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Can’t find a Rolex? Try Tudor

Four fantastic alternatives from Rolex’s younger brand

Celine SimonFeb 23, 2022

As popular Rolex models become harder to find (and pricier), some shoppers are looking for other options. Thankfully, there’s Tudor, launched by Hans Wilsdorf in the early 20th century as a more affordable alternative to his beloved Rolex brand.

Today, Tudor is thriving with a vast collection of fantastic high-quality watches for relatively accessible prices.

Tudor no longer includes Rolex-branded parts in its watches, boasting its own assortment of in-house-made movements, but there are still several design similarities between the sibling brands.

So if you can't find the Rolex of your dreams, then why not give Tudor a go? There's a good chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what’s available — and how much they cost.

Here are four Tudor alternatives to popular Rolex watches. (Quick side note — while all of the below Tudor watches are part of the Black Bay collection, they are indeed different models offering distinctive looks and features.) Let’s get into it.

Rolex Submariner (left) and Tudor Black Bay dive watches. (Images courtesy Rolex and Tudor)

1. Rolex Submariner alternative: Tudor Black Bay

Let’s start with the ultra-popular Rolex Submariner, which is not only the most desirable dive watch in the market but also the gold standard of the genre. These luxury divers are sold out at authorized dealers and sell well above their original sticker prices in the secondary market.

For example, take the Submariner ref. 124060, the newest iteration of the no-date Submariner that debuted in 1953. It features a 41mm stainless steel case water-resistant to 300 metres (1,000 feet) and a black ceramic unidirectional rotating bezel engraved with a 60-minute scale. There’s also a black dial with highly luminous hands and hour markers along with a three-link steel bracelet. Plus, there’s a sapphire crystal protecting the dial and a 70-hour automatic movement (made in-house) powering the watch.

If you’re lucky enough to find a new Submariner ref. 124060 at an authorized Rolex store (you probably won’t) then it’ll carry a US$ 8,950 price tag. The more realistic scenario, however, is that you’ll have to buy it from the secondary market, where ref. 124060 prices range from $13,000 to $23,000.

Enter the Black Bay ref. 79230N, which is Tudor’s version of a high-end dive watch. It too has a 41mm stainless steel case, a three-link steel bracelet, a black dial, and a black 60-minute bezel. There’s also a sapphire crystal and an in-house-made Tudor 70-hour automatic movement inside.

The Black Bay leans into its vintage aesthetic while the Submariner is all about modernity.

Side-by-side, the similarities between the Submariner and the Black Bay are unmistakable. Yet there are important differences. The Black Bay leans into its vintage aesthetic while the Submariner is all about modernity.

The Black Bay includes retro touches such as a domed sapphire crystal, a riveted bracelet, and warm-coloured details on the dial, which looks like it's aged over decades. The Black Bay also features an old-school aluminum bezel instead of the Submariner’s contemporary ceramic bezel.

And while the dial layouts are similar, the Submariner includes Rolex’s recognizable “Mercedes-style” hands while the Black Bay features Tudor’s famed “Snowflake-style” handset. Finally, the Black Bay is water-resistant to 200 metres (660 feet), which is 100 metres less than the Submariner. But let’s be honest, that's more water resistance than you’ll ever need.

Design details aside, the biggest difference between the Rolex diver and the Tudor diver is the cost. The BB 79230N (with a steel bracelet) retails for US$ 3,900 and prices for pre-owned Tudor Black Bay ref. 79230N watches start as low as $3,100.

Rolex (left) and Tudor GMT watches with so-called "Pepsi" bezels. (Images courtesy Rolex and Tudor)

2. Rolex GMT-Master II alternative: Tudor Black Bay GMT

Not long after Rolex unveiled its first Submariner watch for divers, the brand debuted the GMT-Master in 1955, specifically for airline pilots. Thanks to a clever combination of an extra hour hand on the dial pointing and a 24-hour marked bezel, the Rolex GMT-Master allowed pilots to read two time zones simultaneously.

The latest version of that groundbreaking watch is the Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO, complete with the iconic blue and red bezel nicknamed the “Pepsi.” That bi-coloured bezel sits on top of a 40mm stainless steel case, which houses a black dial with the familiar four-piece handset and date window at 3 o’clock.

The date window is magnified by the ubiquitous Rolex Cyclops lens that protrudes from the sapphire crystal and the watch runs on a new-generation automatic movement. Rolex offers the current GMT-Master II Pepsi with a choice of a three-link Oyster bracelet or a five-link Jubilee bracelet.

What’s the price tag for the newest edition of an iconic Rolex sports watch? Officially it’s US$ 10,550 but expect to pay at least $25,000 for a pre-owned GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO in the secondary market.

Expect to pay at least $25,000 for a pre-owned GMT-Master II ref. 126710BLRO.

Tudor released its own Pepsi version a few years ago, in the form of the Black Bay GMT ref. 79830RB. Though Tudor’s version is slightly larger than Rolex’s, coming in at 41mm, the two models are obviously cut from the same cloth. Like the Rolex Pepsi, the Tudor Black Bay GMT sports a blue and red bezel (Tudor calls it burgundy) with a 24-hour scale, a black dial with four hands and a date window, and a three-link steel bracelet.

However, the Tudor variant doesn't include a magnification lens on the window (which many watch enthusiasts prefer since it’s more symmetrical) and the bezel is fashioned from aluminum rather than ceramic. And the Black Bay GMT’s 200m water resistance is twice that of the Rolex GMT-Master II’s 100m rating.

Tudor sells its version for US$ 4,175 but savvy shoppers can pick up a Black Bay GMT 79830RB in the pre-owned market for as low as $3,300.

The Rolex Daytona Cosmograph (left) and Tudor Black Bay Chrono chronograph watches. (Images courtesy Rolex and Tudor)

3. Rolex Daytona alternative: Tudor Black Bay Chrono

Ah, the Daytona. Few watches elicit as much excitement as the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. Part time-telling device, part mechanical stopwatch, and 100 per cent iconic, the Daytona turned out to be Rolex’s dark horse. When it was released in the early 1960s, the Daytona was a flop. Yet today, vintage, retro, and modern Daytona watches are not only immensely collectible but also exceedingly expensive. The most expensive Rolex ever sold was Paul Newman’s vintage Daytona, which sold for US$ 17.8 million in 2017.

When it was released in the early 1960s, the Daytona was a flop.

The Daytona 116500LN is the most current steel chronograph in Rolex’s lineup, fitted with a 40mm case, black ceramic bezel, and three-link steel bracelet. Rolex offers the 116500LN with a choice of black or white dial, each version punctuated with three subdials and the Daytona name in red. Like all modern Rolex watches, the Daytona comes with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and an in-house-made automatic movement.

In today’s market, buying a brand new Daytona 116500LN from a Rolex dealership at the MSRP of US $14,550 is a steal. The secondary market currently values Rolex Daytona 116500 watches anywhere between $34,000 and $55,000. Once a flop, now a flipper’s dream.

For great-looking black and white steel chronographs without an astronomical price tag, turn to the Tudor Black Bay Chrono ref. 79360N. These sporty Tudor chronographs have 41mm cases topped with black aluminum tachymeter bezels. There’s also a pair of screw-down pushers on the case to start, stop, and reset the chronograph function.

Like Rolex, Tudor offers its newest chronograph with either black or white dials, however, the layout is slightly different. Instead of three subdials, the Black Bay Chrono only has two — but it does include a date window at 6 o’clock.

Price-wise, these models sell for US$ 5,235 (with matching steel bracelet) at retail. Pre-owned Tudor Black Bay Chrono ref. 79360N prices are slightly higher, ranging from $5,800 to over $7,800.

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 (left) and Tudor Black Bay 41, both entry-level, everyday luxury watches. (Images courtesy Rolex and Tudor)

4. Rolex Oyster Perpetual 41 alternative: Tudor Black Bay 41

The Oyster Perpetual is the simplest model in Rolex’s current catalogue, combining the company’s renowned water-resistant “Oyster” case with a “Perpetual” automatic movement. The watch features straightforward time-only dials and no-frills stainless steel construction. Despite its restrained design, the Oyster Perpetual collection offers plenty of variety in terms of sizes and dial colours.

Even Rolex’s entry-level models are flying off the shelves. The latest Oyster Perpetual 41 ref. 124300, which has only been around since 2020, is the largest size with its 41mm case. While the retail price for these basic Rolex watches is US$ 6,150, prices for pre-owned Oyster Perpetual 124300 watches with black dials start at just under $10,000 — and can go for more than twice that for colourful dial variants like turquoise and yellow.

Even Rolex’s entry-level models are flying off the shelves.

If you don’t want to hand over that type of cash for an understated everyday steel watch, then Tudor makes a watch very similar to Rolex’s version at a fraction of the cost. The Black Bay 41 ref. 79540 also has a 41mm steel case, time-only dial, and steel three-link bracelet. Tudor’s version doesn't have an in-house-made movement. It’s still automatic (with a power reserve of 38 hours) but it’s an outsourced caliber. It does, however, have a better water-resistance rating of 150m compared to the Oyster Perpetual’s 100m guarantee.

A new Black Bay 41 is reasonably priced at US$ 3,275 and a pre-owned Tudor 79540 with a black dial and steel bracelet can be purchased for under $2,500.

The Shield or The Crown?

Although owning at least one Rolex watch is a goal for many, opting for a less expensive (yet super-cool) Tudor may be the move right now. It’s no secret that the Rolex market is in overdrive. With a Tudor timepiece, you get to own an excellent Swiss-made premium watch with a history (and design language) that’s closely linked to Rolex while also saving big bucks. That’s smart.

However, choosing the perfect watch is an emotional endeavour. And if the heart wants Rolex, then it wants Rolex and nothing else will suffice.

Regardless of which brand you end up buying, don't pull the trigger on a Tudor or a Rolex before you search luxxee for options. We’re here to help you find the best luxury watch deals in one easy-to-compare spot.