This is a big one, and something that took a long time to come together: today, we review and compare every single detail of the Rolex Submariner 114060 “No Date” and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black.
It may sound weird today but it’s true nonetheless that, a few years ago, Tudor could not have been as widely considered a viable alternative to Rolex. Times have changed, and tables have turned, though: Tudor has returned to the USA market and, more importantly, has developed a range of super impressive products, all designed to nicely complement the assortment of its parent company – Rolex.
As a direct consequence, we are being asked so much of the time: “Which one should I buy, a Rolex or a Tudor?” There are many, many things to consider from pricing to quality of execution and movements, from history to prestige, and from design to wearability. We did all the hard work for you and compared these two amazing brands in this detailed, hands-on comparison review of the Rolex Submariner 114060 “No Date” and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black Reference 79220N watches.
We will indeed try and look at all the notable specifications and features, basically every single aspect you should take into consideration before making up your mind to go with either one of these pieces. They each are genuinely amazing and hence hugely popular watches – however, although they do look rather similar at first, under the surface they actually are more different than you ever imagined.
We should mention right at the beginning that at Baselworld 2016 Tudor launched an updated version of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay collection, adding an in-house movement to it. That watch, however, will not be available until later into the year and is otherwise extremely similar to what we have here.
That’s right, we are beginning with history – just to get the very basics in place and better understand how these two companies are related.
Established in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, Rolex was officially registered by Wilsdorf on July 2, 1908. The company then moved to Geneva in 1919 and was registered there as Montres Rolex S.A. in 1920. Tudor, on the other hand, was registered in 1926 by the house of “Veuve de Philippe Hüther,” a watchmaker and watch dealer; Wilsdorf acquired the exclusive usage rights to Tudor from this dealer.
Tudor was off to a slow start, though. In 1932, they started delivering watches to Australia – of all places and markets – but it was only on October 15, 1936, that the house of “Veuve de Philippe Hüther” transferred the brand The Tudor to Hans Wilsdorf. It was also at this time that the rose of the Tudor dynasty appeared on the dials.
The real start of the company dates to even later than that, though, as Tudor notes: “Just after the Second World War, Hans Wilsdorf knew that the time had come to expand and give the brand a proper identity of its own. Thus, on 6 March 1946, he created the ‘Montres TUDOR S.A.’ company, specializing in models for both men and women. Rolex would guarantee the technical, aesthetic and functional characteristics, along with the distribution and after-sales service.”
From 1947 onwards, a year after the official launch of Tudor, the shield gradually disappeared from the logo, henceforth comprising only the company name and the rose.
In 1948, the first advertisements dedicated to Tudor were launched. The brand was clearly associated with Rolex, both in the text and in the logo, while the copy emphasized the aesthetics, chronometric precision, and waterproofness of Tudor timepieces.
Branding And Positioning
This is all very interesting for those fascinated by the histories of watch brands, but Wilsdorf’s reasons for establishing a second brand alongside Rolex are what truly matter and what affect how the two brands are positioned today, some 70 years later.
Tudor quotes Wilsdorf in saying: “For some years now, I have been considering the idea of making a watch that our agents could sell at a more modest price than our Rolex watches, and yet one that would attain the standard of dependability for which Rolex is famous. I decided to form a seperate (sic!) company, with the object of making and marketing this new watch. It is called the Tudor watch company.”
So there you have it. Tudor from the get-go was designed to be heavily reliant on Rolex, for obvious economical and financial reasons, and was cleverly positioned at a more affordable price point, without any notable sacrifices in overall quality or dependability. This positioning of the two brands still very much applies, but thanks to major advancements in manufacturing technologies – and with fiercer-than-ever competition in the industry – the picture has become more complicated.
Some people, generally those who have very limited exposure to and understanding of watches and the industry behind it, repeatedly say that Rolex is not an innovative company and that they don’t do enough to further advance or modernize their products. The same people would
probably also argue that the 911 Porsche is the same car as it was 50 years ago… But just because one still tells the time and the other still goes around corners, that doesn’t mean there have not been major, major advancements made to their mechanics – hidden under their finely made metallic exteriors.
There have clearly been some huge steps forward in terms of manufacturing techniques and quality of execution, but the issue of product development leads us to an interesting situation. When one brand has been destined to permanently remain “under” another (in pricing, technical features, exclusivity, etc.), it has to perform one endless tight-rope walk, skillfully balancing between not losing ground to its competitors and at the same time not stepping on the toes of its bigger brother. To stick with the Porsche analogy, most car fans are probably familiar with how the Cayman, the baby-911, has evolved into a fantastic sports car that admittedly had to be held to keep it from beating the 911 both in performance and value.
Okay, back to watches. Over the last few years, Tudor has experienced incredible success, taking a larger chunk of sales out of its already extremely competitive segment of relatively affordable Swiss high-end watches priced between $2,000 and $5,000. However, Tudor has to find ways to maintain that momentum, and for that, it knows it has to be able to show more than good-looking, heritage-inspired watches. Here’s how Rolex and Tudor advanced in tandem.
Rolex manufactures most all components of its watches, including cases, bracelets, clasps, movements, and dials in-house. For over ten years now, they have been using 904L for their steel cases and bracelets in lieu of the much more common 316L. Last but not least, Rolex has been making slow, but steady progress in refining their movements, all of which are now tested by them to be accurate to within -2/+2 seconds per day – as we were first to bring you the news in more detail here.
So, the question is: how can Tudor measure up by being different and, preferably, more than its competition, while not breaching Rolex territory? Let’s put the Rolex Submariner “No-Date” Reference 114060 and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black Reference 79220N side by side and see how they compare.
Rolex dates the beginning of its history with dive watches to 1953, when it all started with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Reference 6204. Tudor’s involvement in dive watch manufacturing began just one year after Rolex, in 1954, with a watch and a designation that were eerily similar to those of its parent company: the Tudor Oyster Prince Submariner Ref. 7922. Both watches in today’s review pay homage to their trendsetting predecessors – but enough with history already, and let’s see how they measure up against one another.
Case & Bezel
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black comes in a 41-millimeter-wide and 12.7-millimeter-thick case, water resistant to 200 meters, and crafted from 316L stainless steel. It is a beautifully crafted case with some finer details that save it from appearing to be overly “tool-focused” or heavy-duty. Highly polished sides, brushed, or rather satin-finished lugs, and – my personal favorite design element – a polished edge that runs along both sides of the case all render the Tudor Black Bay a solid, but refined-looking watch.
The domed sapphire crystal on the front is framed by an aluminum bezel that is equipped with a lumed pip at 12. The bezel may have a notched edge, but it still is rather difficult to grab firmly and move from one to the next of its 60 solid clicks. A 60-minute bezel actually is a genuinely useful little feature and one that I personally use often, which is why I found it all the more annoying that the low profile of the one on the Black Bay is rather more difficult to hold onto and rotate without my fingers slipping off its edge.
The bezel in this instance is finished in matte black – other versions in blue (reviewed here), in brown over a bronze case (hands-on), in all-black over a black case (hands-on), and in burgundy red are also available. Still, it was this version, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black with its black bezel, red triangle marker, and gilt dial that made the biggest splash after the original in burgundy had been released.
The case of the Rolex Submariner 114060 is 40 millimeters wide and 12.5 millimeters thick, coming in slightly smaller in every dimension than the Tudor. Notably, the Tudor measures a full 50 millimeters lug-to-lug, while the Rolex is under it, at 48 millimeters – something to consider for those with smaller, or larger-than-average wrists (more on that further down in the Wearability section).
Rolex uses a Cerachrom bezel on the Submariner. It is a ceramic bezel with engraved, recessed numerals and graduations, which have been PVD-coated with platinum. The ceramic looks fantastic and not only does it look better than the metal one on the Tudor, but is also incomparably more scratch-resistant, ensuring that it will look great ages down the road. Ceramic does not ever fade in color either, so kiss goodbye any patination hopes – in case that is something you were looking forward to.
The Rolex Submariner’s bezel is easier to grab and rotate than on the Tudor and… on a watch-nerdy but important note, the Rolex bezel feels like no other I have ever used. While the Tudor has 60 large, solid jumps from one click to the next, it feels almost overdone a bit. By contrast, the 120-click Rolex bezel feels like a fine-adjust knob on a high-precision engineering instrument. It is buttery smooth but still super precise – this is what it must feel like to tinker with a control panel on a submarine, or open one of those massive old safes seen in the movies. It is so wonderfully over-engineered (but not overdone), that I often found myself turning it for no good reason other than for pure mechanical enjoyment.
Bracelet & Clasp
For both watches, the bracelets are crafted from the same 316L or 904L steel as the cases and have been finished to match the upper part of the lugs. The bracelets’ integration on both the Tudor and Rolex is so good, it’s almost uncanny. They are both amply flexible and neither have under any circumstances shown signs of unwanted friction or getting stuck at any joint. Both three-link bracelets have solid end links, of course, and both also feature beautifully tapered outer links that start right from the case and taper through the first couple of rows.
The key variation between the two bracelets is actually in the clasp, and this does make a world of a difference in wearing comfort. While both clasps work in virtually the same way – featuring a secondary small lock on top that opens and closes with a very reassuring click – the Rolex clasp has a micro-adjust system built into it.
Called the Glidelock, it allows for up to 20 millimeters of extension in 2-millimeter increments. The “Oysterlock folding safety clasp,” as Rolex likes to call it, maintains a thin profile despite this added functionality, and even when you use the Glidelock to make the bracelet a bit longer on warm and humid days, there are no visual signs of you using an extension.
Fine adjustments on the Tudor bracelet can be performed by fitting the end of the bracelet into one of the three holes in the clasp – this allows for a fine tuning in increments smaller than what adding or removing half a link would allow. Needless to say, though, this requires a tool, allows for far fewer settings, and cannot be done as easily as on the Submariner. Tudor knows how to do a micro-adjust (self-adjusting, even!) clasp, as our James Stacey illustrated in his review of the Tudor Pelagos 25600TB Titanium here… they just chose not to include it in the bracelet and clasp of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay collection.
Tudor also sells the Heritage Black Bay Black on a leather strap for a few hundred dollars less than this version on the bracelet – but bear in mind that a good leather strap you can source easily, while such a great original bracelet, you can’t. Also, Tudor gives you a NATO-style fabric strap with either version – which is neat, but is virtually impossible to swap with the bracelet without having the correct tools on hand. Furthermore, this fabric strap feels rather rough to the touch, and not in a nice, rugged way, but rather in an unrefined, unpleasant way. You will most likely not want to ditch the superb Tudor bracelet in favor of the fabric strap.
We have discussed all the factors that determine wearing comfort, so let’s now take a look at how these watches worked on the wrist, based on our wearing experience over an extended period of several months.
While the lugs do not extend to the edge of your wrist on the Rolex, its “wrist presence” is on par with that of the Tudor. The Tudor looks bulky, but never disproportionate, with its wide bracelet links, large crown, long lugs, and massive hands and indices. By contrast, when Rolex updated the Submariner a few years ago, they created a “boxy” look where the Rolex Submariner 114060 appears to be flexing its muscles a bit more than it used to. While the update yielded no changes in diameter (a move that was welcomed by many, but also criticized by some), the lugs are now more rectangular and the crown protectors are more massive. If you like the Submariner but feel that a 40-millimeter watch is too small for you, I suggest you still go and try one on – you’ll be surprised to see how much larger than 40 millimeters it actually wears.
Dial, Hands, & Legibility
What’s impressive build quality good for, if you have to overcome legibility issues? Not much. But fortunately, both the Rolex Submariner 114060 and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black sport excellent legibility, regardless of lighting situations. It is funny how the two watches have the exact same basic index design, and yet their dials end up looking so different. The Tudor’s different, slightly bolder and less serious vibe has been extended to the dial, while the Rolex Submariner looks as crisp and elegant as ever.
The Tudor’s gilt dial with its vintage color scheme of aged gold-ish and bronze-ish prints and plated frames for its hands and indices is not only highly legible, but very versatile as well. It appears to have been intelligently designed to nicely complement the case and bracelet, and the dark grey tone of the dial. It does not have excessive amounts of text and just a few moments after reading it, you’ll quickly forget about the objectionable “Rotor Self-Winding” designation above the 6 o’clock position. The hands are correctly sized and a little detail that brings joy to my OCD-mind is how the hour hand’s and seconds hand’s “snowflakes” are positioned in a way that they too complement one another when they come to overlap. It is a small but thoughtful detail that I to this day enjoy seeing.
The design of the Rolex Submariner’s hands is among the all-time iconic greats – about two years ago, we featured it in our article where we discussed the importance of good watch hand design here. The funny thing is that, although the hands are super legible and work wonderfully with what is called a “Maxi dial” and its larger, bolder indices, they actually are about 5% smaller than they ideally should be. As noted, the minute hand on the Tudor reaches not only the twelve applied indices but also the minute track beyond it – but this cannot be said about the minute hand on the Submariner. OCD alert again, but it is true: Rolex updated the hands on the Explorer I (hands-on here with the new-for-2016 version), and while not as bad a case as on the Explorer, the Rolex Submariner too could use slightly longer hour and minute hands.
Tudor uses C3 SuperLuminova to light up the large hands and indices on the dial of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black. It glows in green and in fact it glows noticeably brighter than Rolex’s Chromalight. The latter lights up in blue, and while, yes, it is not as torch-light bright as the Tudor, Chromalight glows much, much longer into the night. After charging both, the Tudor had barely visible luminescence left in the morning, while Rolex’s cold blue light was still strong enough to make reading the time easy and effortless. While Rolex calls their lume Chromalight, if you are looking for a similar experience, look for watches with BGW9 lume – they have a similar blue, comparably long-lasting luminescence.
Despite the minor differences, reading the time at a glance on either of these watches is as easy as it gets, be it under bright sunlight, under trees and in other situations that normally cause a lot of glare – the domed crystal of the Tudor does not handle glare as well as the flat one on the Submariner, but it still allows for excellent legibility – and also in the dark.
Little details such as quality of text print, indices, and hands are very much comparable, with the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black putting up an honorable fight against the nearly-twice-as-expensive Rolex Submariner 114060. The Rolex Submariner wins this round, though, partially thanks to its 18k white gold hands and indices that appear to be a tad more refined and luxurious than the ones on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black. A small but expensive detail that makes a world of a difference and is also a telling sign of the quality (and price point) of a watch is how the hands have been crafted.
On the Rolex Submariner, they are lengthwise ever so slightly curved, which makes them appear to be more three-dimensional and (positively) reflective – something the flat ones, as seen on the Tudor, cannot measure up to. Worry not, though, as the flat, more rugged hand design on the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black matches the overall design of the watch, they appear to be a good match and do not look cheap or out of place.
One final dial element that sets the Rolex apart from its little brother is the laser engraved flange ring. Marked with “Rolex Rolex Rolex” with a perfectly aligned crown over the 12 o’clock position and the watch’s serial number above 6, it completes the design and refined nature of the Rolex Submariner. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black has a finished, but non-engraved flange ring around the dial, which, again, matches its overall design. With that said, this ring is rather thick and looks a bit plain to my eyes; after wearing the Rolex Submariner, it took some getting used to.
Here’s something less objective, but nonetheless interesting to consider. I will admit that it took me some time to come to this conclusion, but I stand behind it: to me, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black appears to be more playful, more relaxed than the Submariner. This is not at all a bad thing, and it is a serious watch, for sure – but not even remotely as serious as the Rolex Submariner 114060. The Tudor’s faux vintage vibe, adorably bold bracelet, case, and dial design render the Tudor Heritage Black Bay more fun-looking – and while in its design it is closer to its original version from ages ago, it still comes off as a more youthful and fun design when compared to the Rolex Submariner.
The Rolex Submariner’s 100% monochromatic design is as adaptable and versatile as it is lacking at times. I will never ever cease to respect its build quality and near-flawless aesthetics, and I often found myself looking at it in different lighting situations and finding it to be one of the most beautiful watches ever made… But, at some other times, I left it on the shelf and reached for something more exciting.
Movement, Accuracy, & Power Reserve
While at BaselWorld 2016 Tudor updated the Heritage collection with a new in-house movement, the MT5602, the piece we are looking at now, the reference 79220, features the ETA 2824 inside – and until later in the year, in-house equipped pieces will not be available for purchase.
Rolex uses the Rolex caliber 3130 inside the Submariner 114060 “No Date.” It is, of course, an in-house-manufactured movement that offers 48 hours of power reserve, runs at 4 Hertz, or 28,800 beats per hour, and has a reputation of terrific longterm reliability. The ETA inside the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black runs on the same frequency but lags behind Rolex by offering a mere 38 hours of power reserve. Interestingly, the updated Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black with the in-house movement will offer 70 hours of power reserve – almost a full day more than the Rolex… a major, considerable, and genuinely useful advantage.
To be fair, and since we are talking about in-progress updates to these products, we’ll mention that since mid-2015 Rolex has been transitioning to not only obtaining COSC certification for its watches but to also exposing its full production to in-house tests that ensure an unprecedented accuracy of -2/+2 second per day. So, while the 3130 remains structurally unmodified, Rolex told us they have even stricter (and indeed a brand new, integrated testing method that checks accuracy, water resistance, and even power reserve) quality checks that enable them to achieve these results.
This review’s Tudor has no bragging rights about its accuracy, although the watch in the review has been running consistently fast by about 5 seconds per day. Also, Tudor will have its new in-house movement-equipped Black Bay watches COSC certified, which will ensure that they run between -4 and +6 seconds per day.
Both watches have solid steel case backs so you cannot see the movements inside – hence there is little to no point to discussing the quality of decoration applied to their components. With that said, Tudor uses Top Grade ETA movements that offer thorough finishing, and of course the Rolex caliber 3130 also has every bit of movement decoration that will allow it to remain rust free for ages to come.
As was the case with how the bezel on the Rolex felt, the 3130 offers another neat detail: its winding feel. While the ETA inside the Tudor gives you your standard automatic mechanical winding feel, it appears as though Rolex wanted to assure you about the superlative nature of its movement through engineering a unique winding feel into it. Like the bezel, the crown gives a buttery smooth, but precise feedback – something totally unmatched by the ETA movement. The perceived “superlativeness,” solid reputation, and claimed accuracy all at once become tangible in your fingertips when you unscrew the crown and start winding the movement. A little thing, but little things do end up making a big difference.
Price for the Rolex Submariner 114060 “No Date” is $7,500, while for the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black 79220N on the steel bracelet it is $3,425 – which will jump to $3,675 for the new version with the in-house movement.
When you compare the Rolex Submariner 114060 and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black, the Rolex features a number of smaller and larger improvements and advancements over its little brother. Now, when you ask yourself the question: “Yes, but does the ceramic bezel justify the extra $4,000? Does the name, the movement, the bracelet, the clasp…?”
One by one, they clearly do not. But, and this is a big, rounded, full-bodied but: the Rolex is such a complex, complete, and almost totally unbeatable package that it ultimately marks not a few minor updates over an alternative, but rather one big one, as it becomes the complete package.
So, is the Rolex out of your budget? Worry not, as I can say that you will be very, very happy with the Tudor, and chances are you will not feel that you are missing out on anything that important… Or indeed, anything at all. But for sometime later, years down the road, you should remember that you still have the option to upgrade to the Rolex – and when you arrive there, you’ll be set and able to appreciate all the bells and whistles, all the minute advancements it offers.
In other words: the Rolex Submariner 114060 is twice the price of the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black, but is it twice the watch? After spending months alternating between wearing these two watches, this is how I can conclude this comparison review…
The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black is such a fantastic watch – thanks to its terrific build quality and looks that I, for what’s that worth, could never ever get bored of it. Anytime you wear it, chances are you are not going to think or feel that it is lacking in any way; and you won’t likely even have a Rolex on your mind.
On the other hand (pun intended), the Rolex Submariner is a watch that offers improvements in almost every department, from material used, through build quality (including the bezel and movement feel), as well as prestige and perceived exclusivity. From its exterior all the way to its fantastically accurate and reliable movement, it remains largely unrivaled – and if it is in budget, then unthreatened, even.
It would be very difficult to pick one winner in this review, as these two watches, despite their apparent similarities, are vastly different in numerous important ways. Whichever you pick, you will definitely not be disappointed. With that noted, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Black still comes out on top for the simple reason that it put up such an honorable fight against the Rolex Submariner, even managing to pack a few punches here and there, thanks to its comparably excellent build quality, soon-to-be-superior power reserve, and extremely competitive price. tudorwatch.com | rolex.com