Tudor & Breitling: A New Alliance

Tudor has always been involved in collaborations, on both the development and manufacturing of their watches. The most well-known development partnership was with the French National Navy, the Marine Nationale (or MN for short).

Over a period of many years Tudor used feedback from French military divers to better their Submariner. Improvements included the evolution of the Sub’s case shape, winding crown size and hand design (the iconic “snowflake” hands were a response to the divers’ request for more legible hands underwater). The other partnership was manufacturing based, specifically centered on movements.

One of Hans Wilsdorf’s founding principles for Tudor was to offer a Rolex-quality timepiece at a much more affordable price point. He was adamant that Tudor be as robust as its older brother and so it was a no-brainer to have the Oyster case be a key aspect of his formula.

With its screw-down crown, pressure fit crystal and screw caseback, the Oyster case was both dust and waterproof. Therefore, early Tudor watches from the 1950s and 1960s share pretty much all case components with Rolex watches. So, how did he make it more affordable? The answer was the movements.

The Fluerier Years

It seems that it would have been financially inefficient for Wilsdorf to use the 1950’s bi-directional automatic Calibre 1030 for Tudor, plus he needed something in reserve for the premium price asked for Rolex watches. He opted to use Fluerier as supplier and more specifically for their Calibre 350.

These movements were then modified with the addition of the automatic winding mechanism and oscillating weight; the other WIlsdorf-pioneered horological development he bestowed upon Tudor. The resulting movement was the Tudor calibre 390, which was a true workhorse movement that was advertised in 1953 as being able to withstand a number of feats including a 1,000-mile motorcycle race, 30 hours of pneumatic drilling and 252 hours of coal excavation by hand.

ETA, the 1960s

In the early-to mid-1960s, Tudor began using ETA movements, modified with Tudor branded automatic winding rotors and other chronometric upgrades. The most used, especially in the sports watches, was the 2000 series. The ETA movements were high quality and were easy to furnish to Tudor’s high requirements. These movements served Tudor well and served as the backbone of the brand’s watches until the introduction of Tudor’s first in-house calibre at Baselworld in 2015. As a matter of fact, it is still being utilized in the Heritage Black Bay 36 and 41.

Buying into Breitling

And so, in keeping with the tradition of the brand’s use of movement production partners, at Baselworld 2017 Tudor announced their new Black Bay Chronograph featuring an adapted movement architecture brought in from Breitling. The new Tudor MT5813 is the result of a number of years of collaboration with Brietling and is based on the B01 chronograph movement.

As in previous circumstances, Tudor is modifying the base movement and, in this case, adding its own oscillating weight and silicon balance spring as well as some in-house movement finishing. The B01 was actually Breitling’s first entirely in-house movement following their use of ETA and Valjoux movements. Sound like a familiar story?

And Vice Versa

But more interestingly, 2017 also witnessed another fascinating announcement by Tudor. They will now be supplying Breitling with a Tudor Movement, the MT5613, which is a version of Tudor’s MT5612 that is being created specifically to supply to Breitling. In a similar way to Tudor’s finishing of the MT5813, Breitling will carry out its own finishing and will add its proprietary winding rotor to the Tudor calibre which will be called the B20 movement. The movement is now being used in Breitling’s Heritage Superocean divers watches in the 42mm and 46mm versions.

This collaborative working perfectly illustrates Tudor’s commitment to constant reinvention and the relative freedom (within the confines of the Wilsdorf group) that it continues to enjoy and use to experiment and push the boundaries. And the question has to be asked: Is this a sign that Tudor is testing the water with a view to future collaborations with other brands? Well, I for one hope so because they’re always breaking new ground.

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