Monday 28 September 2020 11:54 am

Westfield's Tudor period

Stepping well and truly from the shadow of big brother Rolex, Tudor has cut the ribbon on a spectacular debut European boutique, in partnership with Watches of Switzerland, right here in London Town. Alex Doak reports

When Hans Wilsdorf patented the dial name ‘Tudor’ back in 1926, little could he have known what journey it would take over the next century. Busy with another little concern of his by the name of ‘Rolex’, he didn’t even market a Tudor watch until 1946. As a confirmed Anglophile who started out in London in 1905, before upping sticks for Switzerland in 1919, he just needed to have ‘Tudor’ in the bank.

It is especially fitting, therefore, that Mr Wilsdorf’s hunch – which became a more accessible but equally dependable alternative to Rolex, then the outright high-end Swiss watchmaker we know today – has found itself back in London with a standalone, bricks-and-mortar boutique; its very first in Europe.

Situated in west London’s lavishly appointed Westfield White City emporium (‘shopping mall’ seems pusillanimous somehow), the ribbon was cut on the Tudor Boutique this Friday 25th September, in partnership with the UK’s largest luxury watch retailer The Watches of Switzerland Group, showcasing its full spectrum of men’s and women’s classic, sport, diving and heritage-inspired timepieces.  

The Tudor Boutique joins an estimable family of 135 showrooms spanning the UK as well as US, including Goldsmiths stores, Mappin & Webb and of course Watches of Switzerland boutiques. As you’d expect from the Group, whose 155 Regent Street flagship has pioneered so many immersive luxury-retail innovations, stepping into the Tudor Boutique is a proper experience. As executive director Craig Bolton attests, “We take great pride in working with our brand partners to showcase their products and stories in the most authentic and engaging way possible.”

Sure enough, Tudor’s 40m² space at the heart of Westfield’s most opulent shopping area embodies the brand’s racy red, black and grey styling in a flawless mixture of high-quality finishes. So many mono-brand spaces end up being a cold, monochromatic put-off, but Tudor and Watches of Switzerland have managed to balance a luxurious sheen with organic warmth and (appropriately enough for the watchmaker itself) accessibility. 

Tudor has certainly come a long way (as visitors will learn from the boutique’s specially curated ‘history wall’, educating customers and exhibiting periodic vintage pieces). It initially mirrored big brother – same design, same water-resistant ‘Oyster’ case, even the same model names – just with more ‘industrial’ mechanics inside. The solid Rolex pedigree with cheaper pricetags, meant Tudor’s own ‘Submariner’ diving watch was snapped up by several military outfits, including France’s Marine Nationale. 

The endorsement of MN’s elite frogmen has made the rebooted and renamed ‘Black Bay’ the posterboy for Tudor’s breathless renaissance of recent years. Combining the famous ‘snowflake’ hours hand and Fifties-era oversize crown with modern manufacturing techniques, the Black Bay is so much more than vintage tribute – like Mini, it’s almost become a sub-brand itself. 

You can see for yourself at the Tudor Boutique: from marine-grade bronze, to steel and gold, to choices of red or blue rotating bezel, even ‘GMT’ and ‘Chronograph’ functionality, the Black Bay has something for everyone. But in a year of cancelled trade fairs and stuttering unveilings, the latest ‘Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue’ (in-store to try on, of course) feels especially well poised. Reined in at an efficient 39mm on the wrist and painted precisely in keeping with the MN’s favoured colourway, the most extraordinary feature is the price, at £2,760. 

Extraordinary because Tudor’s boutique isn’t the only European bricks and mortar it can call its own. That £2,760 buys you access to one of the most coveted, and usually most expensive forms of mechanical movement: one manufactured in-house, rather than sourced from a third party. With investment from Chanel, Tudor is well and truly cutting its ties to big brother and making its own, high-precision ‘chronometer’ calibres at a dedicated new facility in Le Locle. With thanks to Watches of Switzerland, you can now immerse (and invest) yourself in this whole new Tudorverse. 

Mr Wilsdorf would be proud.

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