While Rolex is by far the world’s most famous watch brand and will always attract a crowd, their sister company, Tudor, has been gaining in popularity over the last 10 years. Up until a decade ago, Tudor watches were often seen as “the poor man’s Rolex,” but those days are long gone. On that note, let’s compare Rolex and Tudor and look at their similarities and differences. What better way to do that than to compare their iconic blue and red GMT models?
Let’s not beat around the bush: Both the Rolex and Tudor have a lot in common when it comes to overall looks. It’s no secret that the Tudor Black Bay collection was originally inspired by the classic looks of early Rolex Submariners. However, Tudor claims that the Black Bay was actually inspired by Tudor Submariners from the 50s and 60s.
In the earlier days, Tudor was a more affordable alternative to Rolex. Essentially, Tudor was producing the same watches as Rolex using Rolex components but equipping them with third-party movements. All of that is to say that the designs of early Rolex and Tudor Submariners were basically identical, so the ultimate inspiration for the modern Black Bay’s design can be traced back to Rolex.
If we focus on the current Black Bay GMT (ref. M79830RB -0001), you’ll see it carries the same Submariner DNA as other Black Bay models. This 41-mm, retro timepiece has clear ties to the 1950s, the era during which both the Rolex Submariner (1953) and GMT-Master (1954) debuted. What’s more, its matte blue and red aluminum “Pepsi” bezel looks very nice. It’s also truer to classic GMT watches than the current Rolex GMT-Master with its glossy ceramic bezel. What makes this watch a typical Tudor are its three snowflake hands for the hours, seconds, and GMT time.
While the Tudor Black Bay GMT retains much of the original design, the Rolex GMT-Master has slowly evolved over the decades to become the watch it is now. The 40-mm stainless steel GMT-Master II Pepsi (ref. 126710BLRO) has a more modern feel than the Black Bay GMT and is the first GMT Master with a red and blue ceramic bezel. Another big change came in 2018, when the Jubilee bracelet replaced the classic Oyster bracelet. Although many criticized Rolex’s choice, previous GMT-Masters had featured a Jubilee bracelet, making this newer model historically accurate. Furthermore, it gives the current GMT-Master a more retro feel, and many people love how comfortable the Jubilee bracelet is on the wrist.
Rolex and Tudor used to be miles apart when it came to technology. As mentioned, Rolex has been producing their own movements for decades, while Tudor had been relying on standard supplier movements until recently. This all changed when Tudor introduced their own in-house movements in 2015, quickly implementing them across their catalog. Today both companies equip their GMT watches with their own movements, which reduces the exclusivity gap between Rolex and Tudor.
The current Rolex GMT-Master II is powered by the Rolex caliber 3285, an automatic movement with a 70-hour power reserve. It can display the time in a second time zone using a 24-hour display. It also has a date window with Rolex’s iconic magnifying Cyclops lens.
The Tudor Black Bay GMT gets its power from the Tudor caliber MT5652. This movement also features a 70-hour power reserve and displays the time in two time zones. The Black Bay GMT comes with a regular date display at 3 o’clock without any magnifying lens.
Making a Choice
So, which would you choose? At first glance, it’s a difficult choice because both watches have similar designs and the same features. However, a look at the price tags may help. The Tudor Black Bay GMT with a stainless steel bracelet is available for around $4,300. That’s significantly cheaper than the $10,300 you’d have to spend on a Rolex GMT-Master II.
From a price perspective, the Tudor is the obvious choice. But it’s never that simple. The extra money you pay for a GMT-Master II gives you access to the incredible quality and status of a Rolex watch. Because, let’s be honest, part of Rolex’s attraction is being able to wear a watch from the world’s most iconic luxury brand. Rolex is a universal symbol of success and status. On top of that, the GMT-Master laid the foundation for the Black Bay GMT. If you want the original GMT watch in its newest form, you have to go for the Rolex.
What it all boils down to for most people is how much they’re willing to spend and whether or not status plays an important role. People who want a Rolex will buy a Rolex and won’t settle for anything less. That is, if they manage to find one at its list price. As all watch enthusiasts know, getting a new stainless steel Rolex from an authorized dealer is nearly impossible. Instead, you could look on Chrono24 for your new GMT-Master II; however, such immediate access comes with a hefty premium.
On the other hand, Tudor has made incredible strides in both design and technology over the last 8 years. Today, they are a serious player in the watch industry and have a dedicated fan community. While Rolex has an air of exclusivity around them, Tudor is on the rise and gaining respect by the day. If I had to make the choice, I’d put my money toward a Black Bay GMT. It looks great, has an in-house movement, is more affordable, and, crucially, you can actually get one from an authorized dealer within a reasonable amount of time. Being able to enjoy a watch is so much better than longing for a watch you may never get your hands on.