Inside & Out Vintage: Tudor Prince Oysterdate Ref. 9081/4
How I got this watch: As I announced last Monday I'll be reviewing watches for Theo & harris and this was the first watch they sent me. For more details on how I'll be reviewing these watches click here.
The Tudor Prince Oysterdate Ref. 9081/4 is from 1978 and is currently available at Theo & Harris for $2250
Tudor's return to the US market in 2013 has seen collector's interests in vintage Tudors rekindled. What were once thought of as second rate Rolexes are now highly sought after pieces in their own right. The first Tudor Prince Oysterdate, Ref. 7944, was released in 1955 and was touted by Tudor as the more available alternative to the Rolex Datejust. In a vintage Tudor advert Hanz Wildorf touted Rolex as the horological ideal with Tudors just as good, "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 on that would attain the standards of dependability for which Rolex are famous".
Dependability isn't sexy and whilst Rolex adverts showed them on the wrist of adventures, world leaders and scientists, Tudor's were worn in print by workman, builders and everyday folk. Tudor was never advertised as a luxury object and the focus on affordability and constant comparison to Rolex laid the groundwork for Tudor's reputation in the public eye as a lesser watch. Thankfully now opinion has changed and vintage Tudors are finally being appreciated for their solid craftsmanship and design with one of the most desirable pieces being the 'Jumbo' Prince Oysterdate.
Inside the Ref. 9081/4 is the ETA 2784 which saw the inside of many Tudor watches. The earlier Oysterdates from 1970 had the ETA 2772 non-quickset however later models switched to the 2784 with quickset. The ETA 2784 is a 25 jewel movement with an original power reserve of forty hours. The watch rarely saw time away from my wrist for more than an afternoon so I can't attest to how long the reserve is now but my reluctance to take the watch off speaks volumes as to how much I enjoyed wearing it. Whilst the 2784 wasn't rated for chronometric performance I never noticed any lose of time during my time with the watch. All watches sold on Theo & Harris are fully serviced before sale by their watchmaker but the benefit of an ETA movement is that your prefered watchmaker will be able to service it no problem.
When new the Oysterdate had a claim to guaranteed waterproofness to 330 feet with the Rolex Twinlock crown ensuring the safety of the movement. Whilst I didn't hold this forty year old watch to that claim the crown was still secure with a precise click between positions. I did struggle at first whilst finding the position to re-screw the crown however after finding the knack to it it never bothered me again. There is the slightest wiggle once the crown is pulled all the way out but nothing out of the ordinary for a watch of this age. The hands moved smoothly and the quick-set flicked over sharply.
The reason this watch has been nicknamed "Jumbo" by collectors is because of the large 38mm (37.5mm for pedants) case size. Considering the size of mechanical leviathans that Breitling and Panerai manufacture it's funny to think of 38mm as jumbo at all but compared to the 36mm Rolex Datejust of the period it lives up to it's name. At 38mm wide and 47mm lug to lug the watch is a perfect size for those used to a modern 41mm but long to wear a vintage watch. The proportions between the case size, lug length and dial/bezel are all perfect.
It's hard to describe just how solid a vintage Oyster case feels in your hands. Released in 1926, the Oyster case was the first waterproof wristwatch case to be mass-produced and over the years it evolved to perfection. Those who are used to picking through buckets of decrepit vintage watches at flea markets know the familiar look and feel of cheap steel that's lost all lustre and resilience over the years; not this case however. Hanz Wildorf's words immortalized in steel: Rolex quality at Tudor prices.
The cyclops is as much a part of Tudor's history as it is Rolex so it's presence on the Oysterdate is well established.This is my first instance wearing a watch with a magnification window and to my honest surprise I thought it was helpful. For years my wife has called it "the old man bubble" and up until spending a week with the Oysterdate I was inclined to side with her. However seeing how powerful the magnification is and how easy it makes viewing the date from a distance changed my mind completely.
In 1969 Tudor changed their English rose logo to the shield to symbolize solidity and unfailing reliability and despite seeing many a battle, the dial shield has remained as powerful and strong as ever. It's so great to see all of the hour markers and especially the logo hand applied and it harkens back to an era where that was the norm, not the exception. The detailing on the shield and the hands, with their wonderfully seventies engine turned engraving near the base, might pass by unnoticed on a casual glance but on repeat viewing really show how great this watch is. The lume on the hands has long since fallen away with small remnants still in place but this only added to the charm of the Jumbo.
After forty years it's understandable that the Oyster date is starting to gracefully show it's age. There are a few minor dings on the top and bottom of the lugs with some noticeable marks on the back that betray amateur attempts to remove the caseback and strap. Like all elegantly aging stars should, the dial shows just enough wrinkles to show the world that it hasn't been touched up and looks all the better for it. What was originally a light grey has now faded to dark grey with a stunning patina creating a night sky of stars across it. These patina stars add so much character to the watch and match the same eggshell color of the remaining lume pip at 3 o'clock.
I was sent the Tudor with a shell cordovan Horween brown leather strap however when purchased from Theo & Harris it will come on a chocolate double stitched calf leather strap. The virtue of the Oysterdate is that it can be so versatile; comfortable on a smart leather NATO over a hiking weekend or rocking an alligator strap at a dinner party. I was really impressed with the Tudor Prince Oysterdate during my time with it; The build quality is second to none and with a handful of straps you might not need another watch ever again. Reliability might not be sexy but this watch sure is.
The Tudor Prince Oysterdate Ref. 9081/4 is from 1978 and is currently available at Theo & Harris for $2250. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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