Like a zeppelin in a Jules Verne novel, the Tudor P01 descended on the watch world at Baselworld 2019, and almost immediately, people had opinions. The Tudor P01 (an abbreviation of Prototype 01) featured a chunky case with an embedded dial, a separate crown jutting off to the side, and a mixed-materials strap. Some collectors felt the watch had distinct steampunk vibes, while others located the design inspiration smack in the middle of the 1960s. Whatever the origins, its arrival at Baselworld 2019 was divisive. Now, it’s been over a year since this unusual watch appeared. Has it gained any appeal in the intervening months? Or it is the design just as jarring, even with the benefit of a little time on the market?
Why Did Tudor Make The P01?
Designers in any industry can be known for insularity and occasionally veering way off track in product design. In the case of Tudor, designers had access to years of prototype designs for Rolex and Tudor. There are likely reams of paper with sketches and specs for every single watch developed since the 1930s. Having that type of access would be very tempting for a designer looking for inspiration. Staring at hundreds of Black Bay 58s (itself a vintage reimagining) or contemplating yet another Sub redesign could leave a team of designers yearning for more.
And, Tudor has the freedom to do that in a way Rolex and other luxury watch brands don’t. Reinventing the wheel isn’t always a recipe for disaster. An unusual watch design can do very well if collectors are ready for a new approach, just look at the throwback integrated bracelet design on Tudor’s brand new 2020 Day-Date Royal. It also plays with a larger case and lugs but introduces an integrated bracelet -- and people are fawning over it. Tudor has seen major success from refreshing vintage designs. In theory, it makes sense for Tudor to try that approach again. Unfortunately, the P01 is a watch design that works better in theory than in reality. In general, collectors who buy Tudor watches are looking for classic, timeless designs, people interested in more unconventional timepieces gravitate towards brands like Hublot.
Why Is the Tudor P01 So Unusual?
The P01 really doesn’t look like anything else in the Tudor lineup, especially from the past five years. The design is based off of a watch designed for the US Navy in the ‘60s with a locking bezel. The P01 revives this locking bezel and case design and places a MT5612 movement inside.
Although the design was initially shelved, this type of bezel construction made sense in the ‘60s, especially from a military perspective. Bezels were prone to movement and shifting, and crowns suffered similar issues. But, bezel and crown construction have improved far past the point of needing structural support, so the design retains the aesthetic aspects of the locking bezel without necessarily having a practical reason for its existence.
Who Actually Bought The Tudor P01?
The sales numbers of the P01 can barely approach the blockbuster appeal of the Black Bay 58, but it did have some fans. Adherents of the Tudor P01 claim it wears more subtly than promotional photos, and the profile of the watch is slimmer than it looks. Tudor completists are buying it since it's established itself as an oddity. It’s probably not useful as an investment piece. But, markets are strange, and there’s always the slim chance that an originally maligned watch can be coveted by future buyers.
Even though most reviewers aren’t in love with the design, we have to commend Tudor for pushing boundaries and trying new approaches. While we probably won’t be buying it, we can definitely understand the impulse to try something different. In the end, the explanation for the Tudor P01 is probably the same reason you once bought a shawl-collar cardigan or tried to cook with durian: you wanted something different. After your ill-conceived experiment, you returned to eating honey-crisp apples and wearing sweatshirts. Sometimes trying new things works out, but that’s definitely not always the case. The Tudor P01 might not have been Tudor’s most successful design, but hey: at least they tried!
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Written by Meghan Clark