wristwatches, especially vintage ones, invite the obvious comparison to Rolex. Which is fair — Tudor is, after
all, a subsidiary of the world’s most famous watchmaker. Still, the two have always differed in terms of movements, advertising, and audience, and
it’s those differences that thrill collectors today. This stainless steel Tudor 7017 from circa 1969 has a Rolex-made case and
proprietary Rolex innovations in the movement, lending Rolex heft to Tudor value. — Chris Greenberg
Since its inception in 1946, Tudor was designed to be the everyman’s alternative to its higher-priced Rolex sister. Collectors new to Tudor may not realize that Rolex pulled
Tudor from the US market for a while around the turn of the millennium. Unless you knew someone who had a Tudor or you traveled overseas, most
American collectors and enthusiasts had little contact with these watches during that time. Tudor re-launched in the States during the summer of 2013 with
an impressive collection of vintage-inspired watches. Pieces like the Heritage Chrono Blue (deconstructed previously, here) and the Heritage Black Bay clearly paid homage to 1960s Tudor
dive models and became almost instant hits. That vintage Tudor look was back in the spotlight.
Among the classic 1960s Tudors, this 1969 reference 7017 drew obvious inspiration from its vintage Rolex counterpart. On the surface, it’s almost
identical to the Rolex Day-Date reference 1802 released in 1958. Side by side, however, the Tudor is larger: 39mm in diameter compared to the Rolex’s 36mm.
It’s a subtle illustration that, in addition to designing unique tool watches, Tudor continued to look for ways to separate itself from its sister company
during this time period, even with dressier pieces.
A Stainless Alternative
Tudor used Rolex cases and crowns during the 1950s and ‘60s, but another immediate difference between the two is their weight — Rolex Day-Dates are always
heavier because Rolex only made them in precious metal. Only Tudor offered the Date in steel, which makes sense given its everyman appeal. By Rolex’s own
words, the Day-Date has been ’Worn by more presidents, leaders and luminaries than any other watch,’ and is so nicknamed the ‘President’; by comparison,
this steel Tudor is known as the ‘Jumbo.’ As nicknames go, it’s not as glamorous, but remember that Rolex made the case, and was already at that time
making steel cases for legendary sport models like the Submariner and the Daytona.
The Dial Says it All
The silvery dial on this watch cannot keep a secret. Everything relevant to the 7017 is spelled out: The applied Tudor shield indicates this piece was
created after 1969, when the rose logo was retired; the words “Oyster Prince” on the dial sum up everything else. Launched in 1952, this line of Tudors
deepened its legitimacy beyond its connection to Rolex. The Oyster Prince was the first Tudor to be fitted with the self-winding rotor and waterproof Rolex
case. (The latter development was so significant that the case back is engraved: ‘ORIGINAL OYSTER CASE BY ROLEX GENEVA.’)
That rotor and case had been proprietary Rolex engineering since 1931 and 1926, respectively, and added to Rolex’s international reputation as tools for
people of discerning taste and means. Never mind that Rolex used an in-house movement and Tudor sourced its movements from Valjoux or ETA —
these additions to the Tudor Prince were an important acknowledgment of the extent to which Rolex valued its sister company.
The Crowning Detail
In 1953, Rolex improved its Oyster system by introducing its Twinlock winding crown, which, combined with the screw-down case back, guaranteed a Rolex’s
waterproofness to 330 feet. A glance at the crown of this 7017 shows the Twinlock designation — an underline mark beneath the Rolex coronet.