The below is my (Long) review of a Tudor North Flag I just received from Timeless Luxury in Texas. I decided to do this review even before I bought the watch. There’s a lot of reviews out there (this watch has made one heck of a news splash) but I haven’t seen much that addresses the things WIS care about. Specifically, how good is the quality, How does the clasp work, how does it fit, what’s it like to own, etc. In other words, I hope to answer the kind of questions that I wanted to know but wasn’t able to ask.
First, a little Tudor History:
Tudor has historically been the value brand for Rolex. By selling Rolex quality cases with less expensive movements supplied by ETA and Valjoux, Tudor allowed buyers the ability to purchase a case with dramatically better water resistance than the competition and a movement that was perhaps not as good as Rolex’s manufacture movement, but still excellent for anyone that didn’t need or want a chronometer. Not a bad plan at a time when watches were business necessities.
However, it turned into a problem when mechanical watches became luxury goods. In the United States at least, the perception was that Tudor was a poor man’s Rolex. Not exactly what you want to project to luxury buyers. I remember when I was in high school looking at Rolexes and Tudors in a watch store and thinking I’d rather have the Rolex even at the higher price. Not a fair judgment given the quality of Tudors, but a commonplace attitude none the less. Tudor pulled out of the US market completely in 2004, though it continued to be sold in other parts of the world.
In 2007, Tudor changed its brand strategy and became the more daring and experimental side of Rolex, sort of the way Seiko uses the Ananta line in relation to the Grand Seiko line. Starting in 2013, Tudor re-entered the US market, making a heck of a splash with the beautiful vintage inspired Black Bay and with the toolish and technically brilliant Pelagos. Overnight Tudor shed its perception of a poor man’s Rolex.
In March of 2015 Tudor completely rocked the watch world by coming out with their own manufacture movement. It wasn’t just a Me Too movement either. The specifications are VERY impressive: 28 jewels, chronometer performance, free sprung balance, 70 hour power reserve, Silicon hairspring, etc. Even more impressive, they launched it in two watches with price tags that are shocking because there is virtually no price premium for this awesome movement. Prior to the launch there wasn’t anything else out there from any brand I know of that doesn’t cost at least $1000 more for the same or lower specifications. Some watches that used to look like screaming bargains at $5000 suddenly started whimpering. So impressive is the new Tudor movement that it could be argued it’s better than the legendary Rolex 31xx movement used in the majority of Rolexes sold. Incidentally, Rolex also announced a new Rolex movement at the same time with some of the tightest performance specifications ever on a mechanical watch. Something I expect to see quickly rolled out across the entire Rolex family in order to justify the price premium over Tudor.
Buying the Watch:
Even though I didn’t see it in person until I pulled it out of the box, I wanted this watch from the moment I first read about it. I’m a total sucker for Genta styled watches with integrated bracelets. I had to wait until North Flags started showing up in the US which took about 3 months. When they did, I contacted Timeless Luxury to see if they had any in stock.
Why Timeless Luxury?
Alaska has no Tudor AD so I started looking outside my home state. Timeless Luxury popped onto my radar from a BlogtoWatch.com article that interviewed the owners. I was impressed that a young couple just went and did what I think a lot of us watch enthusiasts like to imagine ourselves doing- start a watch store. Also, I noticed that Timeless posts a lot of watch reviews on WUS and they carry a lot of brands I like. They also carry a lot of high value to price ratio watches like Damasko, Grand Seiko and Nomos. Finally, it was clear from reading their reviews that they’re watch enthusiasts in the business of selling watches, not a jewelry store in the business of selling jewelry. I like that and since they recently became a Tudor AD, I called to see if they had a Tudor North Flag they could sell. Surprisingly, they had one in stock and before I could think about how pissed my wife would be, I ordered it.
During the call I spoke with Dan Broadfoot, one of the owners interviewed by Ablogtowatch - Always nice to talk to the people who run the business. It was a completely frictionless transaction. Timeless shipped the watch FedEx next day delivery the same day I ordered it. In short, great service and I got the watch less than 24 hours after paying. Not bad for shipping to Alaska. One thing I also noticed: Timeless set the watch to Alaska time before leaving the store.
I would definitely buy from them again. I’m planning on laying over in Dallas in a couple of months so if they’re not too far from the airport I’ll probably stop in and check out the store.
On to the watch review:
First, the Specifications:
Case Diameter: 40mm W/O crown
Lug Width:about 12 mm
Distance Lug-to-Lug: about 49 mm
Movement: Tudor MT5621 COSC Certified
Case Material: 316L
Case Finish: Brushed
WR Rating: 100M
Antimagnetic Rating: Unkown
Shock Resistance: Unkown
Band: Leather or Steel integrated bracelet. Mine came with the steel bracelet
Lume: Appears to be the Same as Rolex’s Chromalight.
Observed Accuracy: within 1 s/d
Positional Variance: About 3 seconds across 6 positions (That's really good)
The watch came in a fairly typical white cardboard outer sleeve, a black cardboard outer box, and a fairly hefty padded watch box. It looks a little boy racer, but it’s well made. Better looking than a Grand Seiko box, not as good as a Damasko box. In short, a box that will live happily for years in the back of a closet.
The Watch Body:
The North Flag is a new watch design, launched by Tudor along with the new movement. Stylistically it borrows from some other Tudor designs (such as the Ranger) in dial layout and hands, but it also mixes in a fair amount of Gerald Genta’s design DNA in the shape of the case and integrated bracelet. Genta created some of the most legendary watch designs of all time (such as the AP Royal Oak, the IWC Enginieur, the Omega Constellation, and the Patek Nautilus) and the North Flag has a similarly modern look. Here’s picture beside my Rolex Oysterquartz, which also shares a little Genta design DNA.
That said, it has its own elements which are unique, starting with the Bezel. Some people like it, some don’t. It does make the watch look thinner on the wrist, which may be why Tudor did it. Also, the bright yellow second hand and Power reserve indicator might be too bold for a lot of people. Personally, I think without the splash of color it would be boring. The dial is flat black, which means it's a good thing there’s no anti reflective coating on the outside (fingerprints would be a problem). If you like the Pelagos dial, you’ll probably like this one. If not, well not. Finally, the flat top of the watch body rolls over to the lugs with a bit less sharp edge than a lot of other Genta designs. A dress watch the North Flag is not, but this watch was meant to be a practical daily wearer for someone who wants a nice watch and doesn’t spend much time in a suit. For someone like me (I spend a lot of time in the field and in a casual office) it’s a great choice for every day wear. My wife really likes the look which I take as a good sign.
Quality of construction and machining tolerances are, as one would expect from an organization as famous for QC as Rolex is, absolutely outstanding. In comparison to my Sub-C, the tolerances are as good, which means they’re as good as anything on the market. Period. The case and bracelet finishing isn’t quite as fine but he differences are a reflection of less expensive finishing choices. An appropriate compromise for a watch intended to be a daily wearer “tool” watch for people who are OK with scratches. All the finishes are brushed, which makes sense on a watch that is meant to be a working man’s watch.
For those that like looking at their movements through a display back, this Tudor accommodates you. The movement is not traditionally decorated with Geneva swirls and stripes (more of a blasted finish). It does not look like an inexpensive movement, but it won’t wow your friends with it’s raw beauty. It reminds me of a land rover more than a BMW Z4. Not sexy, but clearly high quality to those who know what to look for. Lots of other watches that are better choices if you value beauty over function, but this watch movement is a BOSS movement and reflects in my mind the design philosophy behind Tudor: Quality where it counts.
About that movement:
It’s accurate. On the wrist mine is within a second per day. Positional variance is well within COSC requirements at about 3 s/d across 6 positions.
This and the new Pelagos are the first watches Tudor has ever made that are COSC certified. As you can tell from the picture, it has a free sprung balance with micro stelae type rotational inertia adjusters. Not so obvious is the silicon balance spring. It was only a few years ago that this would have pushed this watch into the hyper expensive range and makes the watch fairly resistant to magnetic fields. Tudor (as far as I can tell) doesn’t publish its magnetic resistance, but I’m betting it's way better than 5000 A/h resistance.
It also has 28 jewels, a 70 hour power reserve, and a power reserve indicator. Pretty awesome set of spex for a watch that is priced at less than $4000.
Looking at pictures of older Tudors (Never owned one), the bracelet is one of the areas where the lower price point of Tudor really showed. Not that they look bad, so much as just not particularly great. That isn’t true on the Pelagos or the Black bay, and it definitely isn’t true for the North Flag. The links are screwed (which seems pretty much standard on watches in this price range now) and the clasp is a well made folding clasp with a keeper. Some parts are stamped rather than machined and no, it’s not as good as a Rolex clasp, but still very well made.
How does the watch fit?
The watch dial looks large for 40mm because of the relatively thin bezel and the flat black dial. That said, it’s got a very short Lug to Lug distance of 48mm (more or less) and the end of the lugs drop a little to help it hug your wrist. This is a watch that can be worn by a wide range of wrist sizes. My wrist is 7-¼” around and not very flat and it fits very well.
The value proposition:
First and foremost this is a tool watch. If that’s not your thing, this isn’t your watch. For me it represents what I value in a watch. Utility, performance, and quality of construction. It has all these things in spades. I was wondering what trade-offs Tudor would make compared to it’s big brother and I think they made the right choices. The machining tolerances are best in class, the finishing is more utilitarian (not low quality, just not alternating polished and brushed surfaces and complex shapes), the bracelet, while not as good as Rolex is as good or better than the competition, the movement is absolutely a home run, and it looks masculine and refined. In it’s price range there are watches that make prettier movements, and better finished cases, but none that can match its performance.