Many observers were surprised by the simultaneous presentation of the Rolex GMT Master II in steel with red and blue Cerachrom insert and the Tudor Black Bay GMT with matt burgundy and blue anonised aluminium insert (you can note the different chromatic terminologies). These two watches obviously evolve in different segments but have a certain family look, reinforced by the colors of their respective bezels. Why the decision to release these two watches during the same edition of Baselworld was taken when Tudor's strategy in previous years was to distinguish itself from Rolex ? The Tudor Black Bay GMT would not be too inspired by its prestigious cousin from the Geneva Manufacture ?
Once the effect of surprise has passed, it is time to return to the strategic scope of this decision. And from my point of view, Rolex and Tudor have achieved a master stroke: the two brands have just hit very hard the competition in the GMT sport-chic segment. For me, there is no doubt and for two reasons: the evolution of the image of Tudor and the work done by Rolex on its new model.
I am convinced that such a decision would not have been possible five years ago. The image of Tudor was at the time linked to that of Rolex for the wrong reasons. Tudor then appeared as a kind of more affordable Rolex but without a real identity. All the work done by the Tudor teams, relying in particular on the success of the Black Bay collection was, not to get away from Rolex as it is written regularly (which besides would have been stupid .. .), but to define Tudor's own identity. Over time, thanks to a significant increase in the perceived quality (finishes, in-house movements) and aesthetic details contributing to the definition of this identity (snowflake hands, crown, glass shape etc ...), Tudor has managed to exist on its own while taking advantage of the quality image of a Rolex affiliate company.
That's why Tudor can afford now to release a Black Bay GMT "Pepsi". This watch would have been previously perceived almost exclusively as a lower category "GMT". Today, it exists as it is, with its own qualities such as the use of a in-house movement. Moreover, the strict comparison of performance between the two watches is very illustrative: the Tudor Back Bay GMT doesn't have to blush against the Rolex GMT Master II and even offers a superior water resistance! However, we shall not forget that the Rolex is positioned on another dimension on which we will come back later.
But then why daring such bezel if the Tudor Black Bay GMT has enough credibility to avoid any comparison with the Rolex GMT Master II? Simply to tackle the competition in an extremely crowded price segment, that between 2,000 and 4,000 euros.
That's the paradox: Tudor seems to be criticized for using a Pepsi bezel while the competition is doing it too. So, why shall they deprive themselves? The restored image of Tudor, the quality environment of Rolex, the in-house movement make the Tudor Black Bay GMT become one of the most credible GMT watches at a price certainly superior to that of a Tag Heuer Aquaracer GMT but which remains, all in all, reasonable (3,350 euros for the version with leather strap and 3,650 euros for the version with steel bracelet). I want to add that this watch is also timely released to bring a new dynamic into the Black Bay collection thanks to its complication and the aesthetic differentiation brought by the bezel within the Tudor catalogue.
And then there is the GMT Master II. Reading the table would suggest that the Tudor offers as much for a much more reasonable price. So, why should we be interested in the GMT Master II? Simply because it is distinguished by two key elements that make it the reference of the GMT watches in steel.
The first asset is the perceived quality. By manipulating and handling this watch, I felt all the small touches brought by Rolex that make this watch a step ahead compared to its predecessor. I liked the visual rendering of the bezel insert, I liked the subtle work on the case (particularly on the lugs) to make it more refined and I especially liked the presence of the Jubilee bracelet.
The latter has two virtues: it gives a more cosy and luxurious style to the watch and above all, it allows to distinguish at first glance the steel version from the white gold version with blue and red Cerachrom bezel. The situation is already complicated for owners of this version who must accept the use of the same insert in the context of a watch which is four times cheaper. At least, the use of a different bracelet motivates them to acquire also the steel version. And from this year, the gold version is offered with a blue dial ... Rolex has avoided cloning its watch in two different materials. The situation could have become very complex because of aesthetic similarities but Rolex did it with cleverness (some may find this a bit too cynical) and even hopes to revive the flame of customers of the version in white gold: the capacity to convert a frustration into motivation, it's great art I must confess.
The second asset is the new 3285 movement. Its technical performance (its 70-hour power reserve, a precision announced between -2 and +2 seconds per day, the Chronergy escapement that improves the energy efficiency of the movement, etc.). ) make it as the 3235 caliber adapted to the GMT context. It proves to be very practical in use thanks to the independent hour setting system by one hour step which is also present on the 3186. Like any change of generation of movements, the differences are not necessarily eye-cataching considering the qualitative homogeneity of Rolex. But the improvements are real with always the same objective: to enhance the comfort in use brought to the owner of the watch.
And above all, once put on the wrist, the magic operates. Yes, it's a Rolex GMT Master II in steel (or better said... in Oystersteel) with a blue and red Cerachrom bezel. No, it doesn't seem to be a big novelty at first glance. Yes its price is 8,500 euros ... And very quickly, the seriousness of the construction, the quality of execution, the care to detail make the watch very attractive, not to say: irresistible. And there, undoubtedly, the difference in price compared to the Tudor is explained and becomes more obvious. Simply because the Rolex GMT Master II in steel becomes the absolute reference of this type of watch.
I come back to the original point. If I had to summarize in two sentences the formidable strategy of Rolex and Tudor, I would do it this way: a few years ago, the Tudor Black Bay GMT would have been perceived as an affordable version of the Rolex GMT Master II in steel. Today, the Tudor Black Bay GMT and the Rolex GMT Master II Steel are the references of their respective segments. A subtle difference? No, a fundamental one.
Thanks to the Rolex and Tudor teams for their warm welcome at Baselworld.