Watches - Buying Guides

Is the Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190 the next collector's watch?

It's the most economical way into vintage Submariners, and alongside its Rolex counterpart, the Submariner Ref. 16610, Tudor's Ref. 79190 is almost a spitting image. But one thing is changing: Tudor is becoming increasingly cool.

Where once a Tudor watch might have been a “poor man’s Rolex”, today the brand has a strong personality of its own. Rolex’s little brother has been on fire over the past few years, knocking out creative styles and hitting a hipper, more contemporary vein. But now that Tudor is cool, what does this mean for its older watches, which still often sell for over a thousand pounds less than their Rolex counterparts?

With the Heritage Black Bay and Pelagos collections, Tudor is proving itself to be willing to take risks, something that Rolex, with its long-cemented image, is not able to do. Tudor is growing up, taking with it only the blueprints of past watches and Rolex’s stratospheric commitment to quality. It's even recently started making in-house movements, scratching out the one major difference between the brands.

Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190

The last time Tudor made a Submariner was in 1999. Back then, the Rolex Submariner in circulation was the Ref. 16610. The two watches were very similar but there were two reasons to buy the Rolex over the Tudor: the name and the movement—a Rolex-own as opposed to an ETA. But nine out of ten of the world’s population couldn’t give two hoops if the movement is made under a Rolex roof or an equally able competitor, and even less are likely to notice a functional difference in their lifetimes. The name was the kicker, and in our culture paying £1,000 for prestige was and still is a perfectly normal scenario.

The Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610 VS the Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190
A Rolex Submariner Ref. 16610 and a Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190.

There are, of course, a few subtle differences between the Rolex Ref. 16610 and the Tudor Ref. 79190. They have the same 40 mm stainless steel Oyster case with the Rolex coronet stamped on the crown and case back, same sapphire crystal, same magnified "Cyclops" date and same “Mercedes” hands. But the Tudor only dives to 200 m as opposed to Rolex’s 300 m, and the dial features the Tudor shield as opposed to the Rolex coronet. Also, the Tudor has only two lines of text under the hands, which looks neater than the Rolex’s four.

Being a nineties model, the Tudor Sub Ref. 79190 is developing a nice patina on the hour markers and hands, turning a sort of Brie colour. This vintage look is pounced upon by collectors—good examples are becoming increasingly rare, and newer Ref. 116610LN Subs have a different lume compound that stops it turning yellow over time.

Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190

When it comes to the movements, Tudor has always gone with ETAs. They are all excellent calibres—the 2824-2 is as reliable as a John Deere Tractor, but Rolex went in the popular direction of making it on their own turf. Besides being more movement than you’ll likely ever need, the calibre 2824-2 has other benefits, namely that it can be easily and economically maintained by all watchmakers, while Rolex movements require the sourcing of special parts that aren't readily available outside Rolex walls, which as you can imagine costs a fair sight more!

Tudor was bought by Rolex in 1926, but no one ever really noticed it until it started making Submariners in 1956. The idea for Tudor was to make Rolex-level watches more accessible. Not only did it mimic its big brother, but also it released its watches after Rolex. Unsurprisingly, this meant it always struggled to carve out an identity, and so it ticked along in Rolex’s shadow. It wasn’t until it shed these chains that it finally came into its own. Today, Tudor even has its own dedicated collector community, which is snapping up early Submariners as eagerly as Rolex buyers used to twenty years ago.

Tudor Submariner Ref. 79190

The knock-on effects of Tudor’s recent move into the spotlight has meant that Tudor Subs have increased in value, but it’s still early days. At around the £4,000 mark, the Tudor Sub Ref. 79190 is by far the most economic Sub out there and it's cheaper to maintain too. The fact that it harks back to '60s and '70s-era Subs and ages with patina makes it that much more appealing. So, if you’re looking for something for the future, this one is certainly on my hit list.


For more information, visit our dedicated pre-owned and vintage Tudor watches page.