A Week On The Wrist: The Tudor Heritage Advisor
If you’re anything like me, the prospect of a mechanical alarm wristwatch successfully waking you up each morning is a little far-fetched. But the buzz from the Tudor Heritage Advisor doesn't have to replace the digital drone that emanates from your bedside clock or smart phone to be interesting. Rather, the Advisor's diligent ring is akin to a well-trained assistant: there when needed, discreet when necessary. After a week wearing the Heritage Advisor, I was left with a surprising new appreciation for this uncommon complication.The first Eterna alarm watch, Image via WTheJournal
Though acoustics have been used in horology for centuries in the form of time-repeating mechanisms, it wasn’t until 1908 that Swiss watchmaker Eterna filed a patent for the world’s first alarm wristwatch. Earlier on, monks used (relatively) rudimentary alarm devices to alert themselves to when it was time for various services throughout the day. These “alarm boxes” had no dials, yet served their monastic purpose well.
Alarm functions gained modest traction from the early twentieth century onward. They caught the attention of collectors looking for a useful complication, including the Maharadja of Patiala, who in 1909 had Vacheron Constantin alter a minute repeater pocket watch he comisioned to create an alarm mechanism. Because when you are the Maharadja of Patiala, you can ask Vacheron Constantin to do something like that. To hear the distinctive bell toll, jump to 2:08 in this video from The Road to Basel.
Most watch enthusiasts know of two alarm watches: the Vulcain Cricket and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox. The Cricket, launched in 1947, introduced the modern era of alarm wristwatches. According to historian Zaf Basha, the reconstruction period following WWII helped propel the Cricket to popularity. For civilians returning to active lifestyles, the alarm feature filled an emerging need for useful technology.
Jaeger-LeCoultre wasn’t too far behind, developing manually wound Calibre 489 in 1949 which would go on to power the Memovox. Later in 1956, Jaeger-LeCoultre replaced Calibre 489 with Calibre 815, the first self-winding alarm wristwatch movement. The Memovox is generally the model that comes to mind when most wristwatch enthusiasts think of alarm complications. The combination of clean mid-century modern looks with an unusual function proved popular in the marketplace and vintage Memovoxes are popular with vintage enthusiasts. For a more in-depth look at this piece, see this Week On The Wrist review in which Associate Editor Stephen Pulvirent spent a week with a vintage Memovox.
The late 1940s and 1950s were a high point in the popularity of alarm wristwatches, with market demand decreasing thereafter.
Tudor first introduced the Advisor in 1957. This version, the ref. 7926, featured a 34mm stainless steel Oyster case and used an Adolph Schild manually-wound calibre 1475. The design was par for the course for Tudor at the time, with elements like arrow-shaped applied indices and dauphine hands that were present in a number of Tudor models during the 1950s and 60s.1950s Tudor Advisor via Antiquorum
There were only two hints of the alarm mechanism that sat inside: a red arrow hand emanating from the center and an extra crown at 2 o’clock which was used to wind, set, and activate the module.
Reference 7926 was produced until 1968, and it was replaced by ref. 10050 the following year. The updated model featured squared lugs and a complete redesign of the dial with notched rectangular indices and the Tudor shield logo at 12 o’clock. Baton style hands replaced the original dauphine hands, complementing the more angular look of the case. Additionally, the movement was changed from AS1475 to calibre 3475. Ref. 10050 remained in production for 16 years until 1977.
While the Heritage Advisor is clearly a tribute to these early Advisor alarms, only a few key design details from the original references are carried through. The Heritage Advisor is a modern alarm all its own.
The lightweight 42mm titanium case features a plain steel bezel and is polished all over. The case shape and proportions most resemble the original ref. 7926, yet with a modern twist: plain lugs slope from the case, forming a voluptuous profile. Like the vintage Advisor references, the Heritage Advisor has two crowns, one at 2 and one at 4 o’clock. The former’s function hasn’t changed as it is still used to wind, set, and activate the alarm mechanism.
The Heritage Advisor uses an ETA 2892 calibre, with a custom alarm module developed in-house by Tudor. This is Tudor's only in-house module or movement, a significant draw for the Heritage Advisor. Unlike previous references, the alarm includes an on-off switch at 8 o’clock, which is useful for silencing the function when necessary (and maintaining the mechanism’s power reserve).
Nearly every aspect of the dial is different from previous references. Surrounding the dial, there is a dedicated, beveled track with black markings that is segmented into 15-minute increments, with bold markings for every hour and longer markings for each half-hour. The tip of the red arrow-shaped alarm hand meets perfectly with these markings, allowing you to set the alarm time precisely.
Moving inward, Tudor opted for a mixture of applied Arabic numerals (12, 3, 9) and baton-style indices. A minutes track surrounds the innermost portion of the dial, which is an ecru color compared to the rest of the bright white dial. The power reserve indicator for the alarm function is graphically represented on this portion of the dial at 3 o’clock, along with an aperture for the function’s on/off indicator. Finally, a date subdial extends from the inner dial, taking up quite a bit of real estate at 6 o’clock.
Considering the dial configuration overall, the most recognizable aspect of the original Advisor models is the set of dauphine hands, with the same linear inset of luminous material as the original ref. 7926. These hands were well proportioned from the start, and luckily the alarm hand has regained its full length after suffering an abbreviation in ref. 1537 and 10050.
And this leads us to my main critique of the dial design: there’s just a lot going on. Earlier dials featured one track which played double duty as a minutes track and a track to set the alarm, allowing for a more minimal layout. With the introduction of not one,
but three additional dial components (date, power reserve, and on/off indicator), more could have been done to retain some of the sleek mid-century design present in the original versions.
Of course, function is just as important as form here, and in this instance the alarm function is easy to set and use. The mechanism is controlled by a crown at 2 o’clock. To wind the alarm, the crown must be pulled to its first position and then rotated clockwise. The movement feels sturdy and offers slight resistance when the mechanism is fully wound, preventing overwinding.
For maximum efficiency, it’s best to set the alarm with the function in “off” mode. This may seem like common sense, but in using the function throughout the day, I caught myself resetting without doing so. If I needed to reset the alarm, generally I turned the function off, set the desired alarm time, wound up the crown to power the function, and then turned the function on.
It’s worth nothing that because of the way the system is constructed, when the alarm isn’t sufficiently wound, the striking part is left loose and makes an audible noise, however only if you move your wrist rapidly. The first time I heard this noise, panic set in and I thought I broke the watch. I wouldn’t necessarily consider this to be a downfall – it's just the nature of the mechanism and something to be aware of.
One of the most surprising things about the Advisor was how light it is. The use of both titanium and steel in the case design significantly reduces overall heft, making for a comfortable wearing experience.
The case is rather thick, sitting high off of the wrist. Normally this is something that would bother me, but in this instance it’s actually a benefit. Using the alarm function becomes particularly addictive and you want to be able to access it throughout the day without fuss. The crowns are easy to operate because of the additional height and you don't have to contort your wrist to access them. Because of the modular movement construction, the height is unavoidable here.
In terms of overall look, the Heritage Advisor fits squarely in the realm of "business casual." It’s the type of watch that looks just as good with a casual button-down as it would with a simple sweater. On the included black alligator strap, it errs more toward the business side of things, but a change of the strap could easily give it a more casual look. Though I reviewed the white dial version here, there is also a black dial version that looks a little sportier and edgier if that's your thing.
There are relatively limited options for modern mechanical alarm watches with the same level of fit and finish as the Tudor Heritage Advisor. Naturally, standout examples are from the same brands that pioneered this type of wristwatch with Tudor in the 1950s: Vulcain and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox pays homage to the brand’s original model, launched in 1956. A new self-winding movement was developed for the Master Memovox, Calibre 956, with 45-hour power reserve. To produce the alarm sound, a component within the movement strikes a metal gong suspended from the case back.
Already, the Memovox has a leg up on the Tudor with an in-house movement, but the design is a bit more my taste too. It’s sized rather nicely at 40mm, 2mm smaller than the Tudor. And where the Tudor Heritage Advisor appears slightly congested on the dial, the Master Memovox is considerably more restrained. A simple aperture for the date at 3 o’clock frees up a lot of space on the dial. As a result, the watch retains a very clean look despite the inclusion of both an hours and minutes track around the dial perimeter and a rotating alarm disk toward the center. Of course, all of this comes at a price – the Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox is priced at $11,100 in stainless steel, nearly double the price of the Tudor Advisor.
Vulcain offers a range Cricket reissues, including a 42mm self-winding version, but another model stands out for its smaller proportions. At first glance, it would make sense to compare the Heritage Advisor to its 42mm Vulcain counterpart, however I’ll propose a slight deviation.
The Vulcain 50s Presidents’ Watch Special, with 39mm stainless steel case, is definitely on the smaller side of modern watches available today, however, both the styling and dimensions strike the right balance between good design and wearability. Additionally, the watch is powered by Vulcain Calibre V10, a hand-winding movement with 42-hour power reserve. This Calibre is based on the original Cricket Calibre 120 developed in 1947. Again, price comes into consideration. The Vulcain 50s President's Watch comes in at a little over 8,000 CHF – a significant increase over the Tudor.
While these watches certainly carry the mid-century aesthetic of the original alarm watches more clearly than the Tudor Heritage Advisor, and they feature in-house movements as well, the Heritage Advisor is definitely the most affordable at just under $6,000 on a strap (and just over on a steel bracelet) and still carries an in-house alarm module inside. The design is definitely inspired by the early Advisor, though with a lot of modern updates (not all of which are, in my opinion, for the better).
There's a particular charm to mechanical alarm wristwatches. And the Tudor Heritage Advisor has a number of strengths, notably the lightweight case, easy to crowns, in-house alarm module, and an aesthetic that is more directional than nostalgic. While the mechanical alarm will never be the most popular complication, it does offer something a little different for the buyer who isn't looking for a run of the mill chronograph and the Heritage Advisor brings this complication into a more affordable price bracket while also providing legitimate links to history and a taste of in-house watchmaking.
The Tudor Heritage Advisor is $5,850 on an alligator strap and $6,075 on a stainless steel bracelet, and is available with either a black or a white dial. For more, visit Tudor online.
-Lightweight -Easy to operate alarm function -In-house alarm module (Tudor's only partially in-house movement) -Competitive price relative to other options with similar fit and finish
-Large case size -Congested dial -Not a fully in-house movement like in the competition