Tudor Prince Date vs Rolex Daytona
Everyone wants a Rolex Daytona. Everyone, even if they won't quite admit it to themselves. Where other watches sit in categories with similar contemporaries, the Daytona has somehow forged a class of its own. It's flashy without being gaudy, it's expensive without being obnoxious, it's different without being offensive. With the now-discontinued 116520 fetching anywhere from £10,000 and rising, for many, it is and always will be out of reach. But what if you could have one for £3,000? Or, at least, the very next best thing?
Watch our video review of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116520 and the Tudor Oyster Prince Date 79280
It's important to know that Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf made his watches popular by carving niches. He was a businessman, a marketeer—a leader, and not a follower, sometimes to a fault. Other brands simply made watches, but Wilsdorf and his company had a Rolex for deep-sea divers, for scientists, transatlantic pilots—even for speleologists. No stone, if you'll excuse the pun, was left unturned.
In 1946, Wilsdorf did something to expand his audience even further, something which, on the face of it, seems like madness—he undercut his own product by selling rebranded Rolex watches at a fraction of the price. These days this kind of multi-brand management is very much the norm—think of the Volkswagen Group, which shares componentry from its cheapest brand, Skoda, all the way up its most exclusive, Bugatti—but back then it had only been a few decades since this business practice had even been established by household goods company Procter & Gamble.
The classic Daytona 116520 is one of the most desirable watches ever made
Wilsdorf managed this brand mitosis in a particularly clever way, so as not to damage the Rolex name. By removing the most expensive component of his Rolex watches—the Aegler movement—and replacing it with something cheaper but still reliable, he created a viable alternative for an audience for whom Rolex was out of reach. Everything else—case, dial, hands, bracelet, crystal—was shared, so the transition was simple. It was a process Wilsdorf had actually trialled much earlier under his own name, but this time he gave it its own: Tudor
Tudor operated alongside Rolex in this subsidiary fashion until the early 2000s, when the affordable sister-brand tried something of a failed breakaway. A period of radio silence followed, until a second attempt to re-establish itself was instigated in 2010. This time, with the good looks and affordable price of the Heritage line to lean on, Tudor found success, earning respect as a unique brand in its own right.
For a quarter of the price, sister company Tudor has the Oyster Prince Date
Tudor's rejuvenation has certainly been filling the spotlight in recent years, but if you take a look back at the period between the brand's 1946 launch and that first failed marketing push, there are some gems hiding away that are worth a closer look.
And this is one of them, the Tudor Prince Date. The similarities with the Daytona are uncanny, with components like the crown, pushers and bracelet almost identical. The shield logo may give this away as being a Tudor, but it doesn't take much of a detective to establish that the parts on these two watches have something of a shared heritage.
For instance, elements like the bracelet share product codes that are very clearly from the same family. Earlier iterations of this chronograph were, in fact, originally shipped from the factory bearing the Rolex crown logo on much of its parts.
While the Daytona is the original, and the classic...
It's the beating heart inside that separates these two watches most. Whilst this Rolex 116520 has an in-house calibre 4130—and its predecessor the heavily modified, El Primero-based calibre 4030—the Tudor makes do with a workhorse Valjoux 7750.
If you've ever owned an automatic chronograph watch that costs less than £5,000, chances are it had a 7750 inside. It's characterised by its 12, 6 and 9 layout, plus the date window at 3, has an action that requires a bit more pressure than the 4130 thanks to a cam-actuated mechanism instead of a more expensive column wheel one, and has that tell-tale 7750 wobble on the wrist when the rotor weight is at full spin.
It's a movement that's been the backbone of the Swiss chronograph since its creation in the 1970s as a Calibre 11, El Primero and Lemania 5100 competitor, and has been in more watches than all those other movements combined. It may not be the prettiest, or the most compact, but come the nuclear apocalypse, they'll all still be running.
The Tudor provides a very close experience for a fraction of the cost
Its slightly cumbersome size is what gives the Tudor its slight increase in bulk over the Rolex. It's up by a millimetre to 41mm, and a little thicker to boot. The dial conforms to the 7750's layout, which doesn't share the balance of the Daytona's 3, 6 and 9 dateless layout, and adds a magnifying window to the crystal. Still, it remains comfortable and well-balanced, perhaps even offering a more modern size to those who might feel the Daytona is a little on the delicate side.
At a little under £3,000, this Tudor is an almost unbelievable bargain compared to the Daytona. And while it will never be a Daytona, for someone who has given in and admitted that they'd like one, but just can't stretch that far, it offers way more of the experience than its price tag would suggest. For now, this is still something of a well-kept secret, but it won't be forever. Prices on these classic Tudors are creeping up, and it won't be long before the Prince Date is something of a posterchild itself.
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