In Basel we spoke to Ander Ugarte, Head of Design at Tudor, about the brand’s new watches. Ander’s career has been in watches right from the start: he began at Rolex, worked as a freelance designer for ten years in Geneva, and moved to Tudor when the brand was relaunched nine years ago.
Tudor Black Bay Heritage S&G
The Black Bay Heritage S&G offers a lot of value to purchasers. The black, steel and gold colour scheme is very attractive, with the first fixed link of the bracelet in solid gold, and the other central links in gold cap. It is powered by the in-house self-winding Calibre MT5612, which includes a date display, and provides a power reserve of 70 hours, enough to keep it running through the weekend if you leave it at home. It is COSC-certified, and the case has all the functional features of a dive watch, with a 200-metre waterproof rating. We asked Ander Ugarte about his team’s approach to designing this piece.
“Our objective was to enable the materials to speak in another way. The finish of the gold gives a special warmth to the entire watch, a vintage look. The inclusion of gold gives it a sense of preciousness, but without the bling. It has taken it beyond the status of tool watch. The use of cap gold on the bracelet is important, because it ensures quality. Its thickness is 0.25 mm, which ensures durability of the gold finish. If the watch gets scratched, you can have it re-brushed, and you will still have a perfect appearance. It also allows us to attain the right price, which is very important for our company. If the links were all solid gold, the price would be at least three times as much.”
The Tudor Black Bay Heritage S&G with steel and yellow gold bracelet costs €4,760. Considering the materials used, and the watch’s technical features, it’s a remarkable price. It is also available with a leather strap. Each watch is supplied with an extra canvas strap. The design details include features from Tudor’s history, such as the riveted links, and the black stem of the crown. How does a designer decide which historical features to use, and what to discard?
“The risk with taking inspiration from the past is just to copy old models and make them bigger. I think that inspiration is a good thing, but we are in the present, and we have to make watches for the future. So the details chosen from the past should be given a contemporary identity, and you have to find the right balance between all the elements.”
Do you have to consider the need of visually distinguishing Tudor from your sister company Rolex?
“Of course, historically we are linked to Rolex, but the important thing is Mr Wilsdorf’s vision when he created the Tudor brand, to offer maximum quality at the most accessible price. Ten years ago we were engaged in the search for Tudor’s own identity, but now we have found our way, particularly with this model, the Black Bay. Before designing anything, before a single line on the paper, there was a lot of work looking back into history, analysing our watches from the past, thinking about the essence of our brand. I think that the Black Bay is the essence of Tudor. This is our identity. That’s why Black Bay was a huge success, and so now we are working with new materials, larger sizes, a new colour for the fabric strap, precious metals, extra functions such as the date, and more complicated watches, such as the chronograph.”
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The complimentary fabric strap provided with each Tudor Black Bay Heritage S&G is very different from most NATO straps which tend to be light and flimsy. It is made using the jacquard technique by a hundred-year-old family business in the St-Etienne region of France, and it has a pleasant weight and texture. What is the significance of this added extra for the consumer?
“I think that it is part of our identity to offer this type of strap. At first sight it could be a bit surprising, because NATO straps didn't used to have such a good image, because they cost less. But our version can’t be considered a NATO strap, because it is woven to our specifications. We are progressing step by step with the Black Bay line, and new straps are an important part of this process. That’s why this year we are proposing this denim-style strap. I wanted to have this twill effect, a diagonal texture, and using this kind of fabric strap creates a great contrast with the case.”
Clair de Rose
Clair de Rose is the quintessential women’s watch, and the version launched in 2017 is very different from the preceding version dating back to 2012. It now has a very classical restraint, three different case sizes so that the watch is perfect for every wrist, guilloché on the dial, blue Roman numerals, and the possibility of diamond hour-markers. For all, the price point is very attractive.
“The original Clair de Rose was quite a success in Asia,” said Ander Ugarte, “but we thought that transforming this line into something more classical could give it wider success. I have to say that it is selling very well. The blue spinel adds an extra touch of precious beauty. There are three sizes, 26, 30 and 34 mm, and different strap and bracelet options. The steel bracelet is very nice, with many small links that give it a soft feel and enables it to stay close to the wrist.”
There is no doubt that Tudor is a brand that succeeds in offering an exceptional combination of good looks, quality mechanical movements, and attractive prices. The Heritage Black Bay S&G in particular is a spectacular piece that expresses the brand’s 60-year heritage in dive watches, and its good looks are a tribute to Ander Ugarte and the whole Tudor design team.
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For more Time with Henry, visit our Watches Page.