Tudor North Flag Hands-On: Upping the Ante With Its First In-House Movement
Big news from Baselworld: The new North Flag is the first Tudor watch to feature an in-house movement.
And it's mighty fine on the wrist.
Tudor was founded in 1926 by Rolex patriarch Hans Wilsdorf as a less expensive alternative that would offer the same robust performance; a big part of that value proposition has always involved using stock movements brought in from outside suppliers. Creating its own movements is a huge step forward for Tudor and a major shift in the brand’s identity.
The North Flag is immediately recognizable as a modern Tudor watch. Its 40mm steel case has a satin finish and a combination steel-and-black ceramic bezel. The dial is also matte-finished and has luminous markings at each hour as well as a subtle date window at 3 o'clock. Bright yellow accents add some color and the hands recall those of the Ranger, last year's big release. It's sporty, it's cool, and it doesn't get caught in the bling-watch bear traps that so many sports watches succumb to today.
Unlike any previous Tudor or Rolex, though, the North Flag has a sapphire caseback, letting you see the new MT5621 movement inside. This is a truly in-house movement—yes, designed and made by Tudor. It's automatic, chronometer certified (meaning it's extremely accurate), and resistant to both shocks and magnetism. Decoration is clean and attractive without being showy. It has a 70-hour power reserve, counted down on the dial side by a disc with a painted hand pointing to yellow markers. It also has hacking seconds, meaning they stop when you pull the crown, letting you set it precisely.
Watch buyers have been all but demanding in-house movements from brands over the last few years. Because of the significant R&D, manufacturing, and personnel costs associated with designing and making a watch movement independently, it's seen as a major source of both value and individuality to consumers. Additionally, Swatch Group is in the process of restricting sales of ETA movements (a popular supplier owned by the Swatch Group), ratcheting up the pressure on outside brands to find alternatives before the well runs dry.
On the wrist, the North Flag is comfortable with angled integrated lugs and a more modest size (40mm as opposed to 41 or 42mm, like most Tudors) that allow it to sit evenly. Though the bracelet adds a little heft, it's a suitable daily-wear watch with either strap option. Little details such as the layered bezel and the power reserve disc make it feel like a much more expensive watch than it is.
And that brings us to the price. As announced at Baselworld 2015, North Flag will set you back $3,550 on the leather strap and $3,675 on the steel bracelet (and it will ship in April, not late 2015 like many watches shown this week). Let that sink in for a minute.
This means that even with the in-house movement, the North Flag sits squarely in the middle of the $3,000-$5,000 price range you're used to with Tudor (plus it will hit stores in April instead of later this year). The price could easily be $1,000 higher without making most interested customers bat an eye, and keeping this watch under $4,ooo is a statement by Tudor that its mission is to continue upping the ante without jumping price segments.