The Story Behind the Watch
If you’re new to the website and haven’t read a single thing until right now, I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m a huge fan of Tudor Submariners. They carry the same build quality and exacting standards as their Rolex brethren, but feature subtle design tweaks that add an enormous amount of character and personality. The reference 76100 that lays here before you digitally is a perfect example of that: dial and bezel colors that were never offered by Rolex, a “lollipop” hour hand with a huge circular chunk of lume, and a beautiful glossy dial with matte markers that have aged to an exceedingly pleasant, creamy shade. I’ve voted with my wallet (often) and for me, Tudor is the way to go in the vintage Sub marketplace. So with that preamble out of the way, let’s move on to the watch at-hand, shall we?
I’m an “Average Joe” when it comes to collecting watches. I don’t have any insane dealer hook-ups or collector community back-door deals that funnel rare vintage watches into my coffers. Instead, I rely on the usual channels, and this 76100 Tudor, like many other watches in my collection, came from the largest and most visible market for vintage watches on planet: eBay. As I was browsing listings one night before turning in, I saw pictures of a blue 76100 taken in poor lighting with very little in the way of a textual description. In other words, it was the perfect score to jump on quickly. Depending on who you talk with, however, this introduces a moral quandary.
There are many collectors / speculators / dealers who lean on sellers heavily in an attempt to have the auction canceled despite it being underway already. Do I like it? No. Do I think it’s ever going to change? No. While I admire people who draw a hard moral line in the sand and refuse to entertain skirting the auction rules, in my opinion, all that does is concede some amazing watches to others who haven’t drawn a similar line. The middle ground that I’ve settled on is to inquire about a seller’s flexibility in auction format (asking if they would consider changing it to a BIN format), and if the seller says “no,” then it’s as simple as that. In this particular case, that was exactly what happened. The seller said that bids had already been placed on the item and he wanted to see it through to completion, and I simply replied that I’d keep an eye on the auction’s progress. I was still locked into the piece and felt that it had a good chance to fly under market value due to cracked lume and poor pictures (see below for what it originally looked like).
About three days later, I received a message from the seller saying that he had screwed up the listing’s shipping status – he had accidentally checked “local pickup only” and despite multiple calls to eBay, he was unable to modify the listing. The encounter with eBay had irritated him so much, that he wanted to stick it to them by pulling the listing and would instead just sell to me privately. This imbued me with a tiny sense of guilt for all the other “Watchers” who wouldn’t get a fair crack at the Tudor, but for all the morality talk above, there’s also one universal truth in vintage watches: never look a gift horse in the mouth. I didn’t know why he’d singled me out of all the messages he’d probably received, but I also didn’t care…I wanted this Tudor more than any other Tudor Sub I’d come across and I wasn’t going to let it get away.
After agreeing to buy it privately, we hopped on the phone and I was given the backstory of the actual watch. The seller was a former Navy diver in Los Angeles, but wasn’t the original owner of the watch. That (dubious) honor went to his friend from the Navy, who was given the watch by his long-term girlfriend while still in the service. The owner wore the watch for the next 18 years, and given the appearance of missing lume and a stretched bracelet, it’s safe to assume that he used the Sub as it was originally intended. After that 18 year stretch, however, the owner and his girlfriend broke up and out of spite, he threw the Sub in a drawer, where it remained until being re-discovered during a move in early-2017. Upon finding the Sub, the owner decided to give it to his long-time friend (the eBay seller), saying that it brought up bad memories and since it had been a gift, he didn’t care about selling it – though his friend eventually went on to sell the watch on eBay and give the profits to the original owner. Though the prior owner ended his relationship with this blue Sub on bad terms, I feel the equal and opposite emotion when I look at that faded bezel and blue dial. It would take a catastrophic event for this one to ever leave my collection.
Before I end this, it’s time for a hot take. Like, a really hot take:
I firmly believe these blue 76100 lollipops are the most underappreciated Submariners (both Rolex and Tudor) on the market today. [ducks to avoid the VRF crowd’s flying projectiles] One can argue the general importance of the Rolex brand as reason enough to discredit that statement, but when I say “underappreciated,” I’m weighing the cost to acquire a solid example against the rarity of such an example and the attractiveness of the reference. At the price that I acquired this lollipop, it was roughly half of the price of a similar condition Snowflake Submariner (and the Snowflake Sub comes in at about 75% of an equivalent 5513 Submariner). I’m sure hardcore Rolex historians would point to something crazy – “But but! Don’t forget about the triple-underline, 1/2 red text, slightly-larger-than-average crown, T22 domed 5513 Submariner with transitional 1680 caseback!!!” – [ducks again] but to the average vintage collector, the blue 76100 Submariner provides unique looks, a beautiful glossy dial with matte markers, unrelenting quality, and everyday wearability. If that can be topped on the Submariner value spectrum, I’d like to see it.
The Nitty Gritty
This Sub wasn’t perfect when I originally took delivery of it, but it had a few truly exceptional characteristics that set it apart from all other examples that I had seen over the prior few years. The first that’s worth discussing is the faded bezel. In the world of vintage Rolex, an original fat font bezel with this level of fade commands a sizable premium on its own. Just like everything else in vintage Rolex, however, there are an abundance of bezels that have been artificially faded to achieve the look that’s coveted by so many collectors. Many collectors likely don’t care, but it never sat quite right with me to swap out an original bezel for one that was chemically altered. Thankfully, the one-owner (ish) provenance of this Tudor assured me that nothing other than salt water, sun, and the California air were responsible for the fade.
The second attribute that was somewhat rare is the creamy shade of lume on the glossy dial. I’ve developed a theory that Tudor’s lume formulation was altered in the mid-1980’s, as reference 76100s or 79090s rarely exhibit darker patina, with the exception of early blue Submariners. I may be off – and that theory is based solely on scrolling through hundreds of examples through the years – but in any case, the pleasant hue of the lume on this example is a perfect complement to the faded bezel.
Finally, the case on this Sub is superb. As you can see below, the original chamfers are present and have been preserved despite the watch’s high usage rate for 18 continuous years. Just as the watch’s provenance allayed any unease about the bezel’s fade, the story behind the watch removes any fear of a re-cut case from the equation.