by Patrick Gilbertson July 01, 2021 11 Comments
It’s no real secret that Tudor have been the major success story in the mid-range luxury watch scene over the last decade. The introduction of the Black Bay range in 2012 set a foundation for a new and long-lasting design trend surrounding watches with a vintage-inspired look. Since then, we’ve seen virtually every other mainstream brand produce watches that are either heavily inspired by vintage watch aesthetics, or straight-up re-interpretations from the back-catalogues.
Today we’re looking at a watch that should tick many of the same boxes as the aforementioned Black Bay range that hasn’t yet achieved the same cult fan following, despite having had a longer production run.
The Heritage Chrono was one of Tudor’s first releases after their UK re-launch in 2009. This re-launch saw the brand take a step away from their usual formula of using Rolex cases with more affordable ETA movements inside, towards a new era centred around the idea of celebrating Tudor’s own heritage in an attempt to create a greater distinction between Tudor and their older sister brand, Rolex.
Unlike the Black Bay that followed, the design of the Heritage Chrono didn’t just take two or three major design cues from a previous model. It is, in fact, the first watch from the Rolex group that is effectively a re-issue of an older model. Which model is it? The Tudor Oysterdate ‘Monte Carlo’.
While it’s true that Tudor lacks the historical Formula 1 ties of Rolex, Longines or TAG Heuer, the brand has been present in and around a variety of other motorsports since the early 1960s. The high point of these ventures was undoubtedly the title sponsorship of the ‘Tudor Watches Racing Team’ which ran a pair of Porsche 906 cars in the World Sportscar Championship during the late 1960s. The link was then rekindled when Tudor became Porsche Motorsports official timekeeper for 2010 and 2011. Additionally, Tudor are responsible for sponsoring a handful of drivers across a range of disciplines as well as sponsoring the Historic Grand Prix in Zandvoort. As part of the sponsorship deal, Tudor awarded Heritage Chrono watches to all of the 12 race winners across the weekend.
Two Tudor ads from the mid 1970's
As well as this smattering of motorsport links, Tudor has a long and well-documented history with racing chronographs. This began in 1970 with the 7000 series of Oysterdates. These were manually wound, Oyster-cased alternatives to the Rolex Daytonas of the period that featured avant-garde dial designs as well as the addition of a 6’o clock date wheel. One year later, Tudor updated their Oysterdate with the 7100 series of chronographs - these were the watches that went on to be affectionately dubbed ‘the Tudor Monte Carlo’ by collectors and enthusiasts.
While unquestionably a racing-style watch, the ‘Monte Carlo’s’ nickname is not a connection to the legendary Grand Prix or Rally, but a reference to the dial’s resemblance to the roulette tables of the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. Original 71/0XXs series watches are highly collectable in todays market, regularly selling for between £15,000 and £25,000.
When creating the first two dial variants of Heritage Chrono, Tudor took most of their inspiration not from the iconic blue and orange ref:7169 but from an earlier grey and orange prototype - the reference 7033 which featured a rotating 12-hour bezel rather than the fixed tachymeter.
A Tudor ‘Monte Carlo’ Home Plate chronograph, ref. 7033 next to the modern Heritage Chrono 0006
Three years later, Tudor used this same formula for another addition to the line - this time with the orange and blue colour scheme and indices from the ref:7169, rather than the ‘home plates’. These three watches (the grey M70330N-0006, the black 0005 and the opaline/blue M70330B-0004) make up the current Heritage Chrono line and are still available from AD’s as well as Tudor’s website. Today we’ll be focusing mainly on the grey dial, as this is the watch I’ve spent the last few weeks with.
The Heritage Chrono features a moderate case diameter of 41.8mm and a lug to lug height of 50.3mm. As these figures suggest, the watch has a notable presence on-wrist. With that being said, those with smaller wrists can still consider the Heritage Chrono as an option due to its vintage-style down turning of the end link’s middle link, meaning that the stated 50.3mm lug to lug measurement is all the wrist space that the watch needs in order to fit your wrist. Additionally, the Heritage Chrono is only 1mm thicker than the small wrist favourite that is the Black Bay 58 at around 13mm thick. For reference, that’s 1mm thinner than the Black Bay Chrono, the same as the current Speedy Pro and only ever so slightly thicker than the current Daytona (which is 12.2mm). In short, the Heritage Chrono will fit wrists down to around 6 ½ inches.
Inside of the two 70’s style contrasting sub-dial sections we have a bi-compax layout that’s actually reversed from the original Valjoux-powered Oysterdate Chronographs. The left register is responsible for counting elapsed minutes and the right is a continuous seconds hand. Both subdials, along with the branding, are extremely well printed.
One of my favourite features of the watch is the triangular orange chronograph second hand, a period feature that was shared by many other legendary 1970’s chronographs such as the Citizen Bullhead, the Omega Dynamic and the Heuer Monaco. The dial is finished with a well-integrated 6 o’clock date that provides excellent symmetry - you barely notice it until you need it. While there is a lot going on, the dial doesn’t look overly busy. This is likely down to the minimal dial text reading simply ‘Tudor, Geneve’ just below the polished Shield logo at 12 o’clock.
Along with the case size and finishing, one other aesthetic change that’s been made between the original 7033 and this modern rendition is the ditching of the 6’oclock cyclops and domed acrylic crystal. In its place, we have a flat sapphire crystal which looks to have a few layers of clear anti-reflective coating on the inside.
Like the screw-down chrono pushers and 3 o’clock crown, the bezel also features a unique knurled finish. Aside from setting itself apart from every other coin-edge bezel sports watch, the finish is very well done with a tactile, easy to grip feel. The 48-click bi-directional aluminium bezel features 12-hour markings that enable the user to track a second timezone by simply lining the bezel up in accordance with the time difference. Unlike the Pelagos, or any other Tudor watch that features a rotating bezel, the Heritage Chrono doesn’t feature a tinny click, but more satisfyingly silent thumps.
Faux rivet haters will be pleased to see the lack of the odd-looking screw heads on the flanks of the Heritage Chrono’s bracelet. Instead, we have a classic three-link oversized Oyster bracelet with a pleasing taper from 22mm at the lug to 19mm at the clasp. The clasp itself is as good as anyone could hope for on a sub £10,000 sports watch. Its build quality is incredibly reassuring and the ceramic bearings on the inside of the flip lock catch should mean that the action will continue to be nice and snappy even after prolonged use. Like the bracelet, it features a brushed top and polished flanks. If you do buy the watch on its bracelet, and I recommend you do, you get a tasteful black, grey and orange fabric strap in the box. The strap is great and looks fantastic on the watch, however, I found it to be too short for my 8-inch wrists.
For hardcore movement enthusiasts the Heritage Chrono’s internals will be the elephant in the room. Due to the fact that Tudor didn’t strike up their movement deal with Breitling until 2017, there was no go-to option when it came to choosing an off-the-shelf movement for what was, at the time, Tudor’s only automatic chronograph. Rather than going for a traditional, integrated automatic chronograph movement like the ETA 2894 or the Valjoux 7750, Tudor opted to go for a modular set-up. A modular chronograph is different to an integrated chronograph in that it’s not built ground-up to be a chronograph. So, the Heritage Chronograph features what Tudor call a Calibre T401 - an ETA 2892 (3 hand + date) with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module sitting on top of it (dial side).
This ETA/Dubois Dépraz set-up is nothing new. In fact, before the B01 was developed, Breitling used a modular set-up in a large number of their automatic chronographs. Dubois Dépraz work at all levels within the movement industry. Their ‘bolt-on’ modules, which can provide complications such as moon phase, power reserve, chronographs or even perpetual calendars, are a great way for brands to expand their product lines while still using their own base calibres (look at the Offshore series). Other popular brands that use/have used Dubois Dépraz modules include Omega, Ulysse Nardin, AP and even Richard Mille in their RM011 and RM016 (£100,000+ watches).
The ‘T401’ in the Heritage Chrono features a standard 42-hour power reserve with unstated accuracy and no information regarding a service interval. While I don’t own a timegrapher, for the fortnight that I had the watch in the house Toolwatch claimed it was running at around +10 seconds per day - not awful, but not good enough for a £3,390 watch. With that being said, I’m not sure if the watch that I had in had been serviced since its purchase date in 2017.
When it comes to service costs, there are some conflicting opinions floating about. Some claim that due to a modular chronograph’s nature being, well… modular, if something were to break in-between services, a whole teardown isn’t necessary as it would be for an integrated chronograph. However, more reliable sources tell me that integrated movements take less time to service and are therefore less expensive. Either way, it’s not going to be an inexpensive job.
The good news is that in my (admittedly brief) experience with this genre of movements, this is the best implementation of a modular chronograph that I’ve seen. Yes, the Heritage Chrono is fairly chunky, but no more than if Tudor had opted for an integrated off-the-shelf automatic movement like the aforementioned Valjoux 7750, for example. You also don’t get any of that annoying rotor wobble. Additionally, Tudor have managed to align the chrono pushers with the crown - a rarity amongst most watches that use modular chronographs (Speedy Reduced, TAG Monaco, AP Offshore) where the two pushers often sit slightly higher than the crown. I assume the movement also has a nice Tudor rotor but I haven’t dared to check on this watch and I can’t find any photos of the T401 online. Another plus point is the action on the pushers. While you might not get the satisfying clunk of the Valjoux Cal.234 that was in the original Monte Carlo, the activation feels much nicer than on the module-based Monaco that I’ve previously experienced (which pretty much felt like a quartz chrono to start, stop and reset).
While it’s likely a bi-product of that modular set-up, I really like how close the dial is to the crystal. It really makes the watch look a whole lot less bulky on-wrist. However, the main thing that stands out as soon as you get the Heritage Chrono in hand is just how well built it is. It’s weighty, yes (around 165 grams), but due to how solid the bracelet is, it’s not top-heavy like you’ve might expected. The fit and finish of the end links is excellent, the bezel action is addictive, the threading on all three crowns is buttery, the etching on the clasp is deep and luxurious and the dial is really attractive. If you’re in the market for a racing chronograph and versatility isn’t a big priority, I can’t think of a better watch for less than the RRP of £3,390.
Additionally, all three watches in the Heritage Chrono line seem to hold their value surprisingly well for a vintage-inspired watch. The 0006 ref that we’re looking at today regularly sells pre-owned for £2,900 to £3,200. This means that if you buy one and you don’t like it, you’re not going to be bitten with Brietling-esque depreciation when you come to sell it on.
What's not so Great
As with pretty much all watches, there are a few imperfections. For a start, the date wheel is too deep into the dial. This can really negatively effect it’s legibility, especially in low-light environments. By adding a module to the movement, you’re adding more space between the base movement (which carries the date wheel) and the crystal - this is why a lot of watches with a module inside use some form of cyclops to combat the problem (the UN Marine Diver, AP Off-Shore).
My next gripe is purely aesthetic - I don’t understand why Tudor felt the need to dip coat the ends of the crown and pushers with black paint. It doesn’t add anything to the usability and it does take away from the vintage look of the watch.
My final complaint regards the servicing of the T401 Calibre. It’s going to be far tougher to find a third party service centre that can service the mishmash movement meaning you’ll likely have no choice but to go for a Tudor service. With this in mind, if you’re going to buy a new Tudor Chronograph, there is potentially a better value option. While the Heritage Chrono’s list price of £3,390 is by no means bad value, the newly released Panda Black Bay Chronos cost only £510 more at retail. That’s £3,900 for a similarly good-looking watch with the addition of a well-regarded Breitling movement with COSC accuracy and a 70-hour power reserve. Food for thought of the prospective Tudor Chronograph buyer.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the Tudor Heritage Chrono and I’ve really enjoyed wearing it over these past weeks. It’s not so much a ‘vintage-inspired watch’ (no faux patina, no fake rivets, no pressed clasp), but more a product that takes key style ques from a previous design while utilising modern production methods and materials while also taking modern consumer demands into account.
The Heritage Chrono is a ‘real’ Tudor in many ways. From a brand standpoint (or Tudor’s original purpose): it’s a Rolex quality case, a more affordable price point and an ETA movement. From an enthusiast standpoint: design freedom/out-there styling that Rolex can’t or won’t do. Another key distinction, you can walk into an AD and buy the Heratige Chrono tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on this 70's inspired chronograph? Let us know in the comments below.
Dimensions: Case diameter 41.8mm, 50.3mm lug to lug 22m lug, 13mm height
Movement: Calibre T401 (ETA 2892 + Dubois Dépraz module)
Power Reserve: 42 Hours