph” nickname among collectors—along with gold-and-steel models and a leather strap.

Return of the Home Plate: 2010

In 2010, to mark the 40th anniversary of its chronograph lines, TUDOR launched the Heritage Chrono. As its name implies, the watch adopted the aesthetics of one of its predecessors, namely the Reference 7033 from 1970. And like this storied prototype, the Heritage Chrono came with two dial variations: gray with black subcounters and black with gray sub-counters. The most important feature of the Heritage Chrono—particularly where fans were concerned—was the revival of the famous “home plate” hour markers. Instead of being painted on the dial, however, the new home plates were now affixed, which create an added sense of visualdepth on the dial. The launch of the Heritage Chrono was followed in 2013 by the Heritage Chrono Blue, which followed the style of 1971’s TUDOR “Monte Carlo.”

Going Ceramic: 2013

Interestingly, in 2013 TUDOR also introduced a chronograph that was a major departure from its usual aesthetics. Named the Fastrider Black Shield, this particular chronograph featured a sporty matt black color scheme and—more importantly—a monobloc high-tech ceramic case. So, besides being a major development in terms of aesthetics, the Fastrider Black Shield also showcased TUDOR’s expertise in material science.

Bringing it Home: 2017

The Oysterdate watches were the link that tied TUDOR to the world of motorsports. At the same time, since 1954, the brand gained a reputation for producing professional divers’ watches of excellent quality. In 2017, these two heritages came together in the Black Bay Chrono. Powered by the chronometer-certified Manufacture calibre chronograph MT5813, the watch boasts a 70-hour power reserve and incredible accuracy. As testament to its quality, the Black Bay Chrono won the prize for best watch under 8,000 Swiss francs at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
What the next generation of TUDOR chronographs will look like, only time will tell. And that time can’t come soon enough.